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The Necklace

Essay by 24  •  January 1, 2011  •  688 Words (3 Pages)  •  827 Views

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Like many of Maupassant's short stories, "The Necklace" is told by a third-person narrator, who avoids judging the characters or their actions. The narrator does have access to the characters' thoughts, and mentions that Madame Loisel is unhappy because she feels that she married beneath her. But for the most part, the author simply describes the events of the story, leaving it up to the reader to determine the nature of the characters through their actions. Most of all, the narrator is concerned with Madame Loisel. Though most of the story concerns the events surrounding the ball, the narrator recounts her birth into a humble family, her marriage, and also the many years of poverty they suffer afterward as a result of losing the necklace. This deft narration allows Maupassant to tell a story that stretches many years in the space of only a few pages.

The necklace is the central symbol of the story. Madame Loisel "had no clothes, no jewels, nothing," and while her husband can buy her a dress, they cannot afford jewelry. The necklace thus represents Madame Loisel's greed and also her artificiality. She judges herself by the things that she has, and believes others will too. The necklace of artificial diamonds symbolizes the insincerity of her character. Those who admire the necklace due to its beauty have been fooled. Just because it looks real does not mean that it is real. This symbolism can be extended to Madame Loisel: Just because she looks like an upper-class lady in her ball gown and jewels does not mean that she is one. The men at the ball who admire her and surrender to her charms and wits can also be said to value appearance over reality, since they have been hypnotized by a woman whose charms have been brought out by such artificial means.

Many people might read "The Necklace" as a Cinderella tale in reverse. Like Cinderella, Madame Loisel lives a humble life of hard work and cannot attend the ball until a fairy godmother figure -- Madame Forestier provides her with a dazzling necklace that will make her one of the most beautiful women at the dance. As Madame Loisel leaves the ball, the illusion of her elegance begins to crumble. Just as Cinderella's gown turns into a servant's frock, so must Madame Loisel put on "modest everyday clothes" to protect herself from the cold of the night air. Ashamed, she "rapidly descend the staircase," likely losing the necklace then just as Cinderella

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