Suffering of Mathilde in The Necklace Essay

  • Length: 5 pages
  • Sources: 1+
  • Subject: Literature (general)
  • Type: Essay
  • Paper: #86124430

Excerpt from Essay :

In Guy de Maupassant’s “The Necklace” (1884), a beautiful young woman named Mathilde is depicted almost as having been deprived of a higher station in life simply because of her impressive physical characteristics and that fact that she lives in humble dwellings. She is sharply aware both of her beauty and of her modest status. Having been born into a family of clerks and married a clerk, she feels constrained. She cannot afford nice clothes to accentuate and affirm her natural beauty. Yet she is drawn to those who have nicer things—such as her friend Madame Forestier. However, when her husband brings home an invitation to an event at the palace, Mathilde experiences a range of emotions. She shows signs of annoyance, humiliation, depression, joy, excitement, despair and remorse—for various reasons, which the rest of the story reveals. The physical, moral and emotional conflicts that Mathilde suffers as a result of her decisions concerning the necklace (which she borrows from Madame Forestier and subsequently loses) compel the action of the story to its ironic twist-ending: Guy De Maupassant’s “The Necklace” is a about a woman whose life is not what she feels she deserves. Mathilde lives in an illusory world where objects, appearances, and associations have life-changing powers.

Mathilde suffers morally because she feels responsible for losing Madame Forestier’s necklace. However, this suffering is also grounded in her pride: she is afraid to tell Madame Forestier the truth about the necklace and would rather commit herself and her husband to ten years of penury and hard labor (in order to pay for a replacement) than to come clean with Madame Forestier and throw herself upon her friend’s mercy. Instead, she listens to her husband who constructs a lie in order to buy them time: “You must write to your friend that you have broken the clasp of her necklace and that you are having it mended,” Mathilde’s husband states—and she does as he commands (Maupassant). The irony, of course, is that necklace her friend loaned her for the event at the palace is full of false stones—it was not made of real diamonds as Mathilde had supposed. However, Mathilde does not realize this until years later, when Madame Forestier tells her. From the time that Mathilde’s husband goes deep into debt in order to buy a string of diamonds that resembles the one his wife has lost till the moment Mathilde meets Madame Forestier many years later, Mathilde transforms from the proud, haughty wife of a clerk into a woman who knows what true poverty feels like. She engages in housework in order to help her husband pay the debt that she has brought upon them through her vanity and carelessness. In doing so, in slaving away at housework for pay, she loses that which she so cherished in her youth and which compelled her to seek to be glamorized in the first place: her good looks. She becomes “the woman of impoverished households—strong and hard and rough” (Maupassant). Her vanity is gradually and consistently ground out of her through the ten years of labor to which she has been consigned. Yet even in this work, even throughout these years that her vanity is reduced—she is never fully and really humbled. She even still accuses Madame Forestier of being the cause of her sorrows and troubles all these years. The actual and real cause of her troubles is herself through her own doing—and that revelation is not delivered until the very last line of the story when Madame Forestier reveals that all Mathilde’s work has gone to repay a debt for a necklace that really only cost 400 francs—not the 40,000 francs that Mathilde and her husband supposed. The weight and shock of this revelation to Mathilde’s moral being is not described by Maupassant—but it can be assumed that it does one of either two things: 1) it either humbles her to her core, or 2) fills her with the deepest resentment, bitterness and spite that any woman of any life has ever known. Regardless of the outcome, it can be surmised that Mathilde suffers a great deal, morally speaking.

Mathilde also suffers emotionally. The first signs of her distress come upon receiving the invitation to the minister’s ball from her husband. She is so vain and proud that instead of receiving the invitation with joy, she is immediately scornful, rude and dismissive: “What do you wish me to do with that?” she coldly asks her husband in response to his sharing the good news of the invite (Maupassant). He counters, “\"\\Why, my dear, I thought you would be glad. You never go out, and this is such a fine opportunity. I had great trouble to get it. Every one wants to go; it is very select, and they are not giving many invitations to clerks. The whole official world will be there” (Maupassant). Instead of feeling glad, however, she is irritated at what she perceives to be her husband’s callousness: how could she attend a ball when she has no gown to wear! It is almost as if she is spitting in his face for the…

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