The Necklace: Madame Forestier Character Analysis

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 an in-depth look at the character of Madame Forestier in Guy de Maupassant's short story ~'The Necklace.~' You will also learn about her role in the story.

Types of Characters

Out of all the books and stories you've read, who is your favorite character? A character is a participant in the story, and it can be a person, an animal, or even sometimes an object (the clock in Beauty and the Beast, for example). Every story has characters, and all characters have traits that define who they are and help them with their role in the story.

There are two overarching types of characters. Major characters are what we might think of as heroes or villains, protagonists and antagonists. Major characters are the ones on whom all the events in the story center in some way. Minor characters tend to be more in the background. However, minor characters are still very important. They interact with the major characters and help move the plot, and can serve to reveal things the major characters do not know. One such minor character is Madame (Mme) Forestier from Guy de Maupassant's short story ''The Necklace.''

Character Description

So who is Mme. Forestier? She is a wealthy friend of the main character, Mathilde Loisel. In fact, being rich is Mme. Forestier's main character trait. The first time we are introduced to her, we are not even given her name:

''{Mathilde} had a rich friend, a former schoolmate at the convent, whom she no longer wanted to visit because she suffered so much when she came home'' (section 2).

Here, Mme. Forestier is only referred to as the ''rich friend,'' and her main purpose is to show how miserable and jealous Mathilde is in her current life. This sets the stage for Mathilde's reaction and need to borrow jewels when she finds out about the ball.

No physical description of Mme. Forestier is ever given. Her jewels are described in far more detail than she is. We are only given hints of her emotions twice. The first time is when Mathilde returns her necklace, which is actually the new one Mathilde purchased:

''When Madame Loisel took the necklace back, Madame Forestier said coldly: 'You should have returned it sooner, I might have needed it' '' (section 7).

The second is later, when Mme. Forestier is ''moved'' by what happened with the necklace, and the hard years Mathilde has seen as a result.

Neither of these emotions are particularly deep, and the character of Mme. Forestier never changes. This lack of change marks her as a static character.

What is Her Purpose?

Though she may be a minor, static character, Mme. Forestier serves a pivotal role in ''The Necklace.'' The fact that she lends her jewels to Mathilde is the entire reason the rest of the plot happens. If Mme. Forestier had not lent her the necklace, Mathilde could not have lost it, and would not have had to go into poverty to pay for a replacement. Even though Mme. Forestier is unaware of everything until the end of the story, it is her action that sets it all in motion.

Her small show of emotion regarding the necklace also serves a purpose. It shows the reader that Mme. Forestier does care about the necklace and is upset that it hasn't been returned in a timely manner. This helps justify the great lengths that Mathilde and Monsieur Loisel have gone through to replace it.

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