The Necklace by Guy de Maupassant
In The Necklace by Guy de Maupassant we have the theme of materialism, insecurity, discontent, happiness, sacrifice, selflessness, desperation and humility. Taken from his The Complete Short Stories collection the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and after reading the story the reader realises that de Maupassant may be exploring the theme of materialism. Mme Loisel believes or at least fantasises about the fact that her life would be better if her circumstances were improved by the wealthy finery that she imagines others to have. At no stage does she consider herself to be fortunate in any way. To have a loving husband and a household that is not in debt. She longs for a different type of life one that is driven by materialism. It is as though Mme Loisel believes that should she have what others (wealthy people) have she will be happy. That her life will improve. If anything there is a sense that Mme Loisel is insecure in the life that she lives and can only see herself happy should she have material possessions. At no stage in the story apart from when Mme Loisel is paying off the debt does the reader suspect that she is content in any way. Throughout the story she is driven by her desire to own things. Considering this to be the marker for happiness. Mme Loisel appears to believe that the more things that she owns the happier she will be.
De Maupassant also appears to be exploring the theme of sacrifice. Rather than buying himself the gun that he had saved for Monsieur Loisel gives the money (four hundred francs) to Mme Loisel to buy a dress for the ball. He acts selflessly in order to allow Mme Loisel feel comfortable before going to the ball. He also borrows the thirty six thousand francs need to replace the necklace which suggests not only that Monsieur Loisel is making another sacrifice but he is also again acting selflessly. Helping Mme Loisel in order that she is not accused of being a thief by Mme Forestier. Mme Loisel also makes a sacrifice by selling her house and moving to smaller accommodation and finding menial work to do in order to repay the debt incurred by borrowing the money for the new necklace. It may also be important to remember that the dramatic change in the Loisel’s life has been caused by Mme Loisel’s desire to be somebody she is not. She is a lower middle class woman who attempted to live her life (for one day) as an upper class woman.
If anything Mme Loisel’s desperation to be somebody she is not has resulted in her life changing dramatically and for the worse. Though she does appear to be happy when she is working and paying off the debt for the necklace. Whereas at the beginning of the story she dreamt of living a wealthier more materialistic life and was unhappy. It may also be important that Mme Forestier’s necklace is paste (fake) because despite it being fake Mme Forestier is happy. She is not as materialistically driven as Mme Loisel. Which may be the point that de Maupassant is attempting to make. He might be suggesting through Mme Forestier’s character that an individual can be happy regardless of what they may own. Something that only appears to dawn on Mme Loisel after she and Monsieur Loisel have successfully paid off their debt for the necklace. Though de Maupassant does not inform the reader directly as to whether Mme Loisel has learnt her lesson. There is a sense that she has. When she is repaying the debt for the necklace she is no longer preoccupied with herself and her aspirations for material things. Her main priority is to pay off the thirty six thousand francs. Also Mme Loisel is described as being ‘glad’ that the whole affair of paying of the necklace is over. Which further suggests that Mme Loisel may be conscious enough to realise that she is now happy with what she has got (husband and debt free).
Rather than chasing material things Mme Loisel appears to be focusing on the things that she has. The simple things that she previously looked upon with disregard. No longer is she as discontent even though she has spent ten years paying back the money for the necklace. It is as though a weight has been lifted from Mme Loisel’s shoulders. The desire for material things is no longer. Mme Loisel has been humbled by her experiences over the last ten years. She may be poor but she is happier than she previously was when she was driven by her desire to own possessions that would have been of no use to her. The end of the story is also interesting as there is a hint of irony in the fact that Mme Forestier tells Mme Loisel that the necklace was only worth about five hundred francs. It is possible that de Maupassant is highlighting the importance of appearance to Mme Loisel. She originally chose the necklace because she believed that it was made of diamonds. So over powering were Mme Loisel’s desires for material things she never imagined that what she might have been wearing was fake. In essence de Maupassant may be suggesting that not everything an individual sees may be what it seems and that happiness comes from within. Not from material possessions.