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Thread: Realism in "The Necklace"

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    Realism in "The Necklace"

    With his writing, Guy de Maupassant’s goal is to duplicate reality by combining his observations and reflections; however, he duplicates with such subtlety that the outcome is a surprise to the reader. De Maupassant wants readers to understand how people change depending on circumstances, while helping us see his perspective of life. I believe de Maupassant faithfully duplicates reality, because Cinderella is a fairy tale, but “The Necklace” is the story of what happens to a beautiful woman in the real world. Fairy tales have happy endings, but life “is brutal, inconsequential, and disconnected, full of inexplicable, illogical catastrophes” (Charters 1472). There are many examples of how the unreality of Cinderella compares and contrasts to Madame Loisel's ultimate reality.

    Both Cinderella and Mathilde (Madame Loisel) had a fancy dance to attend in an even fancier dress; both could hardly contain their excitement when the “day of the ball arrived” (Charters 881). Both women were the most beautiful and sought after of the ball. “[Mathilde] was prettier than them all” (881). Both raced down the stairs to avoid disclosing her true self, one in rags, and the other in her “modest [wrap] of common life” (Charters 881). Both experienced after-dance transportation problems followed by a letdown. “All was ended for [Mathilde]” (Charters 882). Both women rested the hopes and dreams of life on one night of perfection.

    Instead of a handsome prince, Mathilde had a “little clerk” (Charters 879). Cinderella’s prince danced all night, but Mathilde’s husband sleepily watched the purses. Cinderella fled the palace the same time the clerk went to sleep ; he had to work the next day, you see, and he slept until his wife said it was time to go. In the real world, singing bippity-boppity could get a woman committed, but not a cab, especially at four o’clock in the morning. Cinderella lost a precious but breakable shoe; Mathilde lost precious but unbreakable stones. The most obvious difference, besides rodents converting into footmen et al., is the character of the two women. We like Cinderella because her insides are as beautiful as her outsides. However, we tend to dislike vain, superficial people like Mathilde, despite her exquisite fashion sense.

    Cinderella is a fairy tale that makes us want to believe in magic and true love. De Maupassant harshly disperses the fairy dust and shows us dirt. Ball invitations are hard to get, a dress replaces a vacation, loving husbands work hard to make their wives happy, and women like Mathilde who are beautiful and poor do not stay beautiful. In de Maupassant’s world, debts must be reimbursed with a decade of needless suffering. Oh, how Mathilde changed!

    “How life is strange and changeful! How little a thing is needed for us to be lost or to be saved!” (Charters 884). This could be the appropriate cry of Cinderella or Mathilde, and is de Maupassant’s “personal view of the world” (Charters 1471). De Maupassant’s carefully selected facts provide us with a cumulative sense of reality, the effect of which, in “The Necklace” is a dizzy whammy at the end.


    Work Cited
    Charters, Ann, The Story and Its Writer: An Introduction to Short Fiction (9th Edition), Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2014. 978-1-4576-6461-8

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    There are many parallels between the Cinderella archetype and The Necklace but De Maupassant is subverting it. Cinderella is a "Happy-ever-after" tale and the reader/ listener likes Cinders. De M's tale is not happy and his heroine, although she is heroic in poverty, does not get our sympathy as she is presented unsympathetically. I find De Maupassant slick and cynical. Entertaining too though.

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    ennison,

    I am new to short stories, and this was the first de M story I've read. Subverted or not, I couldn't help but think of Cinderella with de M's word choice: day of the ball arrived, she was prettier than them all, all the men looked at her, asked her name; she rapidly descended the stairs, etc. I really love and hate the ending, and I agree about his approach. What is your favorite short story of his, or what do you recommend I read next?

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    Flavory,

    I really enjoyed reading your perspective on the way that Guy De Maupassant obtained his ultimate goal. In this particular short story, as Guy de Maupassant’s states in The Writer’s Goal in The Story And Its Writer by Ann Charters, "He will show how minds are modified under the influence of environmental circumstances, and how sentiments and passions are developed. In this fashion, he will show our loves, our hates, our struggles in all kinds of social conditions; and how social interests, financial interests, political interests, and personal interests all compete with each other" (Charters 1471). Guy De Maupassant was able to do this in this short story. .” In the beginning of his story, he introduces us to a character, Mathilde, who is born into a family of low economic/social standing, but she strives to be in a higher class. She has a lingering want throughout the story of needing to be seen as a women with beautiful clothes, jewelry, money and social standing. “She had no dresses, no jewels, nothing. And she loved nothing but that; she felt made for it” and later he progresses into “she had a friend, a former schoolmate at the convent, who was rich, and whom she did not like to go and see any more, because she suffered so much when she came back” (Charters 879). She treats her husband rudely due to his inability to be what she wants. Maupassant describes her home as being below par in her eyes, “she suffered ceaselessly feeling herself born for all the delicacies and all the luxuries” (Charters 879). He expresses through his writing her want in social, financial and personal interests.

