by Guy de Maupassant
The Necklace Women and Femininity Quotes
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She had no dowry, no expectations, no means of being known, understood, loved, married by a man rich and distinguished; and she let them make a match for her with a little clerk in the Department of Education. (1)
Mathilde's future prospects are not in her own hands. She's a woman, which means the quality of her life will basically depend upon her family and her husband. And in both respects, she's out of luck, as far as she's concerned. With so much powerlessness, it's no wonder she's frustrated and dissatisfied.
She was simple since she could not be adorned; but she was unhappy as though kept out of her own class; for women have no caste and no descent, their beauty, their grace, and their charm serving them instead of birth and fortune. Their native keenness, their instinctive elegance, their flexibility of mind, are their only hierarchy; and these make the daughters of the people the equals of the most lofty dames. (2)
The narrator is suggesting that looks and charm make the woman, not wealth or good birth. According to this train of thought, a pretty, charming poor woman can be the equal of "the most lofty dame." This is certainly the way Mathilde feels about herself – she has the looks and the charm to be better at being a "woman" than most rich women. It's telling that the two "virtues" of a woman are the qualities that make them attractive to men. We don't hear anything about intelligence, or kindness, or creativity…
She had no dresses, no jewelry, nothing. And she loved nothing else; she felt herself made for that only. She would so much have liked to please, to be envied, to be seductive and sought after. (5)
Mathilde wants to be desired by men. To some extent, even her desire for wealth is just derivative of that. Her highest wish is to be approved of and wanted by someone else.