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Themes

"The Necklace" is a difficult story to read. If you think about it, it's about nonstop suffering, caused by the cruelty of life and chance. At the opening, we meet Mathilde, the classic dissatisfied housewife, who spends her days weeping about how boring and shabby her life is. Mathilde finds one moment of real joy when she goes to a ball, but chance is cruel. Her happiest night becomes her worst nightmare when she loses the diamond necklace she borrowed. Then she and her husband experience a very different sort of suffering: the suffering of real poverty. And all of this is just the buildup to one devastating ending…

Questions About Suffering

  1. Why is Mathilde so unhappy at the beginning of the story?
  2. What is responsible for Mathilde's unhappiness? Is it her own fault, or is it the fault of her circumstances?
  3. Is Mathilde's suffering worse when she's a poor woman? In what ways might it be, and in what ways might it not be?
  4. With all the suffering in "The Necklace," would you say the story takes a bleak view of life?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Mathilde is responsible for her own suffering; she just refuses to be happy.

Mathilde suffers less when she's poor than when she was comfortable but dissatisfied.

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