Sept. 25, 1996
The Downfall of Mathilde Loisel
Jealousy and envy are among the greatest of sins and have been the down fall of many. Maupassant's "The Necklace" is the story of a woman who is overcome with jealousy and envy. Mathilde Loisel feels she has been cheated by life from all of the wonderful things it has to offer. The reader learns how these qualities in Mme. Loisel come back to haunt her for many years as the story unfolds with an ironic ending.
Mathilde Loisel, as the main character of the story, is truly believable. She is described as "one of those pretty and charming girls who are sometimes, born into a family of clerks"(900). The author describes how she suffers from her lifestyle of being middle-class. There is a stereotypical "rich man, poor man" quality as Mme. Loisel longs for the material things that her old schoolmate Mme. Forester has. The physical appearance of the characters as well as their actions, thought, and emotions are very detailed throughout the story. The main character's life, as well as her husband's, takes a dramatic turn and the author describes the physical and emotional changes in great detail.
The story's title does not signify the theme however, the theme of the story is reiterated throughout the story. "She had no dresses, no jewels, nothing. And she loved nothing but that; she felt made for that. She would so have liked to please, to be envied, to be charming, to be sought after"(900). Mme. Loisel was envious of her friend and anyone else who had more than what she had. She felt that she deserved these things.
The plot grows completely out of the personalities of the characters. As the story opens, Mme. Loisel's husband comes home with an invitation to a ball at the palace. He had hoped that this invitation would lift Mme. Loisel's spirits but it had an opposite effect. She insisted that she could not go because she had nothing to wear. Mme. Loisel's husband reluctantly gave her the money he had been saving for a gun so she could buy a "suitable" dress. Next, Mme. decided that she would rather not go than go without jewelry. Her husband suggested that she borrow a piece from her friend, Mme. Forestier. Mme. Forestier allowed Mme. Loisel to borrow "a superb necklace of diamonds"(902).
Mathilde Loisel had a wonderful time at the ball. "She danced with intoxication, with passion, made drunk by pleasure, forgetting all, in the triumph of her beauty, in the glory of her success, in a sort of cloud of happiness composed of all this homage, of all this admiration, of all these awakened desires, and of that sense of complete victory which is so sweet to a woman's heart"(902). Upon arriving home, Mme. Loisel realized that the wonderful necklace she borrowed from Mme. Forestier was gone! Mathilde and her husband looked everywhere but could not find the necklace. Mathilde called Mme. Forestier and told her that she had broken the clasp of the necklace and was having it fixed for her. The next day, Mme. Loisel and her husband bought a necklace to replace the one she had lost for thirty-six thousand francs. Buying the necklace was not a simple process for the couple. They borrowed a great sum of money from several different people and they both took on several jobs. "She came to know what heavy housework meant and the odious cares of the kitchen"(904-905). "And dressed like a woman of the people, she went to the fruiterer, the grocer, the butcher, her basket on her arm, bargaining, insulted, defending her miserable money sou by sou"(905). After ten long years of hard work, they finally finished paying their debts. Mathilde wondered what life would have been like if she had not lost the necklace. "How little a thing is needed for us to be lost or to be saved"(905).
The climax of the story comes when one day, Mme. Loisel was taking a walk and saw Mme. Forestier. She called out to Mme. Forestier, but she insisted that she did not know Mme. Loisel. "Mme. Loisel looked old now. She had become the woman of impoverished households - strong and hard and rough"(905). When Mathilde told her who she was, Mme. Forestier replied, "Oh, my poor Mathilde! How you are changed!"(905). It had been such a long time and Mathilde had been working her fingers to the bone to pay for the necklace she lost.
Mme. Loisel felt that her lie had gone on long enough so she told Mme. Forestier what happened to her original necklace and what she had been through to pay for the replacement that was thirty-six thousand francs. Mme. Forestier was terribly suprised and replied, "Oh, my poor Mathilde! Why, my necklace was paste. It was worth at most five hundred francs!"(906).
Mathilde Loisel was an envious woman. She desperately wanted to be like her friend Mme. Forestier, with plenty of money, jewels, and beautiful clothes. She felt cheated from all of the good things in life that she felt she deserved. This overwhelming feeling of envy cast a shadow throughout Mme. Loisel's life as she found out that things are not always as good as they seem to be.
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