Summary

Mathilde is born to a low-class family; with no money for a dowry, she is married to Monsieur Loisel, a clerk from the Board of Education. Mathilde–now Madame Loisel–had always felt like she should have been upper class, and is unhappy in her married life.

She hates their home, their food, and her lack of fine clothing and jewellery. One evening, her husband excitedly presents her with an invitation to attend an event at the Minister of Public Instruction’s home.

To the surprise of M. Loisel, Mme. Loisel throws the invitation down in dismay, weeping and complaining that she has nothing to wear to such an event. Her husband offers to give her the money for something suitable, but as the day of the ball approaches, she is still dismayed.

When asked why she replies that she is embarrassed to attend the ball without any jewels.

Her husband suggests that she ask to borrow some jewels from her rich friend, Madame Forestier. She agrees and goes to see her friend the next day, greedily choosing one of Madame Forestier’s finest necklaces.

After the ball, Madame Loisel is a hit: elegant, joyful, and desired for waltzes. She and M. Loisel return home at nearly 4 o’clock in the morning, and only when they arrive home does Mme.

Loisel has 18,000 francs from his father’s will and borrows the remaining sum, bit-by-bit and making “ruinous promises” along the way. After all this, Madame Loisel is able to return the newly bought necklace in the original’s case, apparently arousing no suspicion.

Loisel realizes she lost the necklace. After a week with no news, M. Loisel proclaims that they must replace it, and the couple finds a replacement for 36,000 francs.

To pay off the debt, both Monsieur and Madame Loisel must work tirelessly. After ten years, they are finally able to pay off all of their debts.

One day, while taking a walk, Madame Loisel runs into Madame Forestier. She approaches her old friend, but Mme. Forestier almost doesn’t recognize her.

In sudden emotion, Madame Loisel reveals her entire story of losing the necklace, replacing it, and working off the cost of the replacement ever since.

In response, Madame Forestier replies that the original necklace contained not actual diamonds but rather fake diamonds, meaning the original necklace cost no more than 500 francs.

Elaboration

Mathilde Loisel is a pretty and charming girl, belongs to a middle-class family, having a high spirit of imagination. Dreaming to be wedded by a man of wealth and distinction; she, at last, lets her be married off to a little clerk in the Ministry of Education. She is not happy with the marriage because she feels that she has married beneath her dreamt status. Though Mr Loisel provides her a comfortable and moderate lifestyle, Mathilde is not contented with it. She gives more importance for possessing fancy jewels and clothing. She has one wealthy friend, Madame Forestier, but refuses to visit her because of the heartbreak it brings her.

One night Mathilde’s husband returns home in a jubilant mood. The reason is the invitation card he bears. The card is from Ministry of Education inviting the couple to attend the formal party they are hosting. The invitation card reads, “The Minister of Education and Madame Ramponneau request the pleasure of the company of Monsieur and Madame Loisel at the Ministry on the evening of Monday, January the 18th.”

Mathilde, instead of being thrilled at the chance she has got, starts crying. She tells him that she has nothing to wear and he ought to give the invitation to one of his friends whose wife can afford better clothing. Her husband is upset by her reaction and asks how much a suitable dress would cost. She thinks about it carefully and tells him that 400 francs would be enough. Loisel’s face grows pale for a second because this is the amount he has got in his savings. He makes up his mind and asks to get a nice dress for the party.

As the day of the party gets closer, Mathilde’s spirit decreases day by day. When her husband asks reason for her odd behaviour, she replies that she has no jewel to wear for the party. Loisel suggests that she can wear flowers, but she refuses. He implores her to visit Madame Forestier and borrow something from her. Madame Forestier agrees to lend Mathilde her jewels, and Mathilde selects a diamond necklace. She is overcome with gratitude at Madame Forestier’s generosity.

