We often wonder what if. What if we had more money? What if we had a different life? Why are we always inclined to want something that we cannot have? In “The Necklace”, Guy De Maupassant uses imagery, symbolism, and irony to uncover that not everything is as real as it may seem. The author uses very little space to make an interesting story along with an unexpected twist ending.
This story is about a woman in the middle class married to a clerk that gets invited to an exclusive ball. Mathilde, like any woman in her situation, dreams of the fancy life. This story is very similar to a fairy tale like Cinderella. She refuses to go at first because she has nothing fancy to wear. So her husband, this is essentially where the fairy godmother enters, gives up the money that he had saved up to buy a gun to give it to her so she could buy a fancy dress.
There is another challenge that our main character faces. As the date approaches she is sad again because she does not have any jewelry to accompany the fancy dress. She asks a rich friend to lend her some jewelry to make her outfit complete and ends up with the most gorgeous diamond necklace. After a great night at the party she loses the necklace and spends the next 10 years of her life trying to pay for the replacement necklace only to find out that it was a fake all along.
Maupassant makes it clear how cruel life can be. Because of her pride she could not tell her friend that she had lost the necklace. She and her husband would not have borrowed a lot of money to replace it. If it was not for Mathilde’s dissatisfaction with her common life, she and her husband would not have to have suffered for 10 years. She also would have not wasted her life and beauty on regrets. She did learn a valuable lesson on how much worse it was to live like the poor.
The author uses imagery to make us aware of her living situation. The extent of her envy is clearly pointed out when she dreams of “thought of a noiseless, hollowed ante-room, with Oriental carpets, lighted with tall branching candlesticks of bronze and… of a long drawing-room hung with ancient brocade, of a beautiful cabinet holding priceless curios, of an alluring, scented boudoir intended for five-o’clock chants with intimates (Gale).” She is very specific in what exactly it is that she is missing. One might question whether she is a greedy person because she is not contempt with what she has.
The necklace itself symbolizes wealth and beauty. It's so flashy and beautiful, and so seemingly valuable. Despite its convincing outside, it turns out to be "false." It's all show, in other words, with no substance. Like "wealth," the necklace is the object of Mathilde's mad desire. Maybe the falseness of the necklace itself at the end is meant to mirror her false dreams of wealth. Having wealth is not worth the trouble, any more than the false necklace was worth ten years of poverty. Although, having wealth does have its advantages: it does seem to do wonders for Madame, for instance, while poverty ruins Mathilde’s.
The author does a very good job in adding a twist to the ending. The irony of this story is that the necklace was in fact a fake. If Mathilde just swallowed her pride she and her husband would not have been in this predicament. The fact that the necklace is a fake may or may not have some kind of moral meaning. We could take it to mean that wealth, or appearances more broadly, are false. Being poverty stricken may ruin her appearance, but it forces her to become responsible and hardworking, and perhaps makes her appreciate what she had before.
We could all learn a lesson from this story. We should be happy with what we already have or, we should work extremely hard to get what we want. Not everything comes easy in life and sometimes we have to earn what we want. Whe never know what hardships taking the easy way out could bring. Take the necklace for example, everything is not as real as it seems.
De Mapassant, Guy. “The Necklace.” Literature: An Introduction to Reading and Writing. Ed. Edgar V Roberts. Boston: 2012. 200-05. Print.
“Explanation of: ‘The Necklace’ by Guy De Maupassant.” LitFinder Contemporary Collection. Detroit: Gale, 2000. Litfinder. Web. 8 Apr. 2013