The Necklace by Guy de Maupassant
Lessons We Can Learn from “The Necklace” by Guy de Maupassant
A popular French writer of the 19th century, Guy de Maupassant, is the author of about 300 short stories. One of the most famous short stories of Maupassant’s is “The Necklace” (“La Parure”). In some editions it has a title, “The Diamond Necklace”. This story was first published in the French newspaper Le Gaulois on 17th of February 1884 (Roberts, 1991).
In this short story, Maupassant describes the life of Mathilde Loisel, a young, pretty and charming woman who lives in dreams of wealth and luxury. Born and raised in a family of clerks, she refuses to accept her position in life and feels cheated instead. She wants to take a higher social status, that is why her marriage with a low-paid clerk does not bring happiness to her. She cannot obtain all those wonderful jewels she dreams about and this fact spoils her life. Even her husband’s love and caring attitude cannot comfort her, because like a spoiled child, she is blind with her desire and does not notice anything else.
“The Necklace” is deeply didactic: it shows us how people put so much value in materialism, worshipping expensive items and rich people themselves. It reminds us to avoid Madam Loisel’s fatal mistakes and focus on the eternal joys of life, such as love, health, and family. We can say that this short story is similar to a moralistic fable. The length of the work also reminds us of a sapiential Aesop’s Fable. The example of the protagonist induces us to realize that “hubris” is destructive for our life and we should not try to be who we are not.
Despite the moral and instructive meaning of the story, it is important to mention that there is no sermonizing. Readers understand the message of the story on their own. This is typical for most of Maupassant’s short stories. His characters are often the unhappy victims of their vanity, desire and greed and the writing style resembles the style of Gustave Flaubert due to its clarity, simplicity and objective calmness (The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed., 2012).
The title of the story is not accidental. The necklace is a symbol of envy and greed which are the leading themes of the story. It owns a central role in the story of vanity and two ruined human lifes, put on the altar of material objects. The necklace represents that deceiving other people will inevitably lead to one’s downfall. Also, in a symbolical way, it shows how greed can change a human’s soul. We can compare the necklace with the protaginist herself – someone who has a strong desire to have an expensive look, but in reality, it was fake.
This work could become a true Cinderella story with the traditional happy ending. Its main heroine could be rescued and given a rightful place in society. But as we see, Maupassant decided to write a story that could happen in our everyday life, not a tale. That is why he portrayed Mathilde as a prideful woman, obsessed with the idea of getting rich. She wanted other woman to envy her and was ready to do everything to get jewels and life punished her for this.
Even though “The Necklace was written in the 19th century, it is worth reading today, as such themes as greed and desire for fast enrichment remain relevant. This short story is written in a simple and clear way, but its meaning is deep without a doubt. It teaches us to be thankful for everything we have and remember that greed leads to deplorable results.
Edgar Roberts: Writing Themes About Literature (7th ed.). Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1991. – p. 4.
Maupassant, Guy de.” The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed., 2012. Retrieved 13 May, 2013.
The Tales of Maupassant. New York: Heritage Press. 1964.
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