The middle-class people, for centuries, have aspired to become rich and prosperous. Famous French author Guy de Maupassant’s short story ‘The Necklace’ throws light on the never-ending aspirations of the middle class. With limited resources at their disposal, the middle class in the urbanised areas have been harbouring hopes to get rich and affluent in a short span of time. No matter how much one might end up earning, he or she is always looking for a better lifestyle.
The story begins in Paris, where the central character Mathilde Loisel lives with her husband. She is beautiful but always nurtures this belief that she has been born into a family that is not well-to-do. Her lifestyle is not poor but modest. She wishes to own all the luxuries and riches. Most of her time is spent thinking about extravagant and lavish things such as fancy meals served on china dishes, dresses, money, etc.
One day, her husband comes home with an invitation to a party. Instead of being thrilled, Mathilde begins to cry. On being asked by her husband the reason behind her tears, she tells him that she has nothing to wear to the party. Her husband seems quite upset by her reaction and asks her the cost of a suitable dress. She says that 400 francs would be sufficient for her to buy a new dress. Interestingly, her husband had saved the exact amount to buy himself a hunting rifle.
The problem doesn’t end here. She feels dissatisfied as she does not have any jewellery to wear along with the new dress. On her husband’s suggestion, she visits one of her friends named Mrs Forestier to borrow some jewels. Mrs Forestier lends her a beautiful necklace. At the party, Mathilde is the most beautiful woman in attendance. Everything goes well until she and her husband reach home. Once home, she realises that she has lost Mrs Forestier’s necklace. What follows is utter commotion and pandemonium. Mathilde and her husband struggle to make ends meet and buy a new necklace. They end up losing all their savings in the process. After years of labour and financial misery, they are finally able to repay the debt. While taking a walk in a park, Mathilde meets Madame Forestier, who makes a shocking revelation towards the end of the story.
The Necklace, first published in 1884, highlights the never-ending aspirations of the working middle class. Despite having a reasonably good lifestyle, Mathilde desires to own the riches and luxuries of the world. She wants a new dress and some jewellery for the ball, as fancy clothes and jewellery are two of the most important status symbols for ladies. She lacks a sense of fulfilment and contentment. The story also throws light on her over-ambitious nature. The desire to get her hands on luxuries makes her lose all of her possessions such as house, money, savings, etc. More than anything else, she loses her peace of mind after misplacing Mrs Forestier’s necklace. It certainly won’t be wrong to say that the concept of ‘beauty’ has been objectified over here.
Furthermore, the story makes us realise the importance of being satisfied and fulfilled with what we have. Being ambitious is fine, but being over-ambitious, more often than not, leads to emotional turmoil and robs us of the pleasures little things bring in our lives. At times, we are too busy accumulating wealth that we forget to admire the things we already have. All of this takes us nowhere.
The story showcases a multitude of emotions like ambitions, never-ending desires, and greed for money, among many others. Mathilde wants to have a luxurious lifestyle but fails to understand that everything in this world comes with a price. Her desire to own expensive stuff robs her of all her possessions. As the story progresses, we get to experience tension, fear, pandemonium, and grief. After losing the necklace, Mathilde and her husband spend sleepless nights trying to find it back. The Necklace symbolises irony of the highest order. While it gives Mathilde the best night of her life at the ball, it robs her of all her savings and peace.
Guy de Maupassant does absolute justice to this piece of prose. He beautifully highlights the dreams and aspirations of the urban middle classes. The fact that the middle classes hate being middle-class has also been portrayed well within the story. The story has deliberately been set in Paris, the city of lights. Paris, as a backdrop of the story, adds a flavour of glamour and fashion into the narrative. During the story, not even once does the reader harbour a sense of sympathy for Mrs Loisel. She is shown to be paying the price for being over-ambitious. Furthermore, the ending of the story comes as a thunderclap, as the necklace Mrs Loisel had lost was of no value. The necklace was worth nothing, but it took Mathilde and her husband many years to repay the debt they never actually owed.
All in all, ‘The Necklace’ by Guy de Maupassant is a reflection on the never-ending wants of the middle class. It follows a simplistic approach. Simplistic approach adds immensely to the story’s beauty and makes it worth reading.
Rating: 3.5/ 5