The party is a great success for Mathilde. She is the prettiest woman present ther attracting the attention of all men. Even the Minister notices her. At 4 a.m., she finally looks for Monsieur Loisel, who has been dozing for hours in a deserted room. He cloaks her bare shoulders in a wrap. They walk for a while to hire a cab. When they finally return home, Mathilde is saddened that the night has ended. As she removes her wrap, she discovers that her necklace is no longer around her neck. In a panic, Monsieur Loisel goes outside and retraces their steps. Terrified, she sits and waits for him. He returns home much later in an even greater panic—he has not found the necklace.

Loisel instructs her to write to Madame Forestier informing that she has broken the clasp of the necklace and is getting it mended. They continue to look for the necklace.

After a week, Loisel says they have to see about replacing it. They visit many jewellers, searching for a similar necklace, and finally find one. It costs 40,000 francs, although the jeweller says he will give it to them for 36,000. The Loisels spend a week scraping up money from all kinds of sources, mortgaging the rest of their existence. After three days, Loisel purchases the necklace and return it to Madame Forestier. She, without opening the case takes it from her.

The Loisels began to live a life of crippling poverty. They dismiss their servant and move into an even smaller apartment. Loisel works three jobs, and Mathilde spends all her time doing the heavy housework. This misery lasts ten years, but at the end, they have repaid their financial debts.

Mathilde’s extraordinary beauty is now gone: she looks just likes the other women of poor households. They are both tired and irrevocably damaged from these years of hardship.

One Sunday, while she is out for a walk, Mathilde spots Madame Forestier. Feeling emotional, she approaches her and offers greetings. Madame Forestier does not recognize her, and when Mathilde identifies herself, Madame Forestier exclaims that she looks different. Mathilde says that the change was on her account and explains to her the long saga of losing the necklace, replacing it, and working for ten years to repay the debts. At the end of her story, Madame Forestier clasps her hands and tells Mathilde that the original necklace was just 500 francs worth costume jewellery.

MAJOR THEMES

Guy de Maupassant handles the issue of reality versus appearance very aptly. Although Madame Loisel was beautiful, she was deceived by her own idea regarding herself. She was highly dissatisfied with her life and thought that she was pretty enough to deserve more. Interestingly, Madame Loisel understands the truth of poverty only after the crisis followed by the loss of the diamond necklace. Before that, she always considered herself to be poor and deprived of the many luxuries of life. To repay their debt, the Loisels had to compromise with their living condition. They dismissed their servant and worked hard- Mathilde did all the household chores herself while her husband had to work overtime in order to earn extra bucks. As the title goes “The Necklace”, it is after all the necklace which represents this theme well. Although the necklace contributed to her overall appearance in the ball at the Minster’s party, it is that necklace the price of which led to her shabby and old look later. Therefore, what is reflected through the story is Madame Loisel’s inability to envision a reality. Instead, she was deceived by the appearance of charm and wealth without realising the real factors behind it.

There seems to be class division in the story. Madame Loisel frequently throws light on this aspect. Initially, as the story began, we see the Loisels leading a substantially good and humble life. They were portrayed neither as rich nor as poor, akin to a lower-middle-class family. However, the class difference crops up the moment Madame Loisel compares her lifestyle with that of the riches. She dreams of having a luxurious life that is
beyond her reach. Indeed, the invitation to the ball itself was not a commonplace thing for her. Unlike Mathilde, Monsieur Loisel was not affected by class difference because he understood their reality. So, for him getting an opportunity to the ball itself was a big achievement. But for Mathilde, who always wanted to lead and enjoy such kind of life, the appearance was all that mattered. She was obsessed by her presence at the ball and wanted to look the most beautiful woman out there. Indeed, she was very ‘pretty and charming’.But her inability to perceive her own reality and as a result flown away by appearance reduced her beauty as a person. It affected her so much that she envied her school friend Madame Jeanne Forestier who belonged to upper-middle class. In fact, at the end of the story, Mathilde blames her for all that had happened- the replacement of the necklace followed by the burden of debt only to find out that it was not original. As a consequence, Mathilde and her husband suffered ten years and it took her that long to get acquainted with poverty in the real sense of the term.

