The short story “The Necklace” written by Guy de Maupassant begins with the description of a fairly rich couple who lived in France. It was first published in the Le Gaulois Newspaper on February 17 1884 (Maupassant and Gary, 2004). By the time "The Necklace'' was first published, Maupassant had previously recognized his character as one of France's leading short story writers. Boule de suif, which emerged in an 1880 collection of stories by several authors, made him an instant member of the literary elite (Fusco, 1994, 107). Later, it was included in his famous and mostly read ontes dejour et de la nuit. It is his collection of short stories which means “Tales of Day and Night”. The story is well know for its twist ending.
Like most of writer’s short stories, “The Necklace” is also told by a third person narrator, who keeps himself away from judging the characters as well as their actions. Additionally and more interestingly, the narrator has full access to the character’s thoughts. From this perspective it can be said that narrator left it up to the readers to find out the nature of characters through their actions. From the beginning to end, the whole story is set in Paris. This story can be said as an instant success like most of his short fiction. Among all his writings “The Necklace” has become the most widely studied and anthologized story. The plot of the story is noticeably different from his other writings. The trick finishing surprised many of the readers who were not familiar with such a jarring reversal of meaning at the last part of story.
The background of the story represents the time of then France and its culture. It provides the information about the development of France's Third Republic as well as also examines how the society depicted. The story reflects the aspirations and apprehensions of the French nation in the 1880s.
The characters who are described in this story are Madam Loisel and her husband, and to a lesser extent Madame Forestier. In the commencing of the short story as well as the end, Mathilde is unhappy with herself and her social standing. “the central conflict in this story is between Mathilde’s desire for a life of luxury and the reality of her humble lifestyle. Although this time period is unclear, one's social standing is obviously [very much worsen situation]” (Lostracco and Wilkerson, 2002, 82). The central character of the story, Mathilde Loisel is a school friend of Madame Forestier. From her childhood, she always imagined herself in a high social position and with wonderful jewels. Her dream was all about a leisure life, with attentive servants, delicate meals and a large perfuming home.
But when she grows up, she got nothing and was married with a lowly clerk of ministry of education who always try his best to make his wife happy. Though Mathida is “beautiful and charming”, she and her husband are not well off financially. For this as a woman of low social status, she feels unsatisfied with her life and her husband. Ashamed for her social status, even she no longer visits her friend Madame Forestier, who was rich and wealthy. Her appearance of beauty does not hide the truth about her unhappiness. Though she is pretty and charming, in reality that is not content at all. She also thinks that she deserves more.
Through lots of begging at work, her husband was able to get two invitation letters to the ministry of Education’s ball party. He thinks his wife would be delighted after seeing the invitations because it was very special. Instead of being happy, she shows unpleasant face to him. She becomes very upset, insisting that she has no good dress to wear. When her husband asked her why she is impatient and becoming furious, she pointed out her desire for a nice dress, so that she could attend in the ball party.
However, the story tells us that he loved her too much. He asked how much money she needs to buy a beautiful dress. She replied four hundred francs would be enough. Interestingly, after buying her the dress another demand rises from her. This time it is about jewelry so that she can make herself more beautiful. His husband advised to go to her school friend and ask her to lend some jewels. After realizing this solution, she went to her friend’s house and told about her trouble. Choosing the best one she became very happy and delightful.
On the party day, they went to the ball and she was thinking herself very successful. Everyone was showing interest in her and it made her proud. For the first time she discovered herself in her desired environment and she forgot about everything else. With no thought for anything, she danced with others madly and drunk with pleasure. The next day she was hurry to leave that place while her husband threw the garments over her shoulders to cover them from cold.
After arriving at home, she found that the Necklace she wearing has been lost. It gave the biggest shock in her life. They searched everywhere in hope to find it. But they were failed and realized that it is impossible to find. To hide this accident, she wrote her friend that she has broken the clasp of the necklace instead of telling the truth. They thought it will give them some time to fix up the problem.
To get rid of this problem, they considered to replace the diamond by another one. So they went from jeweler to jeweler looking for another necklace like the first. However, they managed to find out a shop where they discovered the necklace which is identical to the lost one. Forty thousand francs for that necklace were too heavy for them to afford. After bargaining they were allowed to get it for thirty six thousand francs.
This was a big amount of money to them to bear. Loisel had eighteen thousand francs, but that was not sufficient for the necklace. So he borrowed the rest, getting something from one man, more or less from another one, five Louis here, three Louis there. He used all his effort to manage the rest of the money need to purchase that necklace. After every physical privation and moral torture, he bought the new necklace. When her wife Madame Loisel took back the new one to Madame Forestier, she felt very relaxed and tension free. However, when Mathilde returns it to Mme. Forestier, she does not notice the substitution. “They return it to Madame Forestier, hoping she won't notice the substitution. Thereafter, Mathilde experiences the horrible life of the needy. She dismisses her maid, and she and her husband are forced to rent under caves” (Barchers, and Jennifer, 2002, 44).
But it was not easy for them. By the time, she realized the ghastly life of abject poverty. They could not bear the cost of keeping servant, so she dismissed them. They changed their home and took a very cheap one under the roof. Her husband also used to do overtime job and they passed ten years in this way of life.
At the end of this long time they paid off everything. Madame Loisel had become coarse, old, strong, and hard like all the other women of poor households. Her “beauty and charming” is no more in her face. Sometimes, she thought about how her life could be if she had never lost those jewels.
One day, she caught sight of Madame Forestier and addressed her by nickname. After recognizing her, Forestier became surprised to see her friend’s change. She could not believe how her friend’s beauty has lost so quickly. Loisel confessed everything to her about the necklace and how they replaced it without getting unnoticed. The friend was in upset, and told her that the necklace she had lent her was a copy and cost almost nothing. “Madame Loisel took the necklace to her friend in dread that the substitution might be discovered but Madame Forestier was only offended that it had not been returned sooner. Madame Loisel now “experienced the horrible existence of the needy. But she took her part with real heroism” (Leeming, 2004, 65).