Study Guide

The Necklace Wealth

By Guy de Maupassant

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The Necklace
Mme. Jeanne Forestier

"Oh, my poor Mathilde. But mine were false. At most they were worth five hundred francs!" (128)

Mme. Forestier reveals that the diamond necklace Mathilde lost was actually a fake. Does the falsehood of the jewels symbolize the falsehood of wealth? Does it change the way we think of Mathilde's former dreams? Or, on another note, does it perhaps mean something about Mme. Forestier? If her best piece of jewelry is a fake, maybe she's not quite as wealthy as she initially seems.

The other did not recognize her, astonished to be hailed thus familiarly by this woman of the people. She hesitated –

"But – madam – I don't know – are you not making a mistake?" (111-112)

Mme. Forestier and Mathilde are now greatly separated by their wealth, which translates into social class. The class difference is so big that it seems improper for Mathilde to even address Mme. Forestier by her first name. Their classes are also immediately apparent from the way they look.

When Mme. Loisel took back the necklace to Mme. Forestier, the latter said, with an irritated air: –

"You ought to have brought it back sooner, for I might have needed it." (95-96)

It's interesting that Mme. Forestier reacts so snippily to having the necklace returned late. One would think that because she has so much, it wouldn't really matter when one particular piece of jewelry was returned. This could either mean that her wealth makes her more greedy with what she has or that she considers the necklace one of her best pieces of jewelry. Which is a little interesting, since we learn later that it's a fake…

Mathilde Loisel

She reflected a few seconds, going over her calculations, and thinking also of the sum which she might ask without meeting an immediate refusal and a frightened exclamation from the frugal clerk. (24)

It looks like Mathilde is milking her husband for all he's worth here. Was her the crying fit put on so she could seize the opportunity to get a fancy dress from him?

All at once she discovered, in a box of black satin, a superb necklace of diamonds, and her heart began to beat with boundless desire. Her hands trembled in taking it up. She fastened it round her throat, on her high dress, and remained in ecstasy before herself. (48)

Maybe diamonds are a girl's best friend. Just seeing and touching something expensive and beautiful drives Mathilde crazy. She's in "ecstasy" over a necklace. The necklace may be a symbol for wealth, or glamour in the story. Even if it isn't, it certainly seems to equate to those things for Mathilde.

Mme. Loisel learned the horrible life of the needy. She made the best of it, moreover, frankly, heroically. The frightful debt must be paid. She would pay it. They dismissed the servant; they changed their rooms; they took an attic under the roof. (98)

After losing the necklace, Mathilde now finds herself actually poor. Though she felt herself "poor" before, she was fairly comfortable, and middle class. Now her life is much harder.

She had a rich friend, a comrade of her convent days, whom she did not want to go and see any more, so much did she suffer as she came away. (6)

Mathilde wants to be wealthy so badly that she's driven mad with jealousy by the one rich friend she has, Mme. Forestier. She can't bear to see Mme. Forestier, because it brings her within arm's reach of the world of wealth she wants so badly, but can't have.

"It annoys me not to have a jewel, not a single stone, to put on. I shall look wretched. I would almost rather not go to this party." (33)

OK, so after she's gotten an expensive dress out of her husband, Mathilde refuses to go to the party again. She's still not satisfied. This time, it's jewels. She needs jewels. Does this mean Mathilde actually expects her husband to get her a piece of jewelry?

She was one of those pretty and charming girls, born by a blunder of destiny in a family of employees. She had no dowry, no expectations, no means of being known, understood, loved, married by a man rich and distinguished. (1)

The first thing we know about Mathilde is that she seems meant for a life of wealth and luxury, but instead is born into a lowly middle-class family. We don't even know her name yet, but we know this other information about her. The conflict between what she wants (which is quite a lot) and what she has is established immediately.

Mathilde Loisel

She let her mind dwell on the quiet vestibules, hung with Oriental tapestries, lighted by tall lamps of bronze, and on the two tall footmen in knee breeches who dozed in the large armchairs, made drowsy by the heat of the furnace. She let her mind dwell on the large parlors, decked with old silk, with their delicate furniture, supporting precious bric-a-brac, and on the coquettish little rooms, perfumed, prepared for the five o'clock chat with the most intimate friends, men well known and sought after, whose attentions all women envied and desired. (3)

Mathilde spends her time living in a dream world, in which she imagines all the fabulous things she'd have if she were rich. The most detail we get in the otherwise sparse story comes in Maupassant's descriptions of the fancy stuff Mathilde wants. But being rich also means more than just nice stuff to her: it means having the glamour to attract men.

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