November 15, 2013
Instructor Patrice Glenn
ENG 125 Introduction to Literature
The Necklace by Guy de Maupassant tells the harrowing tale of Mathilde Loisel and her desire to move up within the ranks of French society. Though provided with her needs, Mathilde also wants the desires of her heart that her husband and his current status in life cannot provide to her. Consistently unsatisfied with her station in life, Mathilde plots to thrust herself in the upper echelon of French society, if only for one night, through scheming and deception. The Necklace highlights the dangers that such actions and offers up a cautionary tale of how ones life may be affected by such plotting. The story also examines various themes and how the actions of Mathilde and her husband consistently reinforce these ideas throughout the story. This paper will seek to examine the theme of deception and how it relates to the actions of Mathilde and her husband in their plan to infiltrate the upper echelon of French society.
The reality of Mathilde’s situation is quite apparent even from the opening of the story, as “she had no dowry, no expectations, no means of being known, understood, loved, married by a man rich and distinguished; and she let them make a match for her with a little clerk in the Department of Education” (Clugston, 2010); however, as it is quite evident that, “she was unhappy as though kept out of her own class” (Clugston, 2010). It is apparent that she “feel(s) trapped in a provincially dull existence, made worse by the solid mediocrity” of her husband and she “long(s) for deliverance, but the deliverance that only money can buy” (Kleine-Ahlbrandt, 2004). The invitation to the party only reinforces Mathilde’s despair at her station in life, as in her present state, the socio-economic divide between her and the rest of French society would be in stark contrast to one another. It is here that de Maussapant introduces the theme of deception, as Mathilde schemes to enhance her station even just for the night. As Mathilde points out, “I have no clothes, and in consequence I cannot go to this party” (Clugston, 2010), this is not true, however, as Mathilde has adequate clothing, but what she has would only highlight her poverty. So here, she must deceive her hardworking husband for money for a “more appropriate dress.” The theme of deception continues because Mathilde felt as though “She had no dresses, no jewelry, nothing. And she loved nothing else; she felt herself made for that only” (Clugston, 2010). For her, the party represented not only just a chance for excitement or entertainment, but a chance for Mathilde be something that she was not, as “she would so much have liked to please, to be envied, to be seductive and sought after” (Clugston, 2010). To complete her mission, Mathilde not only secures a new dress, but also borrows a diamond necklace from a rich friend, instantly enhancing her statues. As she planned, she enchants everyone at the party; however, the reality of the situation is that unlike the upper echelon in attendance that had the means to easily secure outfits, Mathilde had to sacrifice the happiness of her husband (his planned hunting trip) and borrow items (the necklace) in order to pull off her deception. In short, her wealth is only an illusion capable of sustaining one night, and as a result of events that happen later, Mathilde will see that “she has thrown away her youth and will have to live with her misery for the rest of her life” (Kleine-Ahlbrandt, 2004) all for the sake of appearances.
Maupassant juxtaposes the deception of Mathilde with that of Madame Forester and her “diamond” necklace. Mathilde has identified Madame Forester as a wealthy woman of standing in French society, so it is quite ironic that at the conclusion of the story, Madame Forester admits “Oh, my poor Mathilde. But mine were false”