In-depth analysis of some of the most popular short stories including summaries, character analysis, narrative technique, symbolism and much more.


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Necklace Analysis

The Necklace Analysis
The Necklace

Character Analysis

Madame Loisel/ Mathilde

Mathilde/ Madame Loisel is very discontent with her life, and constantly obsesses about material goods. She is very beautiful, and seems to believe that this entitles her to wealth and a much higher standard of living. She is married to a clerk who works with the Ministry of Education, and who is very supportive of her, yet she does not seem to reciprocate these emotions. When he invites her to one of the most exclusive events of the year, she rejects it based on a superficial reason, a lack of clothing and jewelry. Also while at the ball, she seems to enjoy the attention of all the other men, dancing while her husband sleeps in another room. Aside from her marriage, her friendship also suffers from her obsession. She is unable to visit her friend without feeling resentful of her own situation, and therefore hardly keeps in touch with Madame Forestier. It is not known if Mathilde truly evolves in her views towards material goods. While she did make the necessary sacrifices, taking over the household chores, she still dreams about the night she lost the necklace, and doesn't seem to come to a realization that she was actually very fortunate, having a loving husband, a home, and being able to afford household help. Also based on the ending of the story, we are not given any ideas as to how Mathilde reacts after learning the truth about the Necklace. Mathilde could therefore be considered a flat character, since she remains the same throughout.

Monsieur Loisel/ The Husband

Mathilde's husband is never mentioned by name, but judging by the fact that we know Mathilde's last name to be Loisel we can deduce he may be referred to as Monsieur Loisel. Monsieur Loisel, unlike Mathilde, seems content with what little he has. He is very happy with the simple dinner Mathilde cooks, and reacts by asking "What could be better?". He appears to love Mathilde much more than she loves him, and goes out of his way to make her happy. He is extremely understanding, and even sacrifices his savings so Mathilde could buy a dress. When she loses the necklace, despite having not slept, he spends the entire day searching for it, and then "he mortgaged the whole remaining years of his existence" in order to acquire a replacement. It is interesting to note that at no point does he chastise her for her superficial aspirations and the resulting debt caused by it, he instead remains understanding and supportive of Mathilde throughout.

Madame Forestier/Jeanne

An old friend of Mathilde, Madame Forestier is wealthy, and seems to be completely unaware of Mathilde's struggle with her modest lifestyle. Though we learn very little about her, she seems very generous, and at first, uninterested in Mathilde's modest background. It is important to note that, when she sees Mathilde years later in a park, she at first snubs her, which suggests that her kindness may have been due to Mathilde being her friend, and not necessarily based on an egalitarian world view. While we are given the impression that Mathilde is the only person concerned with projecting an image of wealth, we learn that Madame Forestier is also concerned with this, based on the fact that the necklace was an imitation. 


The Necklace

The necklace symbolizes the cost one may pay chasing a superficial way of life. Though Mathilde believes herself to be a poor woman, later in the story after she changes her lifestyle to repay the couple's loans, we learn that Mathilde was actually fortunate. Although her home is modest, she has a very loving and hardworking husband, who could at the very least afford to hire household help. The juxtaposition between her and "the little Breton girl" shows that she was not at all as unfortunate as she believed herself to be. Mathilde, however, ignores all this and instead places value on the image of wealth. Her yearning for "oriental tapestries" and "vast saloons hung with antique silks" all culminate in her desire for this seemingly expensive necklace. Her strong desire to appear rich and impress members of high society, results in her experiencing what true poverty is, losing her beauty, delicateness, and severely aging. 

Narrative Technique

The narrator in "The Necklace" tells the story from a third person omniscient point of view. This is very appropriate since neither Mathilde nor her husband would have been reliable narrators. Mathilde being very obsessed with acquiring a high stand of living would not have presented a fair picture of her life, and her husband is too blinded by love for Mathilde to truly understand the reasons for her actions. The narrator being omniscient allows us the reader to gain access information that we would have otherwise not known. For example, Mathilde's husband sacrificing his savings so she could buy a dress, emphasizes how much he cared for his wife's happiness. 
The language used by the narrator is also interesting. When we are first introduced to Mathilde, she is referred to by her first name, however, when she loses her beauty and her modest life as result of the couple's debts from the necklace, the narrator seems to mockingly address her as Madame Loisel. This could have been done to highlight the price she paid aiming to be like her friend Madame Forestier, the true price of being a "Madame".

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