Point of View in Maupassant's The Necklace

Instructor: Lauren Posey

Lauren has taught intermediate reading in an English Language Institute, and she has her Master's degree in Linguistics.

In this lesson we will take a look at the point of view in Guy de Maupassant's short story, '''The Necklace.'' In addition, you will learn about the four different literary points of view.

A Universal Story Element

Think about the last story or book you read. Who was the narrator, the person telling the story? Finding the narrator is one way of determining the point of view or the perspective from which the story is told. The point of view (POV) may be more obvious in some stories than others, but it is always present. Every story, no matter the length, genre, or style, has a point of view.

Guy de Maupassant's short story ''The Necklace'' is no exception. This story is written in third person limited point of view. Knowing the POV is important because it affects the story significantly. Different POVs give off different impressions and affect the amount of information you have about the story and events within it.

A Brief Summary

Maupassant's story focuses on a young girl, Mathilde, who is dissatisfied with her lack of money and fine things. She and her husband, Monsieur Loisel, are invited to a fancy party, and she borrows a necklace from her rich friend, Madame Forestier, for the occasion. However, during the evening Mathilde loses the necklace, and she and her husband are unable to find it. They use all of their savings and borrow thousands of francs to buy a replacement necklace. When Mathilde runs into her friend after not seeing her for ten years, she tells Madame Forestier the whole story, only to find out that Madame Forestier's original necklace was an imitation and only worth 500 francs at most.

Different Points of View

Before we can explore the POV of ''The Necklace,'' let's look at the different options. There are four different points of view in literature. One is first person. In this POV you are seeing the story as if you were inside the brain of a particular character. You can tell it is first person because of the use of 'I' and 'we.'

In first person POV you see through the eyes of a character.
1st person POV

There is also a second person POV which uses 'you.' This POV reads as though the narrator were speaking directly to the reader. It is the least common point of view found in literature.

Finally, there is third person POV, which uses 'she' or 'he' instead of 'I.' In third person there may be no named narrator at all. Within third person there are two perspectives. The first is third person limited. In third person limited, you only see the thoughts of one or two characters. It is limited to those characters, but it is told as if an outside narrator were observing their thoughts and actions.

In third person omniscient the narrator sees all. In this POV you can see the thoughts and actions of many characters, and the perspective is not focused on one or two in particular.

In third person POV you see things from the outside.
3rd person POV

''The Necklace''

Maupassant's short story is written from a third person limited POV. Specifically, it is limited to Mathilde and M. Loisel. We never hear the thoughts of any other characters, and we only see the actions of other characters as they affect Mathilde and her husband. It is not first person because 'I' is never used. Instead, third person terms such as 'she' and 'he' are used. Take the following sentence for example:

''She suffered endlessly, feeling she was entitled to all the delicacies and luxuries of life.''

In this sentence we can see what Mathilde is thinking and feeling, but 'she' is used, as if an outside narrator were observing her emotions. We can also see the thoughts of her husband, M. Loisel, as in this sentence:

''He compromised the rest of his life, risked signing notes without knowing if he could ever honor them, and, terrified by the anguish still to come, by the black misery about to fall on him...''

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