Sunday, May 29, 2011

Structural Analysis of The Necklace by Guy De Maupassant

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1.    Character and Characterization
 Major Characters.
a)    Mathilde Loisel
Character Analysis
Mathilde Loisel wants to be a glamour girl. She's obsessed with glamour – with fancy, beautiful, expensive things, and the life that accompanies them. Unfortunately for her, she wasn't born into a family with the money to make her dream possible. Instead, she gets married to a "little clerk" husband and lives with him in an apartment so shabby it brings tears to her eyes . Cooped up all day in the house with nothing to do but cry over the chintzy furniture and the fabulous life she's not having, Mathilde hates her life, and probably her husband too. She weeps "all day long, from chagrin, from regret, from despair, and from distress". She dreams day after day about escaping it all.
b)    M. Loisel
Character Analysis
M. Loisel is the "little clerk in the Department of Education" to whom Mathilde's family marries Mathilde off. Mathilde herself, as we're quick to find out, isn't terribly happy about her middle-class husband. She hates the shabby "averageness" of their life, and is miserable being cooped up in their apartment all day, dreaming of the luxurious life she wants to be leading. M. Loisel, on the other hand, seems quite happy with their situation. Unlike Mathilde, he enjoys his life as it is, especially that good old homemade pot-au-feu (stew):
When she sat down to dine, before a tablecloth three days old, in front of her husband, who lifted the cover of the tureen, declaring with an air of satisfaction, "Ah, the good pot-au-feu. I don't know anything better than that," she was thinking of delicate repasts, with glittering silver, with tapestries peopling the walls with ancient figures and with strange birds in a fairy-like forest…
Yes, M. Loisel appreciates the little things. He also seems devoted to his wife. After all, he goes to all that trouble to get her the invitation to a fancy party, which he couldn't care less about himself (he sleeps through it). He sacrifices the hunting rifle he's spent months saving up for so Mathilde can buy a dress for the ball. And when she loses the necklace, he's the one who goes all over the city searching for it. Most importantly, M. Loisel spends his life's savings replacing it.
So M. Loisel seems like the simple, happy, good guy in the story, a foil for his perpetually dissatisfied wife. They make the classic unhappy bourgeois couple, in other words. But you can wonder about two things…
c)    Mme. Jeanne Forestier
Character Analysis
Mme. Jeanne Forestier is wealthy. That's basically all you need to know. She's the rich friend: the person you turn to when you need something absolutely fabulous to wear to that ball next weekend but don't have the money to buy anything appropriate. That's Mme. Forestier's role in this story: she's that friend for Mathilde. It's also Mme. Forestier who reveals at the end that her necklace was false and thereby single-handedly triggers the twist ending.
Apparently Mathilde and Mme. Forestier have known each other for a while, since their convent days. Around the time of the ball, though, it doesn't sound as if Mathilde's seen much of her lately, because it makes Mathilde too unhappy to visit her rich friend and see the life of luxury that she's not living. It doesn't sound like they see much of each other after Mathilde returns the substitute diamond necklace, either. The two women most likely don't meet again until they run into each other on the Champs Elysées ten years later. Mathilde's too ashamed to let her friend see the poverty she's living in, and is afraid to explain why she became poor (since that would mean admitting she lost the necklace).

 Minor Characters
a)    M. Georges Ramponneau
Character Analysis
M. Georges Ramponneau is the guy who throws the fabulous ball that just might be the best few hours of Mathilde's life. He's the Minister of Education, which makes him M. Loisel's boss (which is probably why M. Loisel was able to get the invitation). And he apparently "notices" Mathilde at the ball, like every other guy there.
b)    The First Jeweler
Character Analysis
The first jeweler is the man whose name is on the box in which Mme. Forestier's necklace comes. Naturally, when Mathilde loses it, he's the one she and her husband go to, to see about replacing it. This jeweler apparently didn't sell the necklace to Mme. Forestier, though, just the box. This is a little weird, isn't it? Why would you just buy a box from someone? Perhaps this is the only hint in the story that there's something a little funny about those jewels…

2.    Setting
Ø  Setting of place
“The Necklace” action takes place in Paris, France, in the second half of the nineteenth century. Specific locales include the residence of the Loisels, the home of Madame Jeanne Forestier, the palace of the Ministry of Education, Paris shops, and the streets of Paris, including the Rue des Martyrs and the Champs Elysées.

