The Necklace is the most famous short story of Maupassant, and its theme has always been controversial. The most typical one is the theory of love and vanity, which holds that the author satirizes the vanity of the petty bourgeoisie through Mathilde’s tragedy. When Maupassant was writing, he used satire several times to satirize the heroine Mathilde.
The first part is the first part of the novel, which highlights the contrast between Mathilde’s dream and reality and sets the foundation for the first satirical situation. Although ‘she has a good face and a good charm, she was wrongly arranged by nature and grew up in the family of very minor civil servants’, ‘she has no dowry property, no heritage that can be expected, and no way to make a rich and influential man meet her’. She felt that she should live a noble and rich life, but the reality was not as good as people wanted, so she had to be married to a junior clerk of the Ministry of education. In such a pity, Mathilde is suffering. But she didn’t despair, and her dreams would come to her from time to time, making her miserable and intoxicated. The strong contrast between dream and reality is reflected in various aspects such as residence, servant, social intercourse, diet, etc. Mathilde’s classical, exquisite, gorgeous, elegant and sweet dreams are in sharp contrast to the reality of shabby, gloomy, shabby, crude and flat. In fact, in the satirical situation, the unrealistic dream of high self-esteem is the basis of satire, which is the author’s first satire on Mathilde.
The second irony is after the invitation from the Minister of education that her husband brought back. From sadness and worry about the lack of beautiful dresses and jewelry to her husband’s customized dresses, her friends lent her diamond necklace. Everything was ready. Mathilde went to the party. Originally, her life was lonely. Now, her feminine charm is fully revealed, attracting the eyes of the whole audience, and she is totally immersed in the happiness of dream realization. However, the glory of being intoxicated with the realization of dreams is an important part of the realization of irony. It, together with previous dreams and subsequent disasters, forms a complete irony situation. The more brilliant the realization of dreams, the stronger the irony effect in the future. Maupassant especially played up Mathilde’s happiness when she was satisfied with vanity. She was shrouded in the glory of the night, unaware that fate had taken her as the object of ridicule. At the end of the party, she was still infatuated with it. Her husband’s ‘everyday clothes’ didn’t make her feel warm but reminded her that she had to come back to reality. She was reluctant to go home in the old carriage, shivering with cold. Her dream should have ended, but she stood in front of the big mirror, hoping to ‘get a last look at herself in all her glory’. At this time, she found that the necklace was lost! In this way, the ‘sudden turn’ of the plot and the ‘dream come true’ combine to form another ironic situation.
The third satire starts with Mathilde throwing the necklace, comparing Mathilde’s hidden dream with reality. The more beautiful the dream is, the more intolerable the reality is; the more painful the reality is, the more enchanting the realization of the dream is; the more gorgeous the realization of the dream is, the greater the blow of losing the necklace is; the more dramatic the plot is, the more significant the ironic effect on the characters is. The layout of the novel is a series of ingenious combinations that guide the ending. The event develops towards the climax and the ending. It satisfies the curiosity caused by the beginning and lays the foundation for the next irony. Mathilde’s life fell into the abyss. Therefore, the author sets up a contrast again, that is, the splendid night of dream realization and the ten years of debt repayment. The contrast again focuses on several aspects. Isn’t Mathilde dissatisfied with the living quarters, servants, social activities and food in reality? Isn’t Mathilde with a beautiful dream? Now, even what she originally owned is taken away by her. Originally, she hated the simple living room and the shabby chairs and stools. Now, she ‘moved out of their apartment and rented an attic room’; originally, she was worried about no comfort and entertainment. Now, ‘dismissed the maid’, ‘the heavy work in the family, the boring work in the kitchen, she has tasted it. She had to wash all the dishes and pots by herself. On the greasy basin and the bottom of the pot, she broke her pink fingernails.
The last irony is that Mathilde has lived hard for ten years to pay off her debts. Ten years later, when she had become a determined woman, ‘needing a break from her heavy working week’, she was ‘entertained’ by life. She suddenly found out that the necklace was fake.
Ten years ago, when she couldn’t find the necklace, she ‘made up her mind bravely at once’ to compensate for the necklace and pay off her debts; for ten years, she lived a hard life, adhered to her morality and chose to be a hero who endured hardships. But when the truth came to light, ten years of bravery and hard work were in vain. She became a doll of fate. Life reveals its absurdity and cruelty: when you think you have achieved your goal, you find that there is no goal at all; when you think you have won, you find that there is no opponent at all; after you have suffered, you know that all the pain is in vain. In the futility of suffering, the original ‘bravery’ is full of irony. She didn’t have to lose everything she had in reality and didn’t have to pay ten years of hard work. Now her tough and painful struggle has become meaningless and worthless. For Mathilde, her situation in real life is totally different from what she imagined. First of all, her dream of realizing her vanity dream of life by relying on her beauty and beauty has failed in the real world. Second, depending on her beauty and smart mind, she was able to marry a man with status, but the result is It was she who married a humble and vulgar clerk. Her strong vanity and real-life cannot be balanced, so she often feels pain and full of life grievances. Mathilde’s vanity is not an individual phenomenon, but a product of capitalist society, with a certain degree of typicality. In the capitalist society at that time, people often regarded life as a gamble of life, as if everything could be changed by something in an instant.
It is through satire and plot reversal that the author criticizes the trend of money and profit in the capitalist era. Through the description of a small thing in the life of a small person, it reflects the vanity phenomenon in the real society at that time, and the thinking and value judgment of life brought by it. It is not only a microcosm of the society at that time but also a mirror of self-knowledge for the world. It warns people to pursue things of value and significance to their own lives and to explore the ultimate meaning and value of life.
- Maupassant, G. de. (n.d.). The Necklace. Retrieved from https://photos.state.gov/libraries/hochiminh/646441/vantt/The necklace.pdf.
- Maupassant, G. de, & Coward, D. (2009). A day in the country and other stories. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (pp.169-176)