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Mathilde in “The Necklace”, Essay Example

Pages: 2

Words: 656

Essay

Analysis of Character and Themes

“The Necklace” by Guy de Maupassant tells the story of Mathilde, and what happens when she makes a simple mistake that affects the rest of her life. Even though “The Necklace” is a very brief story, it offers insight into the inner mind of Mathilde and also the outward society she lives in and how women are viewed in that society. On the surface it appears to be a fairly simple story, but the plot and the characters reveal a complex, layered story that offers insight into how society and individuals often place value on things that are unimportant, and overlook the things of value they already have.

The basic plot of “The Necklace” is fairly straightforward: a beautiful young, married woman who has lived a life of relative poverty is presented with the chance to attend a glamorous social function. She borrows a diamond necklace to wear that the event, but loses it that night. She spends the next decade repaying the loans needed to replace the necklace, only to discover after ten years that the diamonds were not real and she wasted all that time, growing old in the process. The characters, like the plot, are also fairly simple: Mathilde, for example, is a physically beautiful woman, but fails to recognize that her beauty has any social value, and thinks the only way she can feel important and beautiful is if she owns nice things.

The irony of Mathilde’s outlook on life is that she does not seem to realize that, as the author describes, “women have no caste or class, their beauty, grace, and charm serving them for birth or family, their natural delicacy, their instinctive elegance, their nimbleness of wit, are their only mark of rank, and put the slum girl on a level with the highest lady in the land.” Perhaps if Mathilde had realized and valued her own physical beauty and youth, she could have married someone of greater social and economic status. The issue for her was that she placed too much value on that sort of status, never realizing that she was probably envied by others for what she did have.

The central plot of “The Necklace” is not what happens at the beginning, where Mathilde borrows the necklace and attends the event at The Ministry, but what happens after she loses the necklace. She has one night of experiencing the kind of life she had always imagined for herself, and literally and figuratively ends up paying for it for the next ten years. She and her husband work to repay the loans, and she takes on various jobs involving physical labor that have the effect of wearing her out and aging her before her time. When at the end of the story she runs into Madame Forestier, who had loaned her the necklace, she looks so old that Madame Forestier does not even recognize her. Mathilde has traded her physical beauty and youth, which the entire society valued as special, for a single night of enjoying a glamorous lifestyle.

Even if the necklace had been real, and Mathilde really did have to work to repay the expenses of replacing genuine diamonds, it is still clear that it was hardly a worthwhile trade for her. What makes it even more shocking is the revelation that the necklaces was barely worth more than the cost of the dress she wore the night of the party, and she and her husband could have probably replaced it in a matter of weeks or months. Mathilde realizes that the things she had valued so much (not just the necklace, but the whole glamorous world that existed in her imagination) were not real, they were just illusions. She learned too late that she had been born with the kind of beauty and natural grace that was valued even more than the specifics of class or social status, and she threw it all away.

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