The Necklace: Mathilde’s Materialistic and Selfish Strive to a Happy Life The Necklace is a short story by Guy de Maupassant. It begins with a explanation of Madame Mathilde Loisel. Though she is young and pretty, she and her husband are not well off financially. Her husband is only a clerk in the ministry of education. Mathilde is a very worldly person who is never content with anything in her life. Her husband is not a rich man, but he brings home enough to get by. Mathilde has always dreamed of the rich life, with servants and a large house, but her lifestyle is decidedly more reserved.
Her selfish attitude is apparent in her need for materialistic things in her home and in the rude manner she treats her husband. Madame Forestier an old friend who has become wealthy. Mathilde no longer visits her because their social status is not the same. One evening Mathilde’s husband brings home an invitation to a fancy dinner party. He is certain that Mathilde will be excited. However, she becomes very upset, saying she has nothing suitable to wear to such an event. Hoping to make her happy, Monsieur Loisel offers to buy her a new 400 pound dress with the money he was saving for a new gun.
As the ball approaches, Madame Loisel again becomes anxious because she has no jewelry to wear to accent her new dress. When her husband suggests she borrow jewels from Madame Forestier Mathilde pays her old friend a visit. Her friend tells her to borrow any piece of jewelry that she wishes. Mathilde chooses only a beautiful diamond necklace. Madame Loisel enjoys herself greatly at the ball and many men notice her. Although her husband is asleep in another room, she dances until 4:00 in the morning. Not until they are back in their humble house does she realize that she is no longer wearing the diamond necklace.
Monsieur Loisel spends several hours retracing their steps but finds nothing. They decide to buy another necklace without telling Madame Forestier the original was lost. This causes them massive amounts of debt. After ten years of poverty, hard work and old age they finally pay off their entire debt. One day Madame Loisel sees Madame Forestier. She tells her friend the whole story. Madame Forestier was shocked that the necklace had been replaced. She tells Mathilde that the original was only worth a fraction of their debt.
Based on careful analysis of her materialistic and selfish attitude shown with objects in her home and her life in general, as well as on her actions when the plot unfolds, Mathilde is clearly a dynamic character. To Mathilde, objects make her life meaningful. Mathilde always wanted large rooms draped with expensive silks, fine furniture and intricate knickknacks. She dreamed of being the envy of all of her closest friends. These dreams show how her thoughts are in the wrong place. When she first rejects the invitation, we learn that she feels she doesn’t have a dress fancy enough for a party.
Her husband bargains with her and promises her a new dress if she will attend the ball. But, even after getting the new dress, she still desires more. She says she doesn’t have any jewelry, “not a single gem, nothing to dress up” her new dress. She tells her husband that she would rather stay home that go to the ball looking like a hobo. Mathilde’s materialism is also shown in the way she acts after the party. When her husband goes to cover her from the cold night air with “a modest everyday wrap” she runs from him so that no one will see that she is too poor to afford a fur like the other women.
These instances are all examples of how egocentric she is in her thoughts, actions and dreams. Madame Loisel’s self-centered character in her unhappy life is also portrayed through the way she treats her husband. She gives him no honor, no thanks, no kindness and no love. He sacrifices his time and his wants in hopes that she will be satisfied with the things she has in her life. On the contrary, she blames him for all of the things she doesn’t have. She treats him no better than a slave. When her husband comes home with the invitation, he exclaims “Here is something for you. Then “Instead of being delighted, as her husband hoped, she flung the invitation petulantly across the table”. In spite of her rude behavior, her husband Continues, “Why, darling, I thought you’d be pleased. You never go out, and this is a great occasion. I had tremendous trouble to get it. ” All of her rude actions stem from her selfish nature when she claims “I haven’t a dress and so I can’t go to this party. Give your invitation to some friend of yours whose wife will be turned out better than I shall. ” She would be willing to crush his spirit and miss out on the party entirely because she claims to have nothing to wear.
Her selfishness involving her husband is again portrayed when, after the party, she realized the necklace was missing. “They stared at one another, dumbfounded. At last Loisel put on his clothes again. ” He went out to retrace their steps in hopes of finding the lost necklace. “She waited all day long, in the same state of bewilderment…” as her husband checked numerous resources hoping it would be returned. They spent the rest of their lives paying for the necklace that she lost and even used her husband’s inheritance to help pay off the debt.
After all of this, Mathilde gives him no thanks but only blames him for the way her life has turned out. This is proof of how damaged her character is. Mathilde’s selfish and materialistic ways through the entire story give a certain understanding of her character. Her character flaws are portrayed by how unhappy she is with the objects in her home and her life in general. To Mathilde, it is all about her social status and how far up the social ladder she seems to be. At the end of the story when Mathilde runs into Madame Forestier , she informs her “I’ve had some hard times since I saw you last; and many sorrows . . . nd all on your account. ” Even when all is said and done, Mathilde is still blaming her unhappy life on someone else. However, it is apparent that she has changed given the fact that she told Madame Forestier the truth about what had happened so many years ago. This is where my label of dynamic comes in to play. It is somewhat comforting to know that she finally came clean with her friend about the necklace. This portrays to the reader that Mathilde no longer puts as much value in what others think of her socially. If she did, she certainly would not want to make herself out to be liar in her friend’s eyes by confessing.