In this lesson, we shall discuss the story titled “The Necklace” in a detailed way by putting emphasis on certain important aspects like themes, style and characters. It must be noted that Maupassant wrote in the naturalistic mode highlighting the realities of the lives and destinies of human beings, often focusing on the darker side. The naturalists “try to present their subjects with scientific objectivity and with elaborate documentation . . . they tend to choose characters who exhibit strong animal drives such as greed and sexual desire, and who are helpless victims both of glandular secretions within and of sociological pressures without. The end of the naturalistic novel is usually “tragic,” but not, as in classical and Elizabethan tragedy, because of a heroic but losing struggle of the individual mind and will against gods, enemies, and circumstances. Instead the protagonist of the naturalistic plot, a pawn to multiple compulsions, usually disintegrates, or is wiped out.” (Abrams, 262) As a practitioner of naturalistic school of thought, this story of Maupassant also has a tragic ending.
ABOUT THE STORY
Matilda is not satisfied with her life because she has been living a poor life. She craves for a lavish life. She has big dreams but no means to fulfil those dreams. She wants to marry a rich man. But she gets married to a petty clerk. One day Matilda is invited to a grand party. She has neither a fashionable dress but no costly jewellery. She borrows a necklace from one of her friends and loses it somewhere. She tries hard to find the lost necklace but does not find it. Now, she borrows a large amount of money to replace the lost necklace. Knowing the horrible life of necessity she along with her husband works hard to pay off the frightful debt which valued forty thousand francs. Finally, after ten years of a continuous hard word they are able to restore all. All the debts are finally paid, and Matilda is out for a jaunt on the Champs Elysees. There she sees her friend Mme Forestier, rich and beautiful as ever. Now that all the debts are paid off, Mathilde decides to tell her the truth about the necklace and her ten years of poverty, and what she does. After hearing her excruciating story Mme Forestier, stunned, reveals to Mathilda that the necklace she lost was just a fake, made of paste, worth no more than five hundred francs.
Guy de Maupassant (1850-1893), French author of the naturalistic school, is generally considered the greatest French short story writer. Mathilde Loisel is a pretty and charming girl belongs to a middle-class family giving importance for social pride. Mathilde is not contented with her marriage as her husband is a clerk in the Ministry of Education. One day Mr Loisel manages to get an invitation card from the Ministry of Education inviting the couple to attend the formal party they are hosting. To attend the party he spends his savings amount 400 Francs on her clothing. Mathilde borrows a diamond necklace from her friend Madame Forestier for the party. Unfortunately, she loses the necklace. In order to replace the necklace, the Loisels borrow money beyond their capacity and returns it to Madame Forestier. They adopt a poor lifestyle to repay the debts. Ten years skip off. Mathilde loses all her beauty. One fine day she happens to meet Madame Forestier by chance. From her, she comes to know that the necklace she has borrowed from her is an imitation.
Detailed Summary of The Diamond Neclakce
The Necklace is an interesting short story written by Guy De Maupassant. The takes place in France much time before. There are two major characters in the story Matilda Loisel and her husband who works as a clerk for the Minister of Education. Matilda is not satisfied with her life because she has high dreams but no means to fulfil the dreams. She thinks that her appearance does not match with her reality. She thinks that she deserves a luxurious life because she is so elegant but to her bad luck they are not rich. She yearns to be rich. Matilda has a rich friend Jeane Forestier who has a big house and a lot of jewellery. Matilda envies to be like her.
One day Matilda’s husband receives an invitation to a grand party. He thinks that his wife will be very happy with knowing about this invitation to attend such a fancy party. But when she hears about the ball she is upset. She thinks that she does not have a suitable dress to wear on such an elegant occasion. She complains her husband that she has no party dress and therefore she can not attend the party in the poor look. Her husband agrees to give her the four hundred francs which he has saved to buy a new rifle for hunting. She gives her the money so that she can get herself a gown.
The day of the ball approaches, Matilda is upset once again. When her husband asks her why she frets, she expresses that she has no jewellery to put on with her dress. She wants to match with the rich people in the party. He suggests to her that she can borrow something from her close friend Jeanne Forestier if she wants. Matilda thinks it a good idea and goes to her friend’s house where she picks out a sparkling diamond necklace to borrow. Jeanne gives her the necklace without any stain of worry.
