Character Analysis in The Necklace
Mathilde Loisel: Mathilde is a dissatisfied housewife who dreams of a life of glamour and wealth. She feels trapped in a middle-class life and longs to for the life of riches that she believes she deserves.
Monsieur Loisel: In contrast to Mathilde’s selfishness and greed, her husband demonstrates generosity and sacrifice. He is upset with his wife’s dissatisfaction and works hard to secure tickets to the Ministry of Education ball to make her happy. When Mathilde loses the necklace, Monsieur Loisel undergoes ten years of hard work and poverty in order to purchase a replacement.
Madame Forestier: Madame Forestier is the wealthy friend of the Loisel’s who lends Mathilde the diamond necklace for the ball. She is generous to Mathilde.
Character Analysis Examples in The Necklace:
""You must write to your friend," said he, "that you have broken the clasp of her necklace and that you are having it mended. That will give us time to turn round."..." See in text (The Necklace)
It is Monsieur Loisel who makes the decision to deceive Madame Forestier. He is concerned about his position and his career with the Ministry of Public Instruction. He realizes that some people may think he and his wife only pretended to lose the necklace but had kept it with the intention of selling it at some later date. That could jeopardize his reputation at the Ministry and prevent him from receiving future promotions. His wife could not take the initiative in deceiving Madame Forestier because Mathilde has no income and no power to borrow money to pay for a replacement of the lost necklace.
"He had found nothing...." See in text (The Necklace)
Despite his not finding anything, Monsieur Loisel still spend hours searching for the necklace while Mathilde stayed home. He does this without question, and his actions reinforce the contrast between his naturally generous and helpful demeanor and Mathilde's selfishness.
"Will you lend me this, only this?..." See in text (The Necklace)
Mathilde's desire for a new dress and jewelry further characterize her as greedy. This moment where she covetously looks at the diamond necklace provides further support for this characterization, and her greed stands in contrast to the generosity of both her husband and Madame Forestier.
"four hundred francs..." See in text (The Necklace)
While an exact conversion to dollars or euros is difficult to make, Mathilde's husband's reaction reveals that this is still a relatively large amount of money. Despite his growing "a little pale," we can see that Monsieur Loisel is willing to put aside his own desires for the sake of his wife's.
"the economical clerk..." See in text (The Necklace)
The choice of "economical" here characterizes Monsieur Loisel in two ways. First, it has a positive connotation that suggests he is efficient with spending money and good at his job. This contrasts with the second connotation (which Mathilde likely intends) that negatively characterizes him as cheap and unwilling to spend any money.
"Why, my dear, I thought you would be glad..." See in text (The Necklace)
Monsieur Loisel reveals himself to be caring and generous. He not only notices how his wife desires fine things and company, but he also acts to provide what he can for his wife despite his limited income and social position. Even though Mathilde doesn't recognize this, the fact that not many clerks are receiving invitations to this event actually shows that her husband has acquired some level of success and reputation.
"feeling herself born to enjoy all delicacies and all luxuries...." See in text (The Necklace)
Even though she does not have a lot of money, this desire for material possessions characterizes Mathilde as greedy and runs through the poem as a theme. Throughout the story, Maupassant includes specific details that reinforce this notion, specifically ones that contrast other character's generosity with Mathilde's greed.
"a sphinxlike smile..." See in text (The Necklace)
Mathilde is not only imagining the objects that she would like to possess, but she is also considering the social interactions and behaviors she wishes were a part of her life. "Sphinxlike" refers to something that is mysterious or difficult to understand. In her mind, only these kinds of inscrutable smiles are appropriate for upper-class persons.
"Ah, the good soup! I don't know anything better than that..." See in text (The Necklace)
Monsieur Loisel's attitude stands in stark contrast to his wife's. This statement reveals his satisfaction with such simple, inexpensive fare and likely how pleased he is to have such a lovely wife. However, this also shows how intolerable Mathilde likely finds her situation because her husband is undistinguished, unambitious, and unlikely to rise much higher in civil employment.
"a tablecloth in use three days..." See in text (The Necklace)
This detail reminds the reader that Mathilde and her husband do not have enough money to have clean cloth each day, but it also shows how Mathilde focuses on small details. While a tablecloth might be dirty from a few days of use, it might equally not be very dirty. Her observation of this small detail reinforces how unsatisfied she is with her situation and possessions.
"The sight of the little Breton peasant who did her humble housework..." See in text (The Necklace)
Maupassant includes this detail to show that for all of the suffering Mathilde endures, she still does not have to do her own housework and can afford to have one servant. Despite her not having the luxuries she dreams of, Mathilde is still considered in the lower bourgeoisie, a class above traders and laborers, and has more than many.
