The Necklace: Theme & Analysis

Instructor: Jennifer Carnevale

Jennifer has a dual master's in English literature/teaching and is currently a high school English teacher. She teaches college classes on the side.

While it's okay to wish for more, sometimes it's important to stop and reflect on all that you currently have in your life. In this lesson, we will analyze the themes in 'The Necklace' by Guy de Maupassant and learn about a couple that ends up losing it all for one night of bliss.

Living the Good Life

Suppose you are married. You have a husband with a good government job, and you live a moderate lifestyle. Would you be happy? While most might find this life acceptable, a woman named Madame Loisel did not. She dreamed of living a life well beyond her means filled with riches and luxuries. However, her greed and selfish ways caused her to lose it all.

Read on to learn about the themes in the short story, ''The Necklace'' by Guy de Maupassant, and how Madame Loisel's troubles end with an ironic twist.

Summary

The story opens with a middle class couple: a husband who works a respectable government job and a wife that wishes she could live well beyond her means. One day, the husband comes home and tells his wife, Madame Mathilde Loisel, they are invited to a prestigious ball. The husband, thinking this would make his wife unbelievably happy, soon finds her in tears. She would never be able to afford a dress and jewelry to fit in at the event. After some discussion and monetary sacrifices on his part, they get her a dress. But Madame Loisel still feels she needs more. She decides to borrow a diamond necklace from her wealthy friend Madame Forestier.

That night, Madame Loisel is the belle of the ball, and the couple stays at the party until the early morning. But once they get home, the couple realizes Madame Loisel has lost the precious diamond necklace. Instead of explaining this to her friend, Madame and Monsieur run themselves ragged to buy a replacement. They take out loans, move, and work extra hours. Year later, they pay off the loans and are debt free. However, they have sacrificed everything they have, including their happiness.

Madame Loisel loses what she thinks is an expensive diamond necklace, which will in turn, cost her everything she has to replace it.
Image of diamond necklace

Years later, the women see each other during a walk in the park where the wife confesses to the incident. The wealthy friend reveals that the original necklace was actually just a replica; it wasn't a real diamond necklace.

Analysis

While Madame Loisel seemed to have good intentions, what is being masked here is her ego. She cares so much about status throughout the majority of this story that it literally costs her everything she has. She wants to live above her means, so much so, that she makes her husband sacrifice his hobby, and after she loses the necklace, they literally sacrifice their livelihoods to ensure no one knows that they lost it. This pride causes an ironic twist in the story that the necklace they worked so hard to replace was actually a fake. If they would have come clean in the first place, they would have realized the necklace was a fake, and their lives would have gone on uninterrupted.

Madame Loisel's selfish desires also create another bit of irony. At the beginning of the tale, Madame feels her life is drab. She thinks she is poor because she cannot afford expensive things and lives a moderate lifestyle. However, after the couple takes out the loans to afford the replacement necklace, Madame Loisel and her husband are forced to live in an impoverished state. Madame never realized how good she actually had it.

Themes

While the story ends negatively for the Loisels, their misfortune teaches the reader many lessons.

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