Deception in “The Necklace”
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“All at once she discovered, in a box of black satin, a superb necklace of diamonds, and her heart began to beat with boundless desire” (Clugston, 2010). “The Necklace” is a short story written by Guy de Maupassant in 1884 (Clugston, 2010). It follows Mathilde Loisel, a woman born and married into the middle class with dreams of wealth and riches. The theme of this story is deception, both the deception of appearance, and the danger of deception in your actions. Appearances can be deceiving, and in “The Necklace,” Mathilde’s insistence on appearing rich among the guests, the appearance of the costume jewelry in a satin box, and the lie told to Madame Forester about the broken clasp all contributed to the Loisels’ fall from their comfortable existence.
The whole chain of events is triggered because of Mathilde’s desire to appear rich even though she is not. Mathilde, when given the chance to mingle with the rich and powerful, scoffs at her husband for even suggesting the idea because she does not want to appear poor. Her husband, wanting only for Mathilde’s happiness, suggests her theater dress, then gives her the money he was saving for himself to buy a new dress. He suggests wearing live flowers, then suggests that she borrow some jewelry from Madame Forester. Mathilde has a night of “victory so complete and so sweet to a woman’s heart” thanks to Madame Forester’s beautiful diamond necklace (Clugston, 2010).
The necklace itself is a symbol of the theme, that appearances can be deceiving. Mathilde knows Madame Forester is rich, and thus believes all her belongings are fit for the rich. The necklace was inside a black satin box among pearls, gold, and precious stones, giving it the appearance of real diamonds. When the necklace is lost, Monsieur and Mathilde Loisel went to the jeweler, but he had only sold the case. This should have been a warning, but it went unheeded. At the end of the story is when we learn that if they had only told Madame Forester what had happened, with an offer to replace it, they would have discovered that it was no more than costume jewelry, and would have spared themselves ten years of hard labor.
Therefore, while the biggest deception was the necklace itself, the one with the worst repercussions was the intentional deception of telling Madame Forester that they were having the necklace repaired. To give the couple time to find a replacement and obtain the necessary funds, Monsieur Loisel suggests that Mathilde write to her friend “that you have broken he clasp of her necklace and that you are having it repaired” (Clugston, 2010). This simple fib sets the course of events for the next ten years as the couple go from comfortable middle class to the “horrible life of the needy” (Clugston, 2010). Had they simply told Madame Forester that they lost the necklace, she would have told them it was a fake. Instead, they paid over seventy times the original cost of the necklace by replacing it with real diamonds. To make matters worse, the necklace was not only paid for in cash, but also in Mathilde’s most prized possession- her appearance.
The theme of the story, appearances can be deceiving, is seen in Mathilde’s desire to appear rich, the appearance of the necklace, and in the actions taken by the Loisels to deceive Madame Forester. Until the very last line of the story, Mathilde believes her greatest mistake was in losing the necklace, not trying to appear rich though she was not, or deceiving her friend. We, as the readers, however, can recognize that both contributed more to her hard life than the actual loss of the necklace.
Clugston, R.W. (2010). Journey into Literature. Retrieved from https://content.ashford.edu/books/
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