Finally, Matilda and her husband attend the grand party and have a wonderful time there. Matilda becomes the centre of attraction at the party. Everyone praises her elegance. She loves the party and dances incredibly all night.
They finally head home in the morning hours. When they reach their home Matilda is shocked to find the borrowed necklace is missing. They wonder if the necklace fell off in the carriage which they took home but unfortunately neither of them has noticed the number of the carriage. The poor husband searches the streets but returns empty-handed. After waiting for a while, Mathilde writes to her friend that she has broken the necklace and has sent it to repair.
Meanwhile, they find another diamond necklace which corresponds to the missing necklace, but it costs 36,000 francs. Fortunately, her husband inherits 18,000 francs from her father but they have to borrow the rest of the money. Finally, they arrange enough money to buy the replacement necklace. Mathilde gives it to her friend Jeanne who takes it without even having a look at it.
Now Matilda and her husband know that their life is not going to be easy. They have to work hard to meet out borrowed money. In the next ten years, they work hard day and night which changes the life of Matilda completely. They shift to a smaller apartment where Matilda has to cook and clean for herself. She also does part-time works on the side. Her husband also works many jobs to earn sufficient money. Finally, after ten years of a hard life, they are able to pay back all the money but Matilda has aged now to a great deal. Her elegant look has also gone.
One day she encounters Jeanne Forestier on a street. She decides to disclose the truth about the necklace which ruined her life. When Jeanne sees Matilda’s rough appearance she is shocked. She asks Matilda what has happened to her. Matilda explains that it is because of her because she lost the diamond necklace which she had borrowed from her. She had to borrow a huge amount of money for replacing the diamond necklace. On hearing this, Jeanne is shocked. She reveals Matilda that the necklace she borrowed was a fake, made up of paste, worth no more than five hundred francs. Jeanne
The fact that the necklace of Mrs Jeanne was made of paste shows that the appearance of wealth depends on illusion even for the rich. Also, that the necklace was a fake also makes Loisels ‘ sacrifice worthless— they bought into the myth that appearances correspond to reality, which leads them to lose even the meagre ease and status they once enjoyed. The treatment of Maupassant’s disjunction between appearance and reality, therefore, seems more than just trying to warn people against greed and entitlement.
A beautiful woman who yearns for a life of luxury and wealth. When she is invited to a fancy party, she borrows a necklace from her wealthy friend Madame Forestier because she refuses to go to the party without expensive jewels and a beautiful gown.
After a night of happiness, during which she immerses herself in the life of glamour that she believes she deserves, she spends the next ten years paying for her fleeting happiness as a result of losing the borrowed necklace.
Mathilde’s devoted husband who is content with his humble lifestyle. He finds it completely incomprehensible that Mathilde does not accept their lifestyle; nonetheless, he appeases her desires for glamour and fun because he wishes for her to be happy.
Mathilde’s wealthy friend. Every time Mathilde visits her, Mathilde is consumed with jealousy.
Madame Forestier lends Mathilde the necklace for the party; eventually, we discover that the necklace contained fake diamonds.
Themes of The Diamond Necklace
Gender plays a large role in this short story, as it did in 19th-century French society. In the story, Madame Loisel is a woman dissatisfied with her social class, but, as a woman, she can do nothing to change this position besides marrying someone of higher class.
On this topic, Maupassant writes, “women belong to no caste, no race; their grace, their beauty, and their charm serving them in the place of birth and family.”
Works of Literary Realism often focus on the theme of social class, and “The Necklace” is certainly an example of this. Mme. Loisel’s greatest concern is her own social class, especially the way she is perceived in society in virtue of her appearance and attire.
It is her focus on social class that causes her to borrow a necklace to wear to a party to which she and her husband have been invited; in an ironic twist, this very necklace results in them becoming even lower in social class when they lose it and must work to pay for a replacement.
This short story questions whether beauty is inherent or rather imbued in something in virtue of its social value.
One example of this is Mme. Loisel’s reaction when she sees Mme. Forestier’s necklace: even though it is made of fake jewels, her belief that it is made of real diamonds causes her to quake from its beauty.
