Guy de Maupassant’s “The Necklace”
Mathilde’s Inability to Accept Destiny
Many people born into the middle to lower class of society come to accept their lot in life and make the best of it, Mathilde, the main character in Guy de Maupassant’s short story, “The Necklace”, is not one of these people. Mathilde felt that she was attractive and that fate must have made a mistake in birthing her into a family that could not provide a suitable dowry for a proper marriage. This situation left her with no choice but to marry Mr. Loisel, a minor clerk. Although many would think that Mathilde would have come to accept her lot in life, she never did; as time passed she dreamed more about the things she lacked, became more discontent with the things that she did have, and she even became manipulative and inconsiderate towards her husband.
As a child Mathilde lived a simple life with her family of clerks and copyists, and as a wife she lived a simple life with her husband, thus Mathilde’s excuse for her insatiable craving for expensive and luxurious things was destiny. “She was one of those pretty and charming women, born, as if by error of destiny, into a family of clerks and copyists” (paragraph 1). Mathilde dreamed about “large, silent anterooms, decorated with oriental tapestries and lighted by high bronze floor lamps, elegant valets in short culottes dozing in armchairs under forced-air heaters. She dreamed about large drawing rooms draped in expensive silks, with fine end tables on which where placed knickknacks of inestimable value, and she dreamed of dainty private rooms designed for tete-a-tetes” (paragraph 3). A glamorous house was not all that Mathilde dreamed about, “she dreamed of expensive banquets with shining place settings, and wall hangings portraying ancient heroes and exotic birds in an enchanted forest. She imagined a gourmet prepared main course carried on the most beautiful dishes, and whispered gallantries which she would hear with a smile as she dined on the pink meat of a trout or the wing of a quail” (paragraph 4).
When Mathilde was not busy daydreaming about the things that were lacking in her life, she was busy complaining about the things that she did possess. Mathilde never once considered that she was fortunate because she owned furniture, she considered herself unfortunate because the furnishings that she did own were cheap. According to Mathilde “She suffered constantly, feeling herself destined for all delicacies and luxuries. She suffered because of her grim apartment with its drab walls, threadbare furniture, and ugly curtains” (paragraph 3). At the dinner table Mathilde complains because dinner is a simple dish and not some fancy elaborate meal of trout or quail, instead it’s boiled beef, a simple dish that her husband loves as you can tell by his statement when he opened the kettle “Ah good old boiled beef! I don’t know anything better” (paragraph 4). Even though Mathilde thinks that she’s a pretty person, she doesn’t feel pretty because according to her “She had no decent dresses, no jewel, nothing. And she loved nothing but these, she believed herself born only for these. She burned with the desire to be please, to be envied, and to be attractive and sought after” (paragraph 5). Mathilde is a very shallow person that judges a person’s importance and self-worth by their outward appearance.
As the years dragged on Mathilde’s discontent with her lot in life lead her to become manipulative and inconsiderate, and of course the person who took the full brunt of this was her husband, Mr. Loisel. Mathilde’s manipulative behavior is portrayed when she used her wiles on Loisel by making him think that her theater dress wasn’t appropriate for the dinner, thus tricking him into giving her the money that he had saved for his shotgun to buy a new dress. She knew exactly how much to ask for, as we can tell when she said “I don’t know exactly, but it seems to me that I could get buy on four hundred francs” (paragraph 25). Mathilde behaves quite inconsiderately against Mr. Loisel, especially as the story climaxes and comes close to an end. The first example of her inconsiderate behavior occurs after she realizes that she has lost the necklace and sends poor tired Mr. Loisel out to find it, as she stays home stretched out in a chair. As her husband searched the town, seek police assistance, and followed up every possible lead, all Mathilde did was stay home and do nothing, when she was the one that lost the necklace. The other example of Mathilde’s inconsiderate behavior towards her husband occurs at the end of the story. Instead of going to her friend, Mrs. Forrestier, and telling her the truth about what really happened to the necklace, Mathilde made her husband borrow money from any available source to buy another necklace back, just so that Mathilde could save face with her friend. Mr. Loisel life was ruined because Mathilde lost the necklace “He borrowed, asking a thousand francs from one, five from another, five louis here, three louis there. He wrote promissory notes, undertook ruinous obligations, did business with finance companies and the whole tribe of loan sharks. He compromised himself for the reminder of his days, risked his signature without knowing if he’d be able to honor it” (paragraph 94). Thanks to Mathilde and her desire to save face and not seem irresponsible to her friend, Mrs. Forrestier she and Mr. Loisel were forced into a true life of poverty.
After going through such hardship and trial, such as heavy house work, dirty kitchen jobs, hand-washing the laundry, taking the garbage out, carrying water up the stairs, haggling and defending each penny (paragraph 99) Mathilde still did not learn her lesson. She did not learn to be satisfied with what she had and be grateful; proof of this is evident when she says that “sometimes when her husband is at work. She sits down near the window, and dream of that evening so long ago, of that party, where she had been so beautiful and admired” (paragraph 103).One has to wonder what it would take for Mathilde to realize that maybe her destiny was not to be rich, envied and sought after as she so often dreamed, maybe her destiny has been fulfilled, and she’d exactly where she’s supposed to be in life.