Guy de Maupassant’s “The Necklace”
Guy de Maupassant, “The Necklace”:
- In the end, Mathilde seems fated to be in the class she was born into, and class mobility seems an impossibility. Is Maupassant critiquing the rigidity of rigid class structures or is he suggesting that she is right to finally accept this class status? Take a position on this issue then argue and support your answer with specific examples from the text.
Edgar Allan Poe, “The Cask of Amontillado”:
- What elements make “The Cask of Amontillado” a horror story? Define the traits and aspects of horror and demonstrate how they are evident in the story.
- Compare “The Cask of Amontillado” with “The Purloined Letter.” Stylistically, what do they have in common? What aspects of Poe’s craft do you see in both stories?
Charlotte Perkins Gilman, “The Yellow Wallpaper”:
The story “The Necklace” is neither about accepting the status or whatever defined identity that society dictates, nor about contentment for what life has brought a person. On the contrary, the story is an example of what happens when a person accepts the dictation of society, in particular the structure of social class, and the curse of that befallen the beautiful and fashionable Mathilde Loisel, a common wife to a common man of common salary. As the society of 19th century France (or any place and time period for that matter), attached so much importance to elegance and class, Mme. Loisel strives to cope, and her chance to be included with the circle of the high-class elites even for a night presented itself with an invitation to a ball that her husband came home with. The problem is, Monsieur Loisel does not have that amount of money to dress his wife with expensive clothes, let alone buy her jewelries. Despite these hindrances, Mme. Loisel successfully furnished a dress courtesy of her husband’s money, and borrowed her friend Mme. Forestier’s diamond necklace. Mme. Loisel had the best time of her life that evening, but it all ended to a disaster when she found out that she lost the necklace, and no matter how hard she searched for it, she was unsuccessful. There was no other choice but to pay it, and in the next ten years, the couple has worked very hard to save for the lost necklace. Mme. Loisel turned into a creature of her own nightmare, with the body and face of common wife who has toiled all her life, losing all the youth and beauty she had before. In an anti-climax, it turned out that the necklace was an imitation, thus concluding that Mme. Loisel’s suffered one of life’s cruel jokes.
Indeed, Mathilde Loisel is not the best of character, and her shallowness and discontentment bordering on conceit and self-entitlement (good appearances do make people feel more important) played a significant role in her tragedy (Mariyam 184). Born with beauty and delicate appearance, as well as sunny personality, Mathilde Loisel has always thought that she is promised for all the luxury and pleasure life may bring. She was fashioned by fate to be charmed and desired, and be up in the pedestal for everyone’s appreciation. Her obsession with class and anything high-standing, as well as coveting possessions that her good husband cannot afford, however, spells trouble, of which catastrophic consequences she might have deserved. Yet perhaps the greatest culprit here which de Maupassant wishes to criticize, and effectively so by using the character of Mathilde Loisel, is the society’s constricting boundaries that are shallow, materialistic, and highly domineering. The society in the story places great significance to appearances, such that everything black and white in the soul can be easily covered by rich outfits, and shiny jewelries (Fonseka 7). The Loisels are example of victims of such society that set standards and class structures that people must strive to equal, or be a member of to gain acceptance and recognition, because without it, everyone is just a passing entity that no one gives a care to. In the end, both the Loisels were slaves to keeping up appearances, especially when they took upon themselves to work hard to replace the lost necklace, without even bothering to tell Mme. Forestier of the situation, lest they revealed their poverty and low-class status (4).
The use of the jewelry as the source of tragedy for the Loisels as the title of the story also tells a lot on its symbolic representation of the characterization of Mathilde, and the author’s purpose for writing it. A necklace in itself is a representation of something innately good, but it is still a material that can be pawned, sold, bought, and used for evil means. A necklace, as any kind of jewelry, may represent materialism. In Mme. Loisel’s situation, the necklace is a symbol of everything she has dreamed of – a wealthy life, a center of attention among the members of high-class society, and the desires of everyone (Tie-sheng 35). Losing it on the night when her dreams were fulfilled is paradoxical, as the lesson that materialism can corrupt people and make them ugly inside and out. Mathilde Loisel lost her beauty to hard work, trying to pay for a necklace that turned out to be a fake. In a way, Mathilde Loisel has been working for something unworthy since the very beginning, as the possessions she coveted are just transient things in life.
Fonseka, E. A. “The Necklace by Guy De Maupassant: A Critique of Class Consciousness.” Academia.edu. Web. Accessed 12 November 2017.
Mariyam, Sheikh Sana. “The Necklace by Guy de Maupassant: A Study of Women in 19th Century France.” The International Journal of Humanities & Social Studies 3.4 (2015): 183 – 185.
Tie-sheng, H. U. “Man’s Nature and the Society He Dwells In: Contractively Analyzing the Two Novelettes Respectively by O. Henry and Guy de Maupassant [J].” Academic Exchange 2 (2004): 35.
Select ONE of the following projects by ONE of the authors:
Arthur Conan Doyle, “A Scandal in Bohemia”:
- Compare this story with Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Purloined Letter.” How, in particular, are Holmes’s and Dupin’s methods of deduction similar or different?
- Irene Adler contests Holmes’s perceptions of women and their abilities. Is “A Scandal in Bohemia” a feminist text? In order to answer fully, you must first describe your criteria for a feminist story and support your claim with specific examples from Doyle’s work.
- Create a PowerPoint montage of the interpretations of the character Sherlock Holmes over the generations, noting how the character endures, even with changes, making him one of the most recognizable literary characters in history.
- Watch the PBS version of Sherlock, episode “Scandal in Belgravia” and compare it with the original story.
Nikolai Gogol, “The Overcoat”:
- What is the relationship between realism and fantasy in “The Overcoat”? Compare this combination to the Magical Realism of Gabriel García Márquez’s “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings.”
- Compare this story to Maupassant’s “The Necklace.” Both stories revolve around a piece of apparel and in both stories the lives of the protagonists change after they attend a party and lose (or relinquish) their prized possession. How are the overall themes of the stories similar or different?
- Compare Akaky to another famous copyist: Bartleby. How is Herman Melville’s “Bartleby, the Scrivener” influenced by Gogol’s story?
Henry James, “Daisy Miller”:
- As a man, Winterbourne enjoys many privileges that Daisy does not have. Explore the gender restrictions in James’s world, the ways that Daisy challenges them, and the price she pays for her defiance.
- Creative option: Because the narration closely follows Winterbourne’s consciousness, we see very little of Daisy’s mind or motives. Look carefully through the short story for clues to Daisy’s point of view. Write a series of diary entries for Daisy from her point of view, discussing the events as they take place in the story.
- After reading the excerpt of Gilbert and Gubar’s essay “Madwoman in the Attic” also included in the anthology, write an essay that answers the following questions: Is the ending of the story a triumph for the narrator? Why or why not?
- Research Option: Study the history of treatments for mental illness historically and during the nineteenth century, including S. Weir Mitchell’s Rest Cure. Write an essay or create a PowerPoint or video examining such treatments. You might consider, in particular, why men and women were prescribed very different treatments for “nervous disorders.”