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Literary Piece: The Necklace

Author: Guy de Maupassant

Literary Approach: Feminism

"The Necklace" or "The Diamond Necklace" (French: La Parure) is a short story by Guy De Maupassant, first published in 1884 in the French newspaper Le Gaulois. The story has become one of Maupassant's popular works and is well known for its ending. It is also the inspiration for Henry James's short story, "Paste". It has been dramatized as a musical by the Irish composer Conor Mitchell;[2] it was first produced professionally by Thomas Hopkins and Andrew Jenkins for Surefire Theatrical Ltd at the Edinburgh Festival in 2007.

About the Author

Guy de Maupassant (1850-1893), French author of the naturalistic school who is generally considered the greatest French short story writer.

Guy de Maupassant was probably born at the Château de Miromesniel, Dieppe on August 5, 1850. In 1869 Maupassant started to study law in Paris, but soon, at the age of 20, he volunteered to serve in the army during the Franco-Prussian War. Between the years 1872 and 1880 Maupassant was a civil servant, first at the ministry of maritime affairs, then at the ministry of education.

As a poet Maupassant made his debut with Des Vers (1880). In the same year he published in the anthology Soirées de Medan (1880), edited by E. Zola, his masterpiece, "Boule De Suif" ("Ball of Fat", 1880). During the 1880s Maupassant created some 300 short stories, six novels, three travel books, and one volume of verse. In tone, his tales were marked by objectivity, highly controlled style, and sometimes by sheer comedy. Usually they were built around simple episodes from everyday life, which revealed the hidden sides of people. Among Maupassant's best-known books areUne Vie (A Woman's Life, 1883), about the frustrating existence of a Norman wife and Bel-Ami (1885), which depicts an unscrupulous journalist. Pierre Et Jean (1888) was a psychological study of two brothers. Maupassant's most upsetting horror story, Le Horla (1887), was about madness and suicide.

Maupassant had suffered from his 20s from syphilis. The disease later caused increasing mental disorder - also seen in his nightmarish stories, which have much in common with Edgar Allan Poe's supernatural visions. Critics have charted Maupassant's developing illness through his semi-autobiographical stories of abnormal psychology, but the theme of mental disorder is present even in his first collection, La Maison Tellier (1881), published at the height of his health.

On January 2, in 1892, Maupassant tried to commit suicide by cutting his throat and was committed to the celebrated private asylum of Dr. Esprit Blanche at Passy, in Paris, where he died on July 6, 1893. 

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At the beginning of the story, we meet Mathilde Loisel, a middle-class girl who desperately wishes she were wealthy. She's got looks and charm, but had the bad luck to be born into a family of clerks, who marry her to another clerk (M. Loisel) in the Department of Education. Mathilde is so convinced she's meant to be rich that she detests her real life and spends all day dreaming and despairing about the fabulous life she's not having. She envisions footmen, feasts, fancy furniture, and strings of rich young men to seduce.

One day M. Loisel comes home with an invitation to a fancy ball thrown by his boss, the Minister of Education. M. Loisel has gone to a lot of trouble to get the invitation, but Mathilde's first reaction is to throw a fit. She doesn't have anything nice to wear, and can't possibly go! How dare her husband be so insensitive? M. Loisel doesn't know what to do, and offers to buy his wife a dress, so long as it's not too expensive. Mathilde asks for 400 francs, and he agrees. It's not too long before Mathilde throws another fit, though, this time because she has no jewels. So M. Loisel suggests she go see her friend Mme. Forestier, a rich woman who can probably lend her something. Mathilde goes to see Mme. Forestier, and she is in luck. Mathilde is able to borrow a gorgeous diamond necklace. With the necklace, she's sure to be a stunner.

The night of the ball arrives, and Mathilde has the time of her life. Everyone loves her (i.e., lusts after her) and she is absolutely thrilled. She and her husband (who falls asleep off in a corner) don't leave until 4am. Mathilde suddenly dashes outside to avoid being seen in her shabby coat. She and her husband catch a cab and head home. But once back at home, Mathilde makes a horrifying discovery: the diamond necklace is gone.