Women generally did not hold jobs and thus had little control over their social status besides through marriage.
Thus the beginning of “The Necklace” depicts an unhappy marriage largely because Mme. Loisel yearns for the lavish life that her husband cannot provide her.
However, once her actions have driven both herself and her husband to a lower social class and years of burdensome work, their marriage seems to improve and the couple is able to cooperate.
One surprisingly uplifting theme of this short story is the fact that it seems happiness comes from being content with whatever one has. When Mme. Loisel has a middling social status but desires to be higher in society, she spends her days yearning and weeping.
However, once she and her husband have been driven to toil for ten years, she seems content and sometimes nostalgic, happier than she was before. In fact, when she tells Mme. Forestier of the work she has done for ten years to pay off the replacement necklace, Maupassant writes that she “smiled with a proud and simple joy”(p.38).
Necklace, Symbols, Allegory and Motif
The Necklace (Symbol)
In Maupassant’s “The Necklace,” the necklace itself represents the surface-level nature of the social class.
The necklace is made of fake jewels, but Mme. Loisel perceives it as beautiful because she believes it to be real. Similarly, Mme. Loisel is perceived as beautiful at the party because of the confidence and status that dressing like an upper-class person gives her.
Clothes ( Motif)
Maupassant often mentions the clothing of people as a representation of their social status. Mme. Loisel is described early in the story as “not being able to adorn herself“ and yearns after having “two great footmen in short trousers“.
Her greatest fear when attending the party is that she will not have an appropriate dress and jewellery; even at the party, she is embarrassed by her cheap wrap.
Significantly, once brought to a low social class by the necessity of paying off the replacement necklace, Mme. Loisel is described as being “clothed like a woman of the people…her hair badly dressed, her skirts awry”(p.36-7)
Questions Answers of The Necklace
The course of Loisel’s’ life changed due to the necklace. Comment.
Answer. There was a tremendous change in the lifestyle of the Loisel’s’ due to the necklace. Matilda lost the necklace which she had borrowed from Mme. Forestier. So she had to replace it. She bought a chaplet of diamonds but had to borrow eighteen thousand francs for the purpose. With the result, she and her husband became extremely poor. They had to send their maid away. They changed their lodging and rented some rooms in an attic. Madame Loisel performed all cooking, washing, cleaning work to earn money. Mr Loisel also worked evenings and nights. They suffered so badly for ten years.
What was the cause of Matilda’s ruin? How could she have avoided it?
Answer. The cause of Matilda’s ruin was the loss of necklace that she had borrowed from Madame Forestier. But I think the real cause was her unmeetable expectations of dreaming the lavish and attractive life which made her borrow the necklace from her friend. She lost the necklace at the ball which became the cause of her ruin.
She could have avoided the ruin if she could not have borrowed the chaplet. Moreover later, if she could have revealed the truth to Mme. Forestier, she would not have become a victim of the physical wretch and replaced the money easily or Mme. Forestier would not have minded the loss. But all this didn’t happen due to her snobbish nature.
What would have happened to Matilda if she had confessed to her friend that she had lost her necklace?
Answer. If Matilda had confessed to her friend that she had lost her necklace, she could have easily avoided her ruin and misery. She would not have become a victim of physical wretch and could have paid the money for false necklace easily. Anyway, whatever happened with her also bestowed her a great lesson, that is, for unbeatable expectations disappointment is inevitable.
If you are caught in such a situation, how will you deal with it?
Answer. If I am caught in such a mesh I will not act blindly but in a logistic way. I will try all the possibilities if’s and out’s of the situation.
Draw a character sketch of Matilda.
Matilda is a central character in the story ‘The Necklace’.She is an extremely beautiful and charming woman. She is to her bad luck born into a poor family. She is overambitious and extravagant. She wants to be rich and famous. Her expectations are very high but she has no means to catch her expectations. She wants to marry a rich man but she gets married to a petty clerk. She loves to have expensive frocks, jewels, and silver dishes to live a lavish life. She always remains sad because she does not get all these things.