    Maupassant tells the tale of the character going to a ball and continues to detail her want of new clothing/jewelry to show off a higher status. He chooses this event to highlight the theme of what he is trying to tell in his story. Mathilde borrows a necklace, in which she thinks is expensive from her friend of wealth and high standing. She attends the ball, living and basking in everything that she wants to have. She is so engulfed of living this life that she does not even allow her husband to put on her below par coat, she’d rather face the cold then be seen in a lower light. Maupassant paid particular attention to her actions at the ball and her interaction with this situation, “she was prettier than them all, elegant, gracious, smiling, and crazy with joy. All the men looked at her, asked her name, endeavored to be introduced” (Charters 881). Upon her return home, she loses the necklace. Rather than be labeled a thief, her and her husband replace the necklace by borrowing money and accruing debt, “he did borrow, asking a thousand francs of one, five hundred of another, five louis here, three louis there” (Charters 883). This depicts the struggle and pressure at which both the husband and wife would go in order to keep the standing they had in the eye of the public.

    As stated in Guy de Maupassant’s, The Writer’s Goal in The Story And Its Writer by Ann Charters, “ to make things seem real on page consists in giving complete illusion of reality, following the logical order of facts, and not servilely transcribing the pell-mell succession of chronological events in life” (1472). After giving the replacement necklace to the friend, selling their belongings, and repaying their debt, Mathilde runs into her friend where she confesses the truth. The twist of the story is the fact that the necklace was worth so much and gave the allure of high standing, truly was not worth anything. Mathilde and her husband sacrificed what they had and lost even more then what they started with due to her want/need to be in a higher class. Maupassant was able to take what people consider to be their political, social, financial and personal interests and depict in this story that had all the contents intertwined. “The writer’s goal is to reproduce this illusion of life faithfully, using all the literary techniques at his disposal” (Charters 1472), which is what Guy De Maupassant was able to do.

    I really enjoyed reading your perspective and the correlation that you had used with Cinderella. I also liked your interpretation of this into real life. Such as the ball and it being like a vacation. This has been the first short story I have read from Guy De Maupassant. I am a sucker for an ending that is not the usual happy and go lucky. The ending to me was perfect, Madame Loisel had deserved her outcome, unfortunately her husband did not.

    Work Cited
    Charters, Ann. The Story and Its Writer: An Introduction to Short Fiction. Ninth Ed. New York: St. Martin's, 2015. Print.

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    He is one of these authors whose effect on you varies according to the quality of the translation. Despite the fact that he is a pupil of Flaubert and the mot juste there is a huge difference from one translation to the next. The exact word in French still allows enormous room in English for nuance. I would get any two collections of his stories and read them and then read the online French versions. There are about 300 short stories to enjoy. I like "Trawling" and "A Piece of String"

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    ennison,

    Oh yeah, I didn't think of the different translations, & I had no idea de M wrote so many stories. I'm taking a short story lit class, or else I would have missed him altogether. Thanks for your suggestions. I'll try those next.

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    Hi KA,

    Thanks for your reply! I'm glad you liked the ending. You have a good point about always happy endings- they do get boring. Certainly not the case here! Thanks again.

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    KAppleby,

    I enjoyed reading your point of view on The Necklace. I too enjoy an ending that is not what is expected. Unfortunately life is not always fair and we do not always get what we want. While I hope everything could end like a fairytale, i appreciate the realism of The Necklace. I agree that Guy De Maupassant was able to reach his ultimate goal. According to The Writers Goal in the Story and Its Writer written by Ann Charters, the goal of the author is to have the reader understand the hidden message behind the story. In The Necklace, Maupassant wanted the reader to see that it is important to appreciate what we have in life and not spend our lives desiring items that are not in our means. Mathilde was constantly thinking about all the luxurious items she wished she could have. "She suffered from the poverty of her dwellings" (Charters 879). Mathildedid not appreciate the fact that she had a house, food and a loving husband which is more than most people have in life. All she could think about is how she felt she deserved more. Due to this constant want of more, Mathilde borrowed a necklace from her friend, lost the necklace, and then spent ten years in true poverty. The poverty and struggle made Mathilde average life seem more luxurious. She longed to be rich and then realized the hard way that her average life was not one to complain about.