Ø  Setting of time
The setting of “The Necklace” is late 19th century.
So that's the where. When's the when? We'd say the 1880s or so, around the time Maupassant wrote it. Granted, we don't get many specific clues, not a lot of detail on clothing, or important people, places, or happenings of the time. But if the author doesn't do anything to suggest he's otherwise, it's usually a safe bet to assume he's writing in his own time.
3.    Plot 
          The action proper begins when M. Loisel (Mathilde's husband) comes home with the invitation to the fabulous ball and Mathilde reacts by having a fit. Now we have a specific problem: Mathilde's now has the best opportunity she's ever had to have a taste of the high life, but she has nothing to wear. That problem sets the rest of the plot in motion.
<    Complication
Mathilde solves the first problem when her husband gives her money for a dress. But then she runs into a second problem: she's needs to have some jewels. Luckily, her friend Mme. Forestier is able to provide her with a fabulous diamond necklace. But now Mathilde's been entrusted with something expensive that belongs to someone else and we have the potential for disaster. It's true that the complication is often when things "get worse," and that doesn't really happen here (for that, we have to wait for the climax). In fact, after borrowing the necklace, Mathilde has the time of her life. But it's when she borrows the necklace that the possibility opens up for something really bad to happen…and it does.
<    Climax
Mathilde's discovery is the most exciting and dramatic moment in the story (until that crazy twist in the last line). It's also the turning point in the plot. Before, the story was a build-up to Mathilde's one glorious night with the rich and famous. Now it transitions into a desperate search. We have a feeling things are not going to end well.
<    Suspense
After the loss of the necklace, we're kept in constant suspense. First, there's the search for the necklace: will it be found? When it becomes clear it isn't going to be, the question becomes: what will the Loisels do? Will they find a replacement? And when they do, the question is: how the are they going to pay for it? It turns out paying for it takes quite a toll on them – their lives are ruined for ten years.
<    Denouement / Resolution
When Mathilde meets Mme. Forestier on the Champs Elysées, it looks like we're just about to tie up the last loose end in the story. The main action is over – the Loisels have finally finished paying off their debts for the necklace. All that remains is for Mathilde to see whether her friend ever noticed the substitute necklace, and tell her the sad story of the whole affair. But then things don't quite wrap up the way we expect.

4.    Point of View
“The Necklace” by Guy de Maupassant is told by using nonparticipant (3rd person) with omniscient point of view.
The story's focus is certainly on Mathilde, but the narrator does not speak from her point of view. Instead, he talks about Mathilde as if he were from the outside looking in. When he brings her up at the beginning, she's just "one of those girls". It sounds like he's seen a lot more of them than just this one. That's omniscient, all right. Mathilde's also not the only character whose thoughts he can see into; he's able to speak into her husband's thoughts just as easily, when he wants to.
5.    Theme
The Necklace is better to tell the truth and face the consequences than to try to protect one's pride by telling a lie (The Necklace theme of Pride).
You can read "The Necklace" as a story about greed, but you can also read it as a story about pride. Mathilde Loisel is a proud woman. She feels far above the humble circumstances (and the husband) she's forced to live with by her common birth. In fact, her current situation disgusts her. She's a vain one too, completely caught up in her own beauty. It could be that it is also pride that prevents Mathilde and her husband from admitting they've lost an expensive necklace. After the loss of the necklace makes Mathilde poor, and her beauty fades, she may learn a pride of a different sort: pride in her own work and endurance.
6.    Style
Guy de Maupassant uses is writing lots of really short paragraphs; this technique keeps the story moving at a clip. Often the paragraphs are little more than a single, simple sentence (the sentences are usually short too). Check out this passage describing the day after the Loisels discover they've lost the necklace:
- Her husband came back about seven o'clock. He had found nothing
-  Then he went to police headquarters, to the newspapers to offer a reward, to the cab company; he did everything, in fact, that a trace of hope could urge him to.
-   She waited all day, in the same dazed state in face of this horrible disaster.
- Loisel came back in the evening, with his face worn and white; he had discovered nothing.
When he does write longer paragraphs, Maupassant's got another notable technique. One after another, he'll string together sentences that begin with the same word and have the same basic structure. There are a lot of "She did this…She did this…She did this…" paragraphs (he's unusually fond of pronouns, it seems). As in:
She learned the rough work of the household, the odious labors of the kitchen. She washed the dishes, wearing out her pink nails on the greasy pots and the bottoms of the pans. She washed the dirty linen, the shirts and the towels, which she dried on a rope; she carried down the garbage to the street every morning, and she carried up the water, pausing for breath on every floor. And, dressed like a woman of the people, she went to the fruiterer, the grocer, the butcher, a basket on her arm, bargaining, insulted, fighting for her wretched money, sou by sou.

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