Matilda is short-tempered and pretentious. But she is a tactful woman. She convinces her poor husband to buy her part dress simply by rejecting the invitation to the grand party. She is snobbish. She borrows a diamond necklace from her rich friend to wear while attending the party. She becomes a star attraction at the party. Everybody admires her and she is a great success. That is her supreme hour of victory. However, this moment of extreme joy proves very brief for her because she loses the diamond necklace.
What are the things that are important to make you happy in life?
Answer. It is a fact that happiness comes from the tranquillity of mind and it lies in contentment. So happiness is actually the state of mind. It depends upon the liking of a person and the presence of the culture that makes one decide for himself what kind of life he chooses. It is the fulfilment of basic needs like food, clothing, and shelter that can lead to happiness. Life should be lived well and happily even if there are miseries. They must be tackled and faced courageously and bravely. The attainment of the state of mind depends upon different things for different people. These are only weak people who run away from hardships and it is also true/fact that it is not always sunshine for everyone. One has to be ready for sorrows and sufferings to face as these are the part and parcel of life. Some of the most important things that can help us to live our lives happily are the truth, honesty, etc. The important thing is to have a pure heart that throbs with sympathy for others in troubles. Honest dealings always pay in the long run. Hard work and working with discipline give us a lot of relief and happiness. But some people get happiness from money while as some get it from having more and more land. My idea of a happy life is a permanent state of happiness which can be attained by limiting one’s own desires, rather than trying to fulfil or satisfy them. The happiest man is he whose desires are limited and is content with whatever he has and such a person wins true happiness by honesty.
Write a short paragraph on “We Should Be Content With What Life Gives Us”. You may write for or against it.
Answer. Contentment (satisfaction) of mind is very important if one wishes to live peacefully and happily. The contentment i.e; the state of mind gives us joy and we keep ourselves away from selfishness and greed to have more and more. Contentment is the surest way to happiness which does not depend upon the material things we have, but it depends upon our capacity to limit our desires. It is a well-known fact that unnecessary ambitions lead to the frustration of a person. In this world, everyone is running madly after wealth like money, land, etc., and the result is untold mental tension. There is no peace of mind. The more we have, the more we want. We should have a strong faith in Almighty Allah before Whose will we have to surrender. If this surrender is true, contentment naturally enters the mind. It is because of this contentment of mind that we feel happy and relaxed. It gives us eternal happiness. It teaches us to do our work and discharge our responsibilities in a good manner. So, we must be content with whatever life gives us. If we want to lead a happy life, we should have to limit our desires and stop running after the worldly things because only contented life is a happy life in a real sense.
Long Answer Type Questions
Q. How would you rate Mathilde as an ambitious woman or as an honest woman.
Ans. Mathilde Loisel is the central character of the French story “The Diamond Necklace” written by Guy de Maupassant. Mathilda was a young lady of extraordinary beauty but unfortunately, she was born in a family of limited means. She always thought herself born to enjoy all delicacies and luxuries of life. As there was no way for her to be known and wedded by any rich man. She let herself be married to an economical clerk working in the Ministry of Public instructions. Although she belonged to a poor class, she never accepted this fact of her life. She always had those bewildering dreams of luxurious life with all the rich possessions. She always wanted to be pleased, to be sought after and to be envied. She was an ambitions woman who never realised the reality of her life.
There was an element of showiness in her nature. She didn’t want to go to the ministerial ball because she had no decent dress or ornaments to wear. She didn’t want to look poverty-stricken. She borrowed a diamond necklace from her friend in order to show herself off as an afferent woman. She even made her husbands suffer boor of her ambition. Only after the course of repayment of the debt, she came to know the real hardship of life.
Q.2 What kind of husband was Loisel?
Ans. Mr Loisel was an economical clerk working in the ministry of Public instructions. He was a man of contentment who was thoroughly satisfied with his life. He was a loving and caring husband who always wanted to do his best to make his wife happy. He knew that his wife Mathilda liked to live a certain kind of life and so in order to provide her all the happiness, he brought an invitation to the ministerial ball. When his wife refused to go because she didn’t have a nice dress to wear for such an occasion, he sacrificed his saving of 400 francs which he had kept aside to fulfil his only desire of purchasing a gun to enjoy shooting with his friends. It made him happy to see his wife enjoying the ball later when Mathilde lost the diamond necklace went through all sorts of suffering and humiliations to arrange the sum to replace the lost necklace. He knew that he had risked all his future but he never made any complaint. He worked in the office all day and took part-time jobs so that he could repay the debt. He was the man who suffered without any of his faults. He just paid the price of loving his wife too much.