M. Loisel spends all of the next day, and even the next week, searching the city for the necklace, but finds nothing. It's gone. So he and Mathilde decide they have no choice but to buy Mme. Forestier a new necklace. They visit one jewelry store after another until at last they find a necklace that looks just the same as the one they lost. Unfortunately, it's 36 thousand francs, which is exactly twice the amount of all the money M. Loisel has to his name. So M. Loisel goes massively into debt and buys the necklace, and Mathilde returns it to Mme. Forestier, who doesn't notice the substitution. Buying the necklace catapults the Loisels into poverty for the next ten years. That's right, ten years. They lose their house, their maid, their comfortable lifestyle, and on top of it all Mathilde loses her good looks.

After ten years, all the debts are finally paid, and Mathilde is out for a jaunt on the Champs Elysées. There she comes across Mme. Forestier, rich and beautiful as ever. Now that all the debts are paid off, Mathilde decides she wants to finally tell Mme. Forestier the sad story of the necklace and her ten years of poverty, and she does. At that point, Mme. Forestier, aghast, reveals to Mathilde that the necklace she lost was just a fake. It was worth only five hundred francs.



Mathilde is an illustration of many women who are dreaming out of their real selves. Many search for a better life. This is one of their impetuses in preserving themselves and working out so hard to be beautiful. They wish to get a rich guy by attracting them with their beauty. There’s nothing wrong to desire a better life, it’s free to envisage. What’s maybe made it wrong is that the motivation.

Woman in the society during the time this literary piece was wrote are feeble and weak in terms of politics and way of being. Woman always think of way to preserve their dignity and name. For them, it’s better to work hard rather than being center of fun because of one’s disgrace. In this literary piece, the main character doesn’t want to be branded as a reckless woman. To save her dignity, she borrowed money and put herself into debt just to buy a real diamond necklace (which is not really a diamond).As a result she needed to work so hard for almost ten years which in return diffused her unfailing beauty into its reverse.

Mathilde’s action is half right and half wrong. Fright because it’s a nature of woman to do everything to preserve their name, and think this should be passed to our generation. It’s half wrong because she wouldn’t have worked so hard if she has told Mme. Forestier about the lost necklace.

What then is the root cause of everything? I think there is something deeper to talk with how Mathilde reacted upon the lost of the necklace.

Mathilde came from a family of clerks with no dowry and lives with her husband who is at the same financial status and felt the life of misery. Her husband loves her lot and contented living with his love one. On the other hand, Mathilde was never contented of what she has in her life. She’s materialistic. I noticed that many women are being so materialistic- they are longing for wealth that could be seen rather that wealth that are unseen, which values more. This story can be inferred as a large symbol of the dynamics of love between a husband and wife, set then prior a backdrop of life’s monetary needs and wants.

When a chance has come for Mathilde to be a Cinderella in a certain evening, her husband did everything to help her out. She even gave her 400 franc which is relatively big in their monetary status, but then Mathilde accepted it without showing gratitude. At first she is not happy about the ball, because she has nothing to wear. Considering that she could have made use of her best dress, she felt that she has nothing at all! After then she borrowed a diamond necklace from Mme. Forestier to look better. These scenarios reveal her droopiness for the life and love her husband offers on the lack of wealth. She only loves to her rich friends and those she profits from. It’s not yet the end. At the ball Mathilde lastingly dances with the most prominent men in their society, which is social climbing instead! We could blame her; she’s a victim of her greediness. Maybe she would like to look for another husband who could give her the life that she is dreaming even before. Is this how she pays back all the good things her husband had given her? She is living in a fairyland at that time that her heart lavishly floats and she never noticed that she had lost the necklace she’s borrowed.

As soon as she discovered, the dreaming suddenly stopped. This is the nature of human. They would never realize the truth without losing something. That’s sarcastic! After losing the diamond necklace she also lost her fantasy and face the real life. She don’t know what to say. Maybe her face turned pale believing that it’s a real diamond.

Her fate is a nature’s way of waking her up. This made her learn to be contented with what she has in life. Never wanting to get things which are not for her and appreciate what she has at hand. A woman’s contentment is a key factor of being a good one. If she would learn how to be contented then she would think of way how to propagate and prosper it out.

Mathilde’s fate maybe serves as a wake up call for the woman is this era. They always want to be rich even at the easiest way. To reverse tragedy, try to be contented.


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