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Themes in The Necklace

Wealth: Wealth and greed go hand-in-hand in de Maupassant’s story. Mathilde longs for a life of wealth and glamor, which she deems far superior to her current life as a clerk’s wife. In her quest to appear wealthier than she is, she borrows a diamond necklace from wealthy friend Madame Forestier. Mathilde loses the necklace and then puts her husband and herself into ten years of abject poverty in order to afford a replacement. The story demonstrates the negative forces of greed and pride, both of which lead Mathilde down a path of suffering and affliction.

Appearances vs Reality: The narrative’s central theme is the falsity of appearances. When invited to a ball, Mathilde spends an excessive amount of money on a dress and borrows a diamond necklace from a friend in order to appear richer than she is. When the ball is over, Mathilde makes sure to leave hastily to hide her shabby coat so that the other guests do not notice her poor appearance. The ultimate irony is the deceptiveness of the necklace itself, which eventually teaches Mathilde a lesson about her own greed and vanity.

Themes Examples in The Necklace:

The Necklace

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"chagrin..."   (The Necklace)

The deep embarrassment they feel at having failed provides insight into their rationale for not admitting that the necklace was lost in the first place. Despite the friendship that Mathilde has with Madame Forestier, it appears that social obligations and class divisions run so deep in society that they would rather make themselves sick trying to solve the problem instead of admitting their mistake.

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"Will you lend me this, only this?..."   (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.

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"feeling herself born to enjoy all delicacies and all luxuries...."   (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.

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"You must write to your friend..."   (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.

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