Essay on Verbal Irony in ‘The Necklace’

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In Guy de Maupassant's renowned short story "The Necklace," verbal irony serves as a powerful literary device, shedding light on the characters' true intentions and values. Maupassant masterfully employs verbal irony to highlight the stark contrast between appearance and reality, revealing deeper layers of meaning within the narrative.

Unveiling Hidden Desires

Verbal irony is prominently showcased through the protagonist Mathilde's actions and dialogue. Despite her outward appearance of contentment, Mathilde harbors a profound desire for wealth and social status. When presented with the opportunity to attend a prestigious ball, Mathilde initially rejects the invitation, citing her lack of suitable attire. However, her true longing for such an event is revealed through her wistful daydreams and aspirations. This juxtaposition between Mathilde's spoken words and her inner desires exemplifies the essence of verbal irony, exposing the characters' inner conflicts and motivations.

The Illusion of Contentment

Throughout the story, verbal irony serves to challenge the reader's perception of the characters' satisfaction with their circumstances. Mathilde's husband, Monsieur Loisel, expresses genuine admiration for a modest potpie, proclaiming it to be the "best potpie" he has ever tasted. However, this seemingly innocuous statement belies the couple's true discontentment and yearning for a more affluent lifestyle. Despite their outward displays of contentment, the verbal irony inherent in Monsieur Loisel's praise underscores the stark contrast between their aspirations and their reality.

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The Facade of Social Status

Verbal irony also operates to expose the facade of social status and prestige upheld by the characters. Mathilde, in her pursuit of societal acceptance, feigns indifference towards the ball invitation, dismissing it as inconsequential. However, her underlying desire for admiration and recognition is evident in her longing glances at wealthy women adorned with jewels and fine attire. This discrepancy between Mathilde's words and her true desires highlights the superficiality of societal norms and the deceptive nature of appearances.

Critiquing Social Norms

Maupassant utilizes verbal irony as a means of critiquing societal norms and values prevalent during his time. Through Mathilde's interactions with other characters, such as her wealthy friend Madame Forestier, the author exposes the superficiality of social hierarchy and the relentless pursuit of material wealth. Mathilde's exaggerated praise for Madame Forestier's jewels serves as a thinly veiled attempt to ingratiate herself into higher social circles, further emphasizing the facade of social status perpetuated by verbal irony.


In conclusion, verbal irony serves as a potent tool in Guy de Maupassant's "The Necklace," enriching the narrative with layers of complexity and nuance. Through the characters' dialogue and actions, Maupassant skillfully unveils the discrepancies between appearance and reality, inviting readers to scrutinize the true motivations and values driving the narrative. By employing verbal irony to critique societal norms and expose the facade of social status, Maupassant offers a poignant commentary on the pitfalls of vanity, materialism, and social ambition. As readers delve deeper into the world of "The Necklace," they are confronted with the sobering realization that what is said may often conceal deeper truths lurking beneath the surface.

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Essay on Verbal Irony in ‘The Necklace’. (2024, February 29). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 14, 2024, from
“Essay on Verbal Irony in ‘The Necklace’.” Edubirdie, 29 Feb. 2024,
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Essay on Verbal Irony in ‘The Necklace’ [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2024 Feb 29 [cited 2024 Apr 14]. Available from:

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