"The Necklace" or "The Diamond Necklace" (French: La Parure) is an 1884 short story by French writer Guy de Maupassant. It is known for its twist ending (Ironic ending), which was a hallmark of de Maupassant's style. The story was first published on 17 February 1884 in the French newspaper Le Gaulois. The story has been adapted to film and television several times.
The general depiction of women in Guy de Maupassant’s “The Necklace” is as an equal to their husbands. Contrastly, in Kate Chopin’s “Desiree’s Baby”, Desiree and the other women are treated as no more than household servants. Both texts follow the genre of realistic fiction and convey important messages. The way in which women are treated in this time period reflects upon where and when the story takes place, as well as how the plot evolves throughout the story.
In both stories, these 19th-century women did not have the same social opportunities as many women today. In “The Necklace”, it states that “women have neither caste nor class” (Maupassant 1). This implies that women are not worthy of having any position or status in society. It leaves women dependent on their beauty and dowry to survive, therefore implying they could not survive without a man in that era. This particular statement tells the reader how life for different genders in different cultures coexisted before the 1900s. Additionally, the term “class” could metaphorically refer to a woman’s dignity. In “The Necklace”, Madame Loisel’s dignity and social class heavily depend on Monsieur Loisel. Contrastly, throughout “The Necklace”, Mathilde is able to influence the stereotypically dominant individual in her relationship. In the Loisel household, Mathilde is the dominant figure at some points in the story. When Mathilde is upset about her restrictive wardrobe, her husband “stammered” (Maupassant 1) a reply in return. When one stammers, it is usually a signification that one is afraid. If in the Loisel residence, Monsieur Loisel is truly a domineering figure, he would not show this sign of fear before Mathilde. Later on in the story, Mathilde Loisel is sad and upset at not having the wealth which her friends do. She held power in her relationship to convince her husband to give her francs which he “had been saving for a gun” (Maupassant 2). Mathilde is able to convince her husband into gifting her enough money to be the “prettiest woman present, elegant, graceful, smiling, and quite above herself with happiness.” (Maupassant 3), because of the love, he has for her. Thus, the plot and setting are painted by the equality in their relationship and the power each of them has with one another.
In “Desiree’s Baby”, however, there is not such a balance. Désirée tells Valmonde that “Armand is the proudest father in the parish”, and adds, “chiefly because it is a boy” (Chopin 2). This quote shows how the life of a male is valued higher than the life of a female. Armand’s preference of a male baby and degradation of Désirée is prominent through the story’s plot and pushes her to commit suicide. When her husband, Armand, rejects her, it emotionally cripples her. This shows how the life and emotions of females depended on male acceptance in this time period. It makes her believe she “must die” and “cannot feel so unhappy and live” (Chopin 3). The ways in which the domineering men hurt and degrade the females in these text show how life used to be pre-1900s. The setting is made to contrast the life in which we live today, yet much progress is to be made.
Mathilde Loisel - The protagonist of the story. Mathilde has been blessed with physical beauty but not with the affluent lifestyle she yearns for, and she feels deeply discontented with her lot in life. When she prepares to attend a fancy party, she borrows a diamond necklace from her friend Madame Forestier, then loses the necklace and must work for ten years to pay off a replacement. Her one night of radiance cost her and Monsieur Loisel any chance for future happiness.
Monsieur Loisel - Mathilde's husband. Monsieur Loisel is content with the small pleasures of his life but does his best to appease Mathilde's demands and assuage her complaints. He loves Mathilde immensely but does not truly understand her, and he seems to underestimate the depth of her unhappiness. When Mathilde loses the necklace, Monsieur Loisel sacrifices his own future to help her repay the debt. He pays dearly for something he had never wanted in the first place.
Madame Forestier - Mathilde's wealthy friend. Madame Forestier treats Mathilde kindly, but Mathilde is bitterly jealous of Madame Forestier's wealth, and the kindness pains her. Madame Forestier lends Mathilde the necklace for the party and does not inspect it when Mathilde returns it. She is horrified to realize that Mathilde has wasted her life trying to pay for a replacement necklace, when the original necklace had actually been worth nothing.