You are on page 1of 8

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 meantto 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

The glamorous life has a certain kind of magical allure to it. the rich life is attractive because it's glamorous. to be seductive and sought after. At least until she sees the most fabulous. Being middle class amounts to boredom. "You haven't anything else?" (46). Mathilde the Material Girl When it all comes down to it. feeling herself born for every delicacy and every luxury… She let her mind dwell on the quiet vestibules. expensive looking piece of jewelry. Unfortunately for her. .Mathilde Loisel wants to be a glamour girl. and on the coquettish little rooms. and from distress" (6). beautiful. you ever notice how throughout the first part of the story. and unlike the dingy apartment in which she lives. She let her mind dwell on the large parlors. Does her wish to live the fairy tale life make her "greedy"? Well. Forestier. Mathilde is probably greedy. expensive things. lighted by tall lamps of bronze. But her greed's not the end of the story. That passage we quote above finishes with: "the most intimate friends. marriage. whose attentions all women envied and desired" (3). So yes. She dreams day after day about escaping it all. Mathilde's never satisfied with anything? When her husband brings her the invitation all she can think about is the dress she wants. A lot of the objects Mathilde wants are magical. home. from chagrin. prepared for the five o'clock chat with the most intimate friends… (3) Now why does Mathilde want all of these expensive. powerful men. to be envied. charming. The most obvious thing she wants out of life is: expensive stuff. from despair. Just a little afterwards. (5) What's interesting about Mathilde's man-craze is that she seems to be more interested in seducing men than in the men themselves.. Mathilde and Men The other thing Mathilde wants? Men. all she can think about is the jewels she doesn't have. that is: the diamond necklace. Material things aren't the only things she wants. attractive. She suffered intensely. And when she visits Mme. like the "tapestries peopling the walls with ancient figures and with strange birds in a fairy-like forest" (4). material possessions? It doesn't sound like she just wants it because she's money-obsessed. etc. and on the two tall footmen in knee breeches who dozed in the large armchairs. with their delicate furniture. Mathilde hates her life. and the life that accompanies them. Cooped up all day in the house with nothing to do but cry over the chintzy furniture and the fabulous life she's not having.) that she wouldn't be day-dreaming of a life she could never have. being wealthy amounts to living in a fairy tale. fine. for Mathilde. hung with Oriental tapestries. from regret. Mathilde's kind of a material girl.e. Rich. For Mathilde. She wants the fairy tale. She's obsessed with glamour – with fancy. More than being just desired. made drowsy by the heat of the furnace. That's because what Mathilde really wants is to be wanted. men well known and sought after. No. we're told: She would so much have liked to please. supporting precious bric-a-brac. exciting. When she gets the dress. she wasn't born into a family with the money to make her dream possible. and probably her husband too. by many standards. Instead. she gets married to a "little clerk" husband and lives with him in an apartment so shabby it brings tears to her eyes (1). perfumed. decked with old silk. We can't help but thinking that if she truly were satisfied with her life as it is (i. She weeps "all day long. And there's also a deeper reason for her greed: dissatisfaction. she's not really satisfied with any of her jewel collection – she keeps on asking. beautiful.