Q.3 Do you think it was unfortunate for Mathilda to have married Loisel? Why?
Ans. Mathilda was a charming and beautiful young lady who was married to Mr Loisel. Mathilda always longed to lead a luxurious life because she felt that her extraordinary beauty made her deserting to enjoy all delicacies and luxuries of life. Mr Loisel does not provide her with that sort of life because her husband was just an economical clerk. So in this respect, we can say that Mathilde was unfortunate to be married to Mr Loisel.
But we all know that material wealth doesn’t bring real happiness in life. Mr Loisel proved to be a great husband because he did everything which he would make his wife happy. Though he was just an ordinary clerk. Yet he engaged a servant to help his wife because she hated the household work. He wants to please his wife so he brought an invitation card to the ministerial ball. Later in the story when Mathilde lost the diamond necklace, he had to suffer a lot to make arrangement of 36,000 francs needed to replace the lost necklace. He faced the black misery of life because of his wife but never made any complaint. It was actually fortunate for Mathilda to have married Loisel who was such a loving and caring husband. No worldly possession of any kind was worth the love and care of Mr Loisel.
Q.4 In what way Madam Forestier different from Madame Loisel?
Ans. Madame Forestier was the intimate friend of Mathilde Loisel from school days. She was a rich lady. Mathilde used to visit her every now and then but gradually she stopped meeting her friend because the richness of Madame Forestier distressed her and she could not bear to see all those things of her friend which she always wished in her life. After a long time, she went to meet madame Forestier again when she wanted some ornaments to wear at the Ministerial ball. Mathilde requested her friend to lend her some jewels with anxious doubts but Madame Forestier was kinds enough to allow her friend to choose from many of her ornaments. She readily lent the diamond necklace to her. Although, Mathilda and Mrs Forestier were close friends yet there were many differences in their behaviour, attitude and approach. On one hand, Mrs, Forestier was a kind emotional and graceful lady with a helpful heart full of mercy and sympathy. ON the other hand, Mathilde was a showy, untruthful and a self-centred woman who not only spoiled her life but also made her husband suffer.
Short Answer Type Questions
Q.1 Was Mathilda dissatisfied with her life? What makes you think so?
Ans. Mathilde was dissatisfied with her life because she always felt born to enjoy all delicacies and luxuries of life. She knew that her extraordinary beauty made her deserving all richness in life. But unfortunately, she belonged to a lower class and hence did not have those possessions which she always wished in her life. She valued expensive dresses, ornaments, a royal palace and other such things the most in her life but, unfortunately, couldn’t get any of those things. She always aspired for rich possessions and felt made for them. She suffered ceaselessly and gave herself mental torture. It was her mental agony to be a poor woman.
Q.2 What things did Mathilda desire in her life?
Ans. Mathilda was a poor woman who wants to live a luxurious life. She loved all those things which she did not have and felt made for them. She hated the life of poverty and didn’t like whatever she had. The poverty of her dwelling and the bareness of walls, the shabby chairs and dirty curtains distressed her and made her suffer endlessly. She hated household work because it spoiled her charm and beauty. She was passionate about expensive dresses, ornaments, long receptions halls and all those things which she could never get in her life.
Q.3 On receiving the invitation to the ball, Mathilda wept why?
Ans. Mr Loisel loved his wife. He wanted to see her happy. So, one day she brought an invitation to the Ministerial ball hoping that his wife would be overjoyed to receive that. But, when Mathilde received the invitation, she wept. Mr Loisel couldn’t understand the reason for her strange behaviour. Mathilde looked across and told her husband that she didn’t have any decent dress to wear at such an occasion. She was not concerned to wear anything else. So she refused to go to the Ministerial all and even made a taunt to her husband to give the invitation card to someone whose wife was better equipped than her.
Q.4 Describe Mathilda’s feelings while she was shifting her friends Jewellery.
