Literacy Analysis of Symbolism in "The Necklace”

August 29, 2011
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“The Necklace,” by Guy de Maupassant, is set in old-age France and is about a middle-class woman who is very greedy and ambitious and has a desire to get into the upper-class society through her husband who is a government clerk and her rich friend but ends up destroying her life in vain. Throughout the story, the diamond necklace, the centerpiece of the story, is shown by the author to symbolize and represent many themes, such as wealth and high social status along with the idea that ambition can lead to doom and most importantly, the idea that appearances can be deceiving.


In the story, the author uses the diamond necklace to represent many things, of which two of the most obvious and direct are wealth and high social status. In the real world a necklace usually represents beauty, but the diamond necklace in this case represents more than that. Although Madame Loisel looks great with a new, beautiful dress worth “four hundred francs,” she needs the necklace because she has no jewels and thinks that it is “humiliating” to look “poor” in the middle of rich women. That can be an indication of the necklace representing great wealth as she selects the diamond necklace over some bracelets, a pearl necklace and a beautiful “Venetian cross” in “gold and gems.” The necklace can also be used to represent high social status. Besides to look rich, Madame Loisel also needs the necklace because she says the party will have many important and high class people and she doesn’t want to look out of place. Another piece of supporting evidence is that Madame Forestier probably always goes to parties with important people. To represent her social class, she thinks that she needs a “string of diamonds,” even if they were all imitation. Looking at the story directly, the diamond necklace symbolizes wealth and high social status.


If you dive deeper into the story, however, the diamond necklace can also represent more ideas, such as if you are too greedy, vain or ambitious, it could lead to your doom. Madame Loisel is very vain, believing that she is “born for every delicacy and luxury” and feels that “she was made for” beautiful jewels and clothes. She has a greed for praise, wishing eagerly to charm and be sought after. Because of all those traits, she borrows the necklace from Madame Forestier for the party to satisfy her ambitions and greed. However, when she goes home, she loses the necklace and has to borrow massive amounts of cash to buy a replacement. That dooms her and her husband’s lives as they have to work hard and live in “abject poverty” for ten years to pay back the debt. Therefore, the diamond necklace can also indirectly symbolize the idea of ambition leading to doom because of what happened to Madame Loisel.


Furthermore, the diamond necklace can also indirectly represent the idea of appearances being deceiving. The idea is well illustrated in the story with two examples. The first example is the necklace itself. Throughout the story, almost all of the characters (including the reader) think that the necklace is genuine. However, at the very end, Madame Forestier reveals that the necklace is actually an imitation and worth only five hundred francs. Another illustration is Madame Loisel. At the party, she appears to be rich, high class and is the “prettiest woman present,” but in reality, she is not rich, the jewels belong to Madame Forestier and she is actually only middle class. Overall, the necklace can be used to symbolize the idea of appearances can be deceiving because appearances usually do not represent the reality.


The diamond necklace in the story can represent many different ideas both directly and indirectly. Out of the many ideas discussed in this essay, the best is the idea of appearances being deceiving. All of the other ideas - wealth, high social class, ambition leading to doom, can also apply to the story without the final line where Madame Forestier reveals that the necklace is actually imitation. However, the author deliberately reveals the truth at the end of the story which echoes that the diamond necklace symbolizes the idea of appearances being deceiving. It is probably what the author intended the necklace to symbolize. In conclusion, the necklace can be used to represent a whole range of ideas even though the idea of appearances being deceiving is considered one of the best.





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