things can get a lot worse. Her life seems to be miserably boring. but she's at least not deluding herself about her attractiveness. more exciting. greedy. or find him attractive. smiling. She refuses to try to be content with what she does have. she certainly seems . She was the prettiest of them all. In fact. while she always wants more." Her vanity may be why she's unwilling to go to the ball unless she looks better than everyone else there. Mathilde has almost no control over her life: her family marries her off to her husband. He's happy with what he has. more beautiful than her own? Can you blame her for wanting to be wanted by somebody rich and important? Back then. All the men were looking at her. that's exactly what she is: The day of the party arrived. He goes out and works. can you blame Mathilde for creating a fantasy world that's more glamorous. It all forms part of one big glamorous. The Minister took notice of her. charming. (53) So Mathilde may be vain. It does seem like at some level her complete and total unhappiness has got to be self-induced. as she finds out when she loses the necklace. Think about what it means to be a middleclass woman in 19th century France. that ball might be the one chance she has to experience the life she dreams about. What's particularly frustrating to Mathilde is that she knows she's got the natural looks and charms to be a splash with the rich playboy types she wants to impress. inquiring her name. In those circumstances. Mathilde's poverty later in the story raises another question though. She doesn't even have anything to do. Which is too bad. while she almost never shows any sign of caring for him. elegant. but think of it this way: so far as she knows. gracious. Mathilde's vanity about the ball might seem a little extreme. who goes to great lengths to please her. Mathilde's quite vain about her "feminine charms. and shallow. if you were a woman. and mad with joy. graceful. head on over and check out Emma Bovary. Loisel was a success. (For the classic case. the world about which Mathilde fantasizes. Still. She can seem vain. asking to be introduced. wouldn't you want to make it absolutely perfect? Mathilde the Desperate Housewife We know Mathilde can be a hard character to like. but she also refuses to try to make herself happy. Does Mathilde have any redeeming qualities? We don't know. the leading lady of Flaubert'sMadame Bovary. All the attaches of the Cabinet wanted to dance with her. because. Her situation makes her unhappy. and thoroughly decked out in diamonds. She doesn't seem to have many friends – how would she meet them? She doesn't have any kids to occupy her time. but can't afford the necessary clothing and jewelry. while she has to stay in the house all day. The ultimate measure of being glamorous just happens to be being attractive to glamorous men. Because she's a woman. since the maid takes care of the housework. being wanted by a man was practically the only way to be anybody at all. she doesn't have anything to do except to daydream about a different life. That makes Mathilde a classic case of the desperate housewife. wanting to be a somebody. but we do think Mathilde deserves a little sympathy. She just needs the outward signs of being wealthy.Mathilde wants to be glamorous — gorgeous. And Mathilde feels like a nobody. He seems to care a great deal for her. and gets to go out on hunting expeditions with his buddies. he's her master. fairy-tale world. especially compared to her husband. If you were in her shoes. She doesn't seem to have a terribly close bond to her husband. When Mathilde's poor. and once she's married. And when she does go to the ball. Mme. we can't sympathize completely with Mathilde.

She hates the shabby "averageness" of their life. Mathilde's better off when she's poor. She gets exhausted. M. M. He's got a life outside his home. in front of her husband. he's the one who goes all over the city searching for it. But he doesn't know her well enough to understand that the invitation won't be enough. because she's so hard to please. When she explains she can't go without a dress. Loisel. on the other hand. with glittering silver. and pick fights over pennies. and is miserable being cooped up in their apartment all day. dreaming of the luxurious life she wants to be leading. Doesn't something seem a little unfair about that situation. Mathilde herself. once she's poor. He also seems devoted to his wife. That suggests he himself might not understand just how different things are for women and men (at least during the 19th century). Loisel is the "little clerk in the Department of Education" (1) to whom Mathilde's family marries Mathilde off. which he couldn't care less about himself (he sleeps through it). isn't terribly happy about her middle-class husband. with tapestries peopling the walls with ancient figures and with strange birds in a fairy-like forest… (4) Yes. Loisel appreciates the little things. especially that good old homemade pot-au-feu (stew): When she sat down to dine. and a gorgeous wife who serves his favorite stews for him when he comes home from work. Loisel spends his life's savings replacing it. Loisel enjoys his domestic life quite a lot. as if his enjoyment might come at her expense? Clearly. who lifted the cover of the tureen. Her good looks disappear. What do you think? M. Unlike Mathilde. Loisel cares for his wife for all the reasons we said. he goes to all that trouble to get her the invitation to a fancy party. she does. He sacrifices the hunting rifle he's spent months saving up for so Mathilde can buy a dress for the ball. But it could also be that because of her situation as a woman. She has to be rude to people. And when she loses the necklace. a foil for his perpetually dissatisfied wife. Loisel an insensitive husband? M. He doesn't have to worry about what he looks like. in a certain way. So M. It could be that Mathilde is the real problem. happy. as we're quick to find out.to be worse off. Loisel seems like the simple. They make the classic unhappy bourgeois couple. a group of buddies to go on hunting trips with. So maybe." she was thinking of delicate repasts. her life is just a lot worse than her . the good pot-au-feu. She can no longer be bored and useless. Most importantly. before a tablecloth three days old. M. in other words. And he at least knows her well enough to know that the invitation to his boss's fancy party will be important to her. She's constantly busy doing physically demanding chores. But then again. I don't know anything better than that. seems quite happy with their situation. And he's "astonished" to see how upset she gets. declaring with an air of satisfaction. and he's stunned by her reaction to it. After all. But you can wonder about two things… Is M. and refuses to be content with what she has. then. He doesn't have to stay cooped up in the house all day with nothing to do. at least Mathilde is doing something. And all her hardship and work has a purpose: she and her husband have to repay the debts. M. Her impoverished life suddenly becomes difficult and uncomfortable in a way her middle-class life never was. but think about the difference in their situations. unlike Mathilde. the narrator tells us simply that "He had not thought of that" (16). good guy in the story. he enjoys his life as it is. "Ah.