Ans. Mathilda acted upon her husband’s advice and went to Madame Forestier to borrow some ornaments to wear at the Ministerial ball. Madame Forestier brought her a large box full of ornaments. Mathilda was greatly surprised to see so many ornaments before her eyes. Those were the things which she always wished to have in her life. She wanted nothing but only those things and when she had so many of the ornaments before her, she couldn’t make up her mind what to choose from them. She got totally confused and couldn’t decide what she really wanted. In her anxiety, she keeps asking her friend if she had some more ornaments at last she found a diamond necklace to wear at the Ministerial ball.
Q.5 How did Mathilda fare at the ball?
Ans. Mathilda arranged an evening gown and a superb diamond necklace to wear at the Ministerial ball. She was eagerly waiting for the night of the ball. The night arrived and proved to be a great success for Madame Loisel. She was looking beautiful, elegant, graceful, smiling and filled with Joy. She was prettier than any other woman present at the ball. All the men looked at her, asked her name and sought to be introduced. All the officers of the cabinet wanted to dance with her. Even the Minister remarked her beauty. Mathilde danced with the rapture and enjoyed the ball thoroughly. It was the kind of life which she always wanted to live. It was the victory of her charm and beauty.
Q.6 Why did Mathilda not take a cab at the Minister’s house and but took one on the quay?
Ans. The ball lasted till 4’O clock in the morning. Mathilde enjoyed the ball forgetting all her mental agony. Then she went to her husband to awake him. When Mr Loisel tried to cover with a modest wrap which he had brought from home and which was going in contrast to the elegant ball dress, she realised this and quickly moved from there. She did not want to stay there any longer because she was afraid of losing her fame which she had earned before some time. She even didn’t take a cab at the Minister’s house. Though she was shivering in cold yet she quickly went off that scene. Finally, she took a cab on the quay where no one was watching her.
Q.7 What efforts did Loisel make to find that necklace?
Ans. When Mathilda reached home and found that she had lost her friends diamond necklace, she was shattered. It was a thunderstruck not only for her but also for Mr Loisel. They searched the necklace in the folds of the dress, in the wrap but did not find it. Mr Loisal put on his clothes & went back on foot all the way to search. He came back in the morning without any fruitful result. The next day he went to the police headquarters, to the newspaper officers to offer a reward and to the cab companies. He searched at all those places where there was the least spark of hope. In the evening when he came back he got nothing but only disappointment.
Q.8 How did Loisel arranged the money for the necklace?
Ans. When Mr Loisel was unable to find the lost necklace for the next 7 days, He told his wife that they had to consider to replace it. They searched the same necklace everywhere and finally found one at a shop. They could have it 36,000 francs after bargaining. Mr Loisel had to make arrangement of such a huge sum. He processed 18,000 francs which his father had left for him. To arrange the remaining sum he had to undergo all sorts of insults of and humiliations. He went to no. of money lenders and borrowed the sum at an extraordinary rate of interest. He signed one promissory note after another without knowing how he would meet them in future. He risked all his happiness of future and got himself ready to face the block misery of life.
Q.9 How did Mathilda and Loisel repay the cost of the necklace?
Ans. The Loisel couple had to give up all there happiness and comfort in order to repay the cost of the necklace. They changed there lodging and rented an attic under a roof. They dismissed their servant so that they could save money at every possible end. Both had to play their part to repay the dreadful debt. Mathilde had to do all the household work herself without caring for her beauty and charm. She cleaned the greasy utensils, washed the dirty clothes and fetched water every day. She went to the market and bargained with no. of people to save every single coin. ON the other hand, Mr Loisel worked all day in the office and then took part-time jobs like making tradesmen’s account and copying manuscript for whatever money he could get. This troublesome life lasted 10 years and then they paid for everything.
Q.10 What change did the ordeal of repaying bring about in Mathilda?
Ans. The troublesome life of Loisel couple lasted for ten years. They faced the hardship of life and managed their affairs with great difficulty. The span of 10 years changed Mathilda drastically. She no longer remained an elegant and charming lady. She had become a woman of her class – hard, rough and strong. Now she didn’t care about her looks and beauty. She did all household works with untidy hands, rough and red hands and common dress-up of the poor class. She started to look old now. Her elegance, charm and beauty vanished in the hardship of life.