Figurative Language in The Necklace

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  • 0:02 Figurative Language
  • 1:22 Personification
  • 2:04 Symbolism
  • 3:49 Hyperbole
  • 4:31 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Celeste Bright

Celeste has taught college English for four years and holds a Ph.D. in English Language and Literature.

In this lesson, we'll discuss figurative language in ''The Necklace'' by Guy de Maupassant. First, we'll review the definition of figurative language, then we'll go over some examples in the story and show how they contribute to its meaning.

Figurative Language in 'The Necklace'

We all use figurative language every day, often without thinking about it. Figurative language refers to forms of expression that are not literal, but convey meaning to an audience through the use of images. In literature, there are several kinds of figurative language that work in specific ways. Some examples of commonly used figurative language include metaphor, synecdoche, simile, hyperbole, personification, allusion, and symbolism.

In the short story 'The Necklace' by French author Guy de Maupassant, significant uses of figurative language include personification, symbolism, and hyperbole. They help us to understand the perspectives of Mathilde Loisel and her husband, who is simply called Loisel in the story.

Before we go any further, it should be noted that because we are reading 'The Necklace' as a translation from French to English, the phrasing of some quotations in your copy of the story may vary somewhat from those used here. This is because translators have differing opinions on exactly how each sentence should read in English to achieve the best effect or the meaning closest to the one originally used by the author.

Personification

Personification is the assignment of human qualities to an object, abstract concept, or any non-human thing. In the story's very first sentence, we encounter the phrase 'as if through an error of destiny.' The language used here suggests that fate has made a mistake in causing Mathilde to be born into a lower-class family, much like a clerk leaving a typo in a document. This makes the abstract concept of destiny seem more human and so is an example of personification. It is important to note that it is Mathilde who feels that a mistake has been made, and this image is used to show the reader her perspective.

Symbolism

In 'The Necklace,' Mathilde is dissatisfied with her simple lifestyle as a clerk's wife, and she daydreams about being a lady of the upper class. But Maupassant does not refer to this life directly or categorically. Instead, he uses images that Matilda associates with it. Specifically, she imagines having expensive decor, furnishings, waitstaff, and food, such as wall tapestries, bronze torches, footmen, and 'rose-colored' trout meat. In contrast, her husband is content and even enthusiastic about eating an ordinary potpie, which for him is part of a 'good' life. However, for Mathilde, the lifestyle of the wealthy itself also represents her own unfulfilled potential, because she believes that she is born to be a creature of grace and refinement.

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