fear. Then again. Forestier what has happened. or honor that motivates M. After all. Before they've given up hope of finding the necklace. if not more responsible. Aren't people's motivations usually a bit jumbled? . Forestier will do if she finds out they've lost her necklace. and he doesn't understand that. or somehow miraculously getting rich. we still do think M. Is M. Loisel too proud? Some readers place the blame for the story's unhappy ending on Mathilde. he seems to just jump to the conclusion that they have to replace it without informing Mme. declared:— "We must see how we can replace those jewels. Given his humble circumstances. But perhaps he should try and appreciate a little more how different his life is from his wife's. She's got to know that they're not rich. and couldn't possibly afford a replacement. Loisel is the one who doesn't want to tell Mme.husband's (see Mathilde's "Character Analysis" for more on this). Most likely. Loisel. So it could be pride. we think. But why should we be laying blame at all? Pride certainly isn't the only thing that could motivate M. and there'd be a certain pressure on her to let them off the hook. and feels obliged to make up the loss. if he and his wife told Mme. even if he did. Then. it could just as easily be fear that motivates him: he's afraid of what the wealthy Mme. Forestier. quite the contrary. so that they can have more time to search for it. when it still hasn't come up. Forestier that they had lost the necklace (which as far as they're concerned is hugely expensive). Would you want to tell someone much richer and more powerful than you that you and your wife have just lost her fabulously expensive piece of jewelry? On the other hand. it's some mix of all three. She's too proud to tell Mme. Loisel to jump to the conclusion he has to replace the necklace without telling Mme. He's an honorable fellow. That wouldn't feel right to M. what could he do? It's not clear what he could do to make Mathilde happier." it seems like M. Forestier the truth about the necklace. And Loisel. Forestier a new necklace secretly is the honorablething to do. M. Forestier and say that the necklace is having its clasp replaced. Intuitively. Loisel is a good guy. that might make sense. At the end of the day. Loisel could think that buying Mme. He doesn't seem like a proud man. But if you look at the events of "The Necklace. he tells Mathilde to lie to Mme. short of divorcing her (which would probably make her worse off). Forestier that she's lost the necklace after her husband's efforts to find it have failed. aged by five years." (86-87) Given that. since she is the vain one in this story. Loisel to do what he does. the ball would be in her court. we think it's hard to lay the blame entirely at Mathilde's feet. Forestier: At the end of a week they had lost all hope. Her husband is at least as responsible. for not telling Mme.