The contrasting figures of Mathilde and her husband lead us to another important aspect highlighted in the story. The conflict between their ideologies contributes towards our understanding of the themes discussed above in a better way. In contrast to her husband who is depicted as kind and sensible, Madame Loisel is defined by what she did not have. She is in fact, shown to be avaricious and a dissatisfied individual. She did not think too much before asking for money from her husband to buy an expensive dress. On the other hand, her husband is shown to compromise and get her the dress with the money he had been saving for himself. On the whole, it can be said that the short story beautifully portrays through Madame Loisel the themes discussed above and beautifully leads the reader to the ironical twist just to throw light on how appearance can be so deceptive and damaging at times.

As evident, there are three main characters in the story – Mathilde Loisel, Monsieur Loisel and Madame Forestier. Each one of them has different characteristic traits. In case of the protagonist, Mathilde, we have seen that her urge for becoming rich is too high. She cannot accept that she is not very wealthy and this leads to her continuous inner conflict. Though physically charming and pretty, yet as a wife, she shows less affection towards the feelings of her husband who was overjoyed to have received an invitation from his senior. Instead, she acts selfishly when it came to buying her the dress with the money her husband had been saving for himself. Her jealousy, her selfish nature and her inability to perceive her own reality stands on the way to her happiness. Contrary to Mathilde was her husband, Monsieur Loisel. He is aware of his reality and therefore not unhappy as his wife. Little pleasures excite him just as the invitation to the Ball. His caring attitude, as well as his compromising nature, gets well reflected when he buys his wife an expensive dress or later when he does hard work to repay the debt. He is portrayed as a good-natured man who gives effort to make his wife happy. Madame Forestier is shown as a generous lady who belongs to a higher social stratum than Mathilde. She helps Mathilde by lending her the necklace and is kind towards her. She feels pity for her friend Mathilde to have discovered the pain undertaken by the latter to return her the necklace.

Questions and Answers

Short answers for the questions

i. What type of life does Mathilde dream off?
Answer: Matilda would often dream of all the delicacies, luxuries, elegant dinners, marvelous dishes, rich silver, beautiful dresses, jewels, adoration and a life of glory. She would escape into her dreams from the dullness of her very humble existence.

ii. What is the reaction of Mathilde when she receives the invitation?

Answer: Matilda was not delighted at all to receive the invitation. She knew that all the aristocrats would be there displaying their riches. So, she got spiteful and irritated. She started shedding tears.

iii. Why does Mathilde ask Loisel to give the invitation to somebody else?
Answer: After spending a fortune on a beautiful dress, Mme Loisel is faced with yet another disaster. She frets (upset) over the fact that she does not have a beautiful Jewel to go with the dress. So, she asks her husband to pass on the invitation to someone else.

iv. What are Mathilde’s expectations to attend the party?

Answer: She doesn’t think she has the right clothes for the party. She had no clothes, no jewels, nothing. And these were the only things she loved; she felt that she was made for them. Her husband suggests flowers are in fashion, but she is not satisfied. He then reminds her that she has a rich friend, Madame Forestier. Mathilde likes this suggestion. Madame Forestier is willing to lend Mathilde anything she wants.

v. Who is Madame Forestier?

Answer: Madame Forestier is a wealthy friend of the main character, Mathilde Loisel. In fact, being rich is Madame Forestier’s main character trait. ”{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.

vi. Why does meeting Madame Forestier bring Mathilde heartbreak?

Answer: Meeting Madame Forestier brings heartbreak to Mathilde because she lost the costly necklace which she has bought from Madame Forestier.

vii. From whom does Mathilde borrow the jewel? Why?

Answer: When she is invited to a fancy party, she borrows a necklace from her wealthy friend Madame Forestier because she refuses to go to the party without expensive jewels and a beautiful gown.

viii. Describe the Loisels’ enjoyment in the party.

ix. How do the Loisels manage to replace the necklace?

x. What does the writer want to convey through the story “The Diamond Necklace”?


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