"You must write to your friend..." See in text (The Necklace)
This is a crucial point in the story. The husband and wife make the decision not to admit that Mathilde has lost the borrowed necklace but to instead try to replace it. Mathilde's desire to keep up appearances has put them in a precarious situation. Now they must choose between risking social ruin by telling the truth or ruining themselves financially in order to maintain those same appearances. The Loisel's dishonesty ultimately sets off a chain of events that drastically alters their lives.
"She left the ball about four o'clock in the morning..." See in text (The Necklace)
"The Necklace" is reminiscent of the fairy tale "Cinderella." The heroine in the fairy tale could not go to the ball because she needed all the accoutrements her Fairy Godmother provided. Both stories deal with the idea of outward appearance dictating the perceptions of others, but while Cinderella was humble and gracious, Mathilde feels entitled to the gown and jewels.
"He stopped, distracted, seeing that his wife was weeping..." See in text (The Necklace)
Mathilde is not weeping because of the gown; rather, she is crying because she is married to a man with such humble values and aspirations. Monsieur Loisel undoubtedly thinks he is fortunate to have such a beautiful and charming wife, but she brings terrible misfortune into his life. Just as she is married to the wrong man, he is married to the wrong woman.
""Come, let us see, Mathilde. How much would it cost, a suitable gown, which you could use on other occasions--something very simpl..." See in text (The Necklace)
Mr. Loisel gets a free invitation to the Minister of Public Instruction's ball. Mathilde, who is very concerned with appearances, insists on buying a new gown. Despite the Loisel's economic situation, Mathilde is willing to spend an irresponsible amount of money to appear wealthier at the ball. This indicates that she is more concerned with the appearance of wealth than actually being fiscally responsible.
"She would have liked so much..." See in text (The Necklace)
Mathilde Loisel feels cheated by life and believes she deserved to be born wealthy. This leads her to feel dissatisfied with her comfortable, if not always elegant, life. However, rather than accepting her situation and learning to be content with what she has, Mathilde instead daydreams about luxuries and allows her jealous nature to alienate her from her wealthier friends. She does not attempt to earn the regard she craves with genuine effort. Instead, she believes that she is entitled to admiration and luxury on account of being born beautiful and charming.
"outside her high-necked waist..." See in text (The Necklace)
The original French is sur sa robe montante. She is wearing one of those dresses which cover the neck almost to the chin. She is improvising by fastening the necklace around this high collar, but she can see how it will look when she is wearing a low-cut dress at the ball. The necklace will call attention to her beautiful neck, throat and bosom. Although Mathilde has never owned expensive jewelry, she has an instinct about such things and has undoubtedly imagined wearing all sorts of distinctive jewelry while indulging in her fantasies about the privileged life she felt born to enjoy.
"a wardrobe with a mirror, took out a large jewel box..." See in text (The Necklace)
Maupassant doesn't waste words. He provides the wardrobe with a mirror so that Mathilde can try on the jewels in front of it without the author having to explain where the mirror is located. The large jewel box is an eloquent way of showing that Madame Forestier must be quite rich. There is no other description of this friend's home, but readers can imagine that it is spacious and sumptuously furnished in the fashion of the period.
"while you are eating the pink meat of a trout or the wings of a quail...." See in text (The Necklace)
Maupassant employs vibrant imagery throughout the story. This is a technique designed to make a story more vivid and real in order to draw readers into the setting. Here he is appealing to the reader's sense of taste by mentioning the "delicious dishes" of trout and quail wings. The passage is also full of visual descriptions, such as the color of the trout or the "strange birds flying in the midst of a fairy forest." Mathilde's fantasy showcases her disastifaction with her station as she instead conjures up images of decadent food and rich surroundings to replace her soiled tablecloth and common cuisine.
"And she smiled with a joy that was at once proud and ingenuous..." See in text (The Necklace)
It seems odd that a wealthy woman like Mme. Forestier would own a necklace made of paste--a phony necklace. There is perhaps a suggestion of some secret guilt in her past. In the Sherlock Holmes story "The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton," Holmes is trying to bargain with the blackmailer Milverton in behalf of Lady Eva Blackwell. Milverton refuses to lower his demand for seven thousand pounds for some incriminating letters. He rejects Holmes' assertion that Lady Eva doesn't have that much money. He predicts tragedy unless she comes up with the full amount, and says: "And all because she will not find a beggarly sum which she could get by turning her diamonds into paste." Perhaps this was a common way for wealthy women to raise money without their husbands' knowledge. Mme. Forestier would have had to keep the phony necklace and wear it occasionally for her husband to see that she still had it.