Loisel was able to get the invitation). and is afraid to explain why she became poor (since that would mean admitting she lost the necklace). like every other guy there. He's the Minister of Education. She's the rich friend: the person you turn to when you need something absolutely fabulous to wear to that ball next weekend but don't have the money to buy anything appropriate. since their convent days. Forestier who reveals at the end that her necklace was false and thereby single-handedly triggers the twist ending. Apparently Mathilde and Mme. Loisel's boss (which is probably why M. The two women most likely don't meet again until they run into each other on the Champs Elysées ten years later. Mathilde's too ashamed to let her friend see the poverty she's living in. which makes him M. It's also Mme.Mme. either. That's basically all you need to know. though. M. That's Mme. it doesn't sound as if Mathilde's seen much of her lately. Forestier have known each other for a while. Jeanne Forestier is wealthy. Forestier's role in this story: she's that friend for Mathilde. . And he apparently "notices" Mathilde at the ball. Around the time of the ball. It doesn't sound like they see much of each other after Mathilde returns the substitute diamond necklace. Georges Ramponneau is the guy who throws the fabulous ball that just might be the best few hours of Mathilde's life. because it makes Mathilde too unhappy to visit her rich friend and see the life of luxury that she's not living.

And what's particularly irritating is that she has all the "womanly virtues" she needs in order to be desirable: she's charming. she may learn a pride of a different sort: pride in her own work and endurance. completely caught up in her own beauty. It could be that it is also pride that prevents Mathilde and her husband from admitting they've lost an expensive necklace. If you think about it. She finds herself married to a husband she doesn't care for. and her beauty fades. She's so jealous of her one wealthy friend it hurts. The expensive nature of the necklace is not the only way in which wealth is central to this story." is a 19th century French version of a desperate housewife. the classic dissatisfied housewife. but chance is cruel. Her happiest night becomes her worst nightmare when she loses the diamond . and learns what it means to truly live without money. Does Mathilde Loisel capture the tragic plight of the modern. The Necklace Theme of Suffering "The Necklace" is a difficult story to read. she has almost no control over her life. the main character of "The Necklace. The Necklace Theme of Women and Femininity Mathilde Loisel. beautiful. She feels far above the humble circumstances (and the husband) she's forced to live with by her common birth. Then she loses the borrowed diamond necklace. At the opening.The Necklace Theme of Wealth "The Necklace" gets its title from the gorgeous piece of diamond jewelry that drives the story's plot. gets cast into poverty. graceful. She's a vain one too. it seems like her dreams have finally become a reality. In fact. Because she's a woman in a man's world. Mathilde finds one moment of real joy when she goes to a ball. it's about nonstop suffering. After the loss of the necklace makes Mathilde poor. When Mathilde's given the chance to get decked out in diamonds and go to a ritzy party to mingle with all the beautiful people. What she wants more than anything else is to be desirable to other men. and cooped up in a house she despises. caused by the cruelty of life and chance. The main character of "The Necklace" is obsessed with wealth. who spends her days weeping about how boring and shabby her life is. we meet Mathilde. but you can also read it as a story about pride. her current situation disgusts her. middle-class woman? Is she a victim of the patriarchal society in which she lives? Or is she just a shallow and materialistic character? The Necklace Theme of Pride You can read "The Necklace" as a story about greed. She wants nothing else than to escape from her shabby middleclass life with a shabby middle-class husband and live the glamorous life for which she was born. Mathilde Loisel is a proud woman. She's just doesn't have the necessary wealth.

she would not have to suffer such hardship. Then she and her husband experience a very different sort of suffering: the suffering of real poverty. it will ruin you.  Honesty can bring reward.  Accept who you are and be true to yourself . B content with what you have and find happiness in it. If Mathilde had told the truth about the lost necklace.necklace she borrowed. And all of this is just the buildup to one devastating ending… Moral Values  Do not aspire for more than you have.

Related Interests