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The Necklace Setting

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  • 0:04 The Necklace
  • 0:25 Definition of Setting
  • 1:10 Location
  • 1:47 Two Homes, Not a Party
  • 3:11 Time Setting
  • 4:53 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jacob Belknap

Jake has taught English in middle and high school, has a degree in Literature, and has a master's degree in teaching.

This lesson presents the details of the setting in 'The Necklace' by Guy de Maupassant. We explore how Maupassant masterfully layered in hints to help the reader connect to the main setting of the story.

''The Necklace'

Have you ever felt you were meant for something better? What if reaching for your dream cost you everything? Would it be worth it? Guy de Maupassant's short story ''The Necklace'' tells of a woman who longs for more in life and the mistake that leads to a terrible price she must pay for her dreams to come true. In this lesson, we'll take a look at the setting of this short story.

Definition of Setting

The setting includes the location and time a story takes place. The time may encompass the time of day, month, and the year. The location includes the general location, such as the country; whether it is rural, suburban, or urban; and any specific location(s), such as a room, a house, a street, or a city. Typically, a story will take place in one main place with several smaller locations, as in this story.

When beginning to read a story, it can be difficult to identify the setting, especially when you get into more complex work in which the author does not directly state the setting. Look for currency, the technology, titles, and any specific locations or landmarks to give yourself clues. Let's look at the layered details that Maupassant used to find the setting of ''The Necklace.''

Location

If we look closely, the author gives us an idea of where and when the story takes place. The location of this story is in Paris, France, and it's not as tricky to pin down. The author's use of the currency in the form of francs, louis, and sous and the use of the French titles 'M. and Mme.' (monsieur and madame) point to France. Furthermore, characters mention the city by name, the Rue des Martyrs street, as well as the Champs Élysées Avenue, the most famous street in Paris. The party takes place at the Ministry of Education in France, which is located in the heart of Paris, blocks away from the cathedral of Notre Dame and the Seine River.

Two Homes, Not a Party

To understand Mathilde Loisel, the main character, and her struggle, it is important to examine the homes, real and imagined, in this story. Mathilde describing her home as being shabby with 'dirty walls, the worn-out chairs and the ugly curtains.' She dreams of grandeur but married into a solidly middle-class life with a minor official. Her dull apartment would have gone unnoticed by another lady in her social class, but she constantly focuses on the imperfections. While describing her home, Mathilde is almost swept away into a fantasy of detailing the many wonders of her dream home. Her dreams include Oriental tapestries, rare old silks, and elegant furniture.

This dream takes shape when Mathilde visits her more affluent friend, Mme. Forestier. Although they formerly attended school together, her friend's home is so nice it causes our melancholy main character to fall into brief depressions. When Mathilde visits Forestier, the fine lady opens a 'mirrored wardrobe' to display several fine jewels. Mathilde's excitement is palpable as she touches the baubles that she usually only sees in her fantasies.

The author chooses not to reveal many details of the interior setting of the greatly anticipated party. This can be understood because Mathilde is 'forgetting everything in the triumph of her beauty.' This choice to leave the party almost formless encourages the reader to look past the surroundings of this location instead of focusing on Mathilde's feelings.

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