    Maupassant was able to to use small facts to have the reader grasp the goal of the writings instead of using a big catastrophe to highlight the point of the story (Charters 1471). The story was slowly built about using a real life situation. Mathilde was able to attend fancy ball, she borrowed (what she thought) was a very expensive necklace, she lost the necklace, she replaced the necklace, she spent the next ten years living in poverty to pay for the necklace, and then she found that the necklace was worth next to nothing. The story built to show the reader the importance of appreciating the non material things in life and also shows the importance of telling the truth. If Mathilde would have been honest with her friend from the beginning, she would not have spent ten years living in poverty to replace a necklace that was not worth the ten years of struggle.

    By using constant facts and a hidden message, Maupassant was able to convey to the reader his views of what is important in the world. He made the reader aware of the importance of not chasing the material items in life and also the importance of being honest without directly coming out and saying those exact words. I really enjoyed this story and look forward to reading more like this. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

    Charters, Ann. The Story and Its Writer: An Introduction to Short Fiction. Ninth Ed. New York: St. Martin's, 2015. Print

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    I agree, I think that de Maupassant was able to achieve “the writer’s goal” by making one think and understand a hidden meaning with his short story The Necklace (Charters, p. 1471). He was able to make the reader think that the succession of events really happened by drawing on everyday life experiences. Sure, not many of us get the chance to go to a fancy ball, but the feelings behind the event are relatable, even today. Madame Loisel longer for a better life, “suffer[ing] ceaselessly, feeling herself born for all the delicacies and luxuries” (p. 879). We may deal with this in different ways, but there is a desire for most to want more in life, no matter what their current social standing is. This is also true when Madame receives an invitation to the festivities. “And what do you want me to put on my back?” she says (p. 880). Even a fancy new dress would not do, she had to have the most impressive jewels to go with it. Borrowing from her more well-to-do friend she asks, “Haven’t you any more?” (p. 881). It is a matter of keeping up appearances or keeping up with the Jones’ so to speak. And there it is, THE necklace.

    Madame Loisel was “a great success” at the ball, herself within a “cloud of happiness”. For a brief moment she had everything she had desired, and then it fell apart when the necklace was lost. Rather than admit to her friend that the necklace was lost, the Losiels borrowed an exorbitant amount of money to replace it. Her poor husband, “risked his signature without even knowing if he could meet it” (p. 883). For 10 years of working, scrimping and living in poverty they paid their dues for losing the necklace, only to find out it was for naught. Herein lies de Maupassant’s ability to show “our loves, our hates, our struggles….and how social interests, financial interests, political interests and personal interests all compete with each other” (p. 1471). Madame’s personal and social interests of being seen as wealthy and important clearly conflicted with the financial interests of her family. This ebb and flow is the reality of life, sadly without the guarantee of a happy ending.

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    Flavory,

    Reading your post made me see the writer's point of view in cleverly Cinderella fashion as you stated. Like Cinderella, Mrs. Loisel was poor, wanted to attend the dance in grand style, had to borrow from her friend, running home at 4 am only to find out the next morning that the necklace was gone. He brilliantly conveyed his story in a way that captivated the reader's attention but at the same time ensured that the reader did not formulate another story within his story. By this, I mean that I could not see the Cinderella story in his story only now that we are all discussing it. The end of the story was like a bombshell to me leaving me completely stunned to find out that the Loisel's had work so hard for many years to replace a piece of diamond necklace that was in fact not a real diamond. I guess Guy accomplished his mission in this short story. He wrote a fictitious story that is as close to realism as can be. Though the story did not have a happy ending, it had a very interesting ending with so many morals to the story. I learned a thing or two from this story and I enjoyed reading it.

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    Hi everyone...I'm sorry if this isn't the correct way or thread...but I need some help.

    I am looking for the original text in French of this quote.
    I can't find it anywhere.

    To love very much is to love inadequately; we love-that is all. Love cannot be modified without being nullified.
    Love is a short word but it contains everything. Love means the body, the soul, the life, the entire being.
    We feel love as we feel the warmth of our blood, we breathe love as we breathe the air, we hold it in ourselves as we hold our thoughts.
    Nothing more exists for us. Love is not a word; it is a wordless state indicated by four letters.

    Can anyone help me with that?

    Kind regards,
    Judith

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