Literary Analysis – “The Necklace” by Guy de Maupassant
In the short story “The Necklace” by Guy de Maupassant, the class a person is born into is everything. The class you hold controls your life, your actions, and even your career. In this story, a beautiful woman named Mathilde Loisel is born into a class lower than she desired. Mathilde Loisel believes that she was created to hold nothing other than the finest of all things. Mathilde is in love with the luxurious things, like sparkling jewels, the finest and softest gowns made of the most expensive materials, beautiful tapestries, elegant meals, soft sheets and curtains of rich color, being an object of beauty, and being desired by men all around. One could say that Mathilde is a spoiled woman, but she is not, for she has never possessed anything above what a person from her low class should. Mathilde could be described as extravagant because of her evident delicacy in her mind, though she is mostly miserable and yearning, for she wishes with all of her heart to live with the women of the richest class.
Mathilde Loisel was born into a poor family in one of the lowest classes. Mathilde looked up to the higher and richer classes with such longing and desire that a person might think it was a lifestyle that she once held. Her craving for luxury shows many a time throughout the short story, for she does hold extravagance within her. This extravagance she holds is first seen on the first page when she sees what she thinks would be charming in her dining room, “When she sat down for dinner at the round table covered with at three-days-old cloth, opposite her husband, … she imagined delicate meals, gleaming silver, tapestries peopling the walls with folk of a past age and strange birds in faery forests; she imagined delicate food served in marvellous dishes, murmured gallantries, listened to with an inscrutable smile as one trifled with the rosy flesh of trout or wings of asparagus chicken.” Her extravagance is shown again on the third page when she succeeds incredibly at the party, “The day of the party arrived.
Madame Loisel was a success. She was the prettiest woman present, elegant, graceful, smiling, and quite above herself with happiness. All the men stared at her, inquired her name, and asked to be introduced to her. All the Under-Secretaries of State were eager to waltz with her. The minister noticed her.” She was ethereal, and every patron of the party was eager to meet her, for they thought her of rich class. A final example from the story that shows Mathildes extravagance is when she finds herself overjoyed at the success of her appearance on page three, “She danced madly, ecstatically, drunk with pleasure, with no thought for anything, in the triumph of her beauty, in the pride of her success, in a cloud of happiness made up of this universal homage and admiration, of the desires she had aroused, of the completeness of a victory so dear to her feminine heart.” Mathilde had held the gaze of everyone throughout the party and was so very proud.
Mathilde felt glorious after the event, but her grandness faded quickly, and her mind returned to its wretched state. The state in which it remained for the rest of her years, and the years before her glorious party. Her misery is shown plenty of times throughout the story. The first instance of her anguish is on page one when her sadness and her reason for it are described, “She suffered endlessly, feeling herself born for every delicacy and luxury. She suffered from the poorness of her house, from its mean walls, worn chairs, and ugly curtains. All these things of which other women of her class would not even have been aware, tormented and insulted her.” Another instance of her agony is shown when Mathilde has trouble finding confidence to attend the party, as shown on page three, “No…there’s nothing so humiliating as looking poor in the middle of a lot of rich women.” She didn’t have faith that she would look as fine as she so desired. Mathilde couldn’t even visit her friends of high caste because her despair would grow too overpowering. This is shown also on page one, “She had a rich friend, an old school friend whom she refused to visit, because she suffered so keenly when she returned home. She would weep whole days, with grief, regret, despair, and misery.”
Mathilde was miserable, and despised her life and the circumstances in which she was placed, but all of this agony had a reason. The reason was her yearning for the riches she saw so many women with. She found herself imagining a life with treasures and substance that she could only dream of, and she found herself wishing that she could live like her friend did. Her yearning and lust for fine things is shown an abundance of times throughout the story. For example, on page one, it is told how Mathilde reacts to her poor lifestyle, “The sight of the little Breton girl who came to do the work in her little house aroused heart-broken regrets and hopeless dreams in her mind. She imagined silent antechambers, heavy with Oriental tapestries, lit by torches in lofty bronze sockets, with two tall footmen in knee breeches sleeping in large arm-chairs, overcome by the heavy warmth of the stove. She imagined vast salons hung with antique silks, exquisite pieces of furniture supporting priceless ornaments, and small, charming, performed rooms, created just for little pirates of intimate friends, men who were famous and sought after, whose homage roused every other woman’s envious longings.” Another example of her yearning for high-class life is again on page one when specific things that the woman desires are described, “She had no clothes, no jewels, nothing. And these were the only things she loved; she felt that she was made for them. She had longed so eagerly to charm, to be desired, to be wildly attractive and sought after.” Mathilde wishes so dearly to hold these possessions and show her style and refinement to all others who can see her. A final example of her yearning and desire is on page two when Mathilde describes her despair to her husband,
“‘I’m utterly miserable at not having any jewels, not a single stone, to wear,’ she replied. ‘I shall look absolutely no one. I would almost rather not go to the party.’”
In conclusion, Mathilde could be described as extravagant because of her evident delicacy in her mind, though she is mostly miserable and yearning, for she wishes with all of her heart to live with the women of the richest class. She is elegant in her mind and with her taste, but she is poor in her harsh reality and lives every day with rigid desire to live a life of riches and delicacies. Though she is loved dearly by her friend, family, and her husband, she is miserable and in constant despair.