Indirect Characterization in “The Necklace”

In “The Necklace” by Guy de Maupassant, Madame Loisel is constantly complaining about the lack of elegance and sophistication in her life. In the beginning of the story the narrator directly characterized Madame Loisel as being “one of those pretty and charming girls” (Maupassant 1). However, through her thoughts, speech, actions, and influence on others, we can see that she is self-conscious of her social and economic status which has led to embarrassment and shame.

Through Madame Loisel’s thoughts and feelings we can see that she feels ashamed of her economic status and wants much more of herself. There are many instances throughout the story in which Madame Loisel is imagining elegant displays in her own house as well as desiring what others have that she does not. When she sits down for dinner with her husband at a bland dinner table covered in an old cloth and is served a soup-tureen of scotch broth by her husband, madame Loisel “imagined delicate food served in marvelous dishes, murmured gallantries, listened to with an inscrutable smile as one trifled with the rosy flesh of trout or wings of asparagus chicken.” Due to Madame Loisel’s economic situation, she is unable to have the elaborate things she wants. While in the comfort of her home, she does not feel ashamed of the fact that she is eating scotch broth while her friends are eating trout and wings of asparagus, yet when she goes out into society, she feels the need to conceal herself and keep her status a secret because she is embarrassed of herself.

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Throughout the story Madame Loisel complains endlessly to her husband about the fact that she does not have as nice of things as all of the other women. As a reader we can tell that Madame Loisel is embarrassed to go out in clothing and jewelry that she can afford. Her jewelry and clothing are not nearly as extravagant as all of the other women which leads her to be afraid that she will be judged harshly for not being a member of such a high economic class. After Madame Loisel’s husband received his invitation to the party at Madame Ramponneau’s house Madame was upset and her husband could not figure out why. When he asked her she responded that she did not own any jewels that she could wear to the event. When her husband responded that she could wear a flower, Madame Loisel responded, “No… there’s nothing so humiliating as looking poor in the middle of a lot of rich women.”(Maupassant 3). Madame Loisel tries to mask her poverty because she is ashamed of where she comes from. While she is a beautiful and charming, Madame Loisel feels that her beauty does not make up for her poverty.

Madame Loisel’s actions of running away and hiding at home strongly reflect the idea that she is ashamed of her economic situation. Madame Loisel is reluctant to go to the party hosted by Madame Ramponneau because she does not have anything that she feels is fancy enough for the occasion. After spending 400 francs on a dress, and borrowing a necklace from Madame Forestier she finally feels that she looks presentable. When it was time to leave the party her husband put on her coat, “whose poverty clashed with the beauty of the ball-dress. She was conscious of this an was anxious to hurry away, so that she should not be noticed by the other women putting on their costly furs” (Maupassant 4). Madame Loisel did not have enough money to spend on a fur coat or any coat so, instead she was wearing her everyday coat. Madame Loisel felt embarrassed by this because wearing an everyday coat over a beautiful dress made it clear that she was poor and could not afford to buy a costly fur.

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