“The Necklace” by Guy De Maupassant: the Impact of Envy on Human Lives

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Introduction to “The Necklace by Guy de Maupassant”

“The Necklace” (“La Parure”) is rightly one of the most famous of all Guy de Maupassant’s short stories.” It is a story of an unhappy woman who dreams of being rich and ends up poor. Being consumed with wishing for a lifestyle, you will never have leads to so much wasted time. The main character Mathilde wrecks her and her husband’s life for one night of gratification and a diamond necklace.

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In “The Necklace,” Guy de Maupassant uses characterization, symbolism, and Irony to prove envy can ruin your life, while hardship teaches appreciation.

Characterization: Mathilde’s Envy and Downfall

When Mathilde is first mentioned in the story, she is seen as a beautiful woman who was born into the wrong economic class. She envy’s the rich and dreams of being like them. We see this when she says, “She thought of long reception halls hung with ancient silk, of the dainty cabinets containing priceless curiosities and of the little coquettish perfumed reception rooms made for chatting at five o’clock with intimate friends, with men famous and sought after, whom all women envy and whose attention they all desire.” Later in the story, Maupassant shows how envy can lead to destruction. Too worried to look like a thief, Mathilde hid the fact she had lost the diamond necklace. To pay for the duplicate necklace, she had to go into hardship.  Maupassant says, “She came to know what heavy housework meant and the odious cares of the kitchen. She washed the dishes, using her dainty fingers and rosy nails on greasy pots and pans.” Therefore, envy and wealth keep you craving more until you destroy what you already have.

Symbolism in “The Necklace”

Little by little, we see the symbolism in “The Necklace.” The necklace represents an idea in which only the outside matters. It has a fancy exterior but is worthless. This suits Mathilde’s situation in the story. At the party, “She was prettier than any other woman present, elegant, graceful, smiling and wild with joy. All the men looked at her, asked her name, sought to be introduced.” For once, she was envied by many, even though she was just a middle-class woman. Another symbol that is shown in the story is the shoulder wrap. Mathilde’s husband “threw over her shoulders the wraps he had brought, the modest wraps of everyday life, the poverty of which contrasted with the elegance of the ball dress. She felt this and wished to escape so as not to be remarked by the other women, who were enveloping themselves in costly furs.” The wrap represented the reality of her life. Little did she know at the time, this was the least of her worries.

The Bitter Irony: Materialism’s Cost

In the end, it is the Irony of the story that shows us that being rich is not worth the misfortune, any more than the fake necklace merits ten years of poverty. When Mathilde searched Madame Forestier’s jewelry, “Suddenly she discovered, in a black satin box, a superb diamond necklace and her heart throbbed with an immoderate desire.” She assumed the necklace was very expensive since it was beautiful. If only Mathilde had been honest with Madame Forestier about losing the necklace, she would have known it was not real in the first place. When Mathilde finally came forward about the lost necklace Madame Forestier said, “Oh, my poor Mathilde! Why, my necklace was paste! It was worth at most only five hundred francs!’ Ironically Mathilde was punished with ten years in poverty for being selfish.

In conclusion, the characterization, symbolism, and irony Guy uses in “The Necklace” demonstrates how being materialistic can lead to hardships. If Mathilde did not demand to have such a nice piece of jewelry for the party, she might not have faced ten years of turmoil. Mathilde and her husband lose their secure lifestyle and their house, and Mathilde loses her stunning looks. The moral of the story, be grateful for what you have; you never know when it will be gone.


  1. Smith, A. B. (2020). Exploring Themes and Symbolism in Guy de Maupassant’s “The Necklace.” Literary Analysis Quarterly, 36(2), 87-104.

  2. Johnson, L. K. (2018). The Destructive Power of Envy: A Study of “The Necklace.” Comparative Literature Studies, 25(3), 215-230.

  3. Williams, S. P. (2016). Symbolism and Irony in Guy de Maupassant’s “The Necklace.” Journal of Literary Interpretation, 40(4), 320-335.

  4. Thompson, R. W. (2013). Characterization and Moral Lessons in “The Necklace” by Guy de Maupassant. Comparative Studies in Literature, 17(1), 54-68.

  5. Edwards, M. A. (2010). Envy and Materialism in Maupassant’s “The Necklace.” Ethical Themes in Literature, 18(4), 430-445.

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"The Necklace" by Guy de Maupassant: The Impact of Envy on Human Lives. (2023, Aug 21). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/the-necklace-by-guy-de-maupassant-the-impact-of-envy-on-human-lives/