In any literacy work, it is absolutely essential to have characters, whether major or minor. It is also necessary to develop these characters throughout the story. Character development gives the reader insight into the more important meanings or lessons of the story. These lessons are usually brought out by the events that take place within the story.
Looking at Guy De Maupassant’s piece “The Necklace”, we see a very clear development of the main character Mathilde. In the story, we see a change in her attitude about life. This change comes about when she has to learn one of life’s little lessons the hard way.
She and her husband are forced to live a life of hard work and struggle because of her own selfish desires. Mathilde changes from a woman who spends her time dreaming of all the riches and glory she doesn’t have, to realizing that she overlooked all the riches she did have. The story opens with the description of how miserable Mathilde is.
Maupassant describes her as “suffering constantly, feeling destined for all delicacies and luxuries.” (Pg 4) She sits dreaming of silent rooms nicely decorated and her own private room, scented with perfume to have intimate “tete- a-tetes” with her closest friends.
Then she is awakened, only to realize that she is in her own grim apartment. In her eyes, she lives a tortured and unfair life. Mathilde has a husband named Monsieur Loisel. He is much the opposite of his wife. He is completely content with his lifestyle. He seems to be a very passive person, who doesn’t let status or riches affect him.
Of course, if he had the chance to be rich he would, but he doesn’t dwell on the fact that he is part of the middle class. He seems to be a hard worker and does his best to provide for his wife. He demonstrates his simplicity the one night at dinner Monsieur Loisel and Mathilde sit down to eat. Mathilde is dreaming of fancy four-course meals, while he is ecstatic because they are eating boiled beef.
Monsieur Loisel is aware that his wife has not yet adjusted to her status. One night, he had come home from work very excited. He had worked extra hard to get him and his wife invited to one of the biggest parties ever. Monsieur Loisel thought this would be please his wife, when in fact it only made her upset. Here was Monsieur Loisel trying to please his wife and she just started to cry.
This just goes to show how ungrateful she really is. When Monsieur Loisel had inquired about why she was upset, she had said it was because she had nothing to wear. She was hinting to her husband that she needed a dress. Then Monsieur Loisel, because he wanted his wife to be happy had willingly given up his vacation money so his wife could have a dress to wear. Still, that wasn’t good enough for her. Mathilde wanted more.
Luckily, Mathilde had a friend in the upper class. She had gone to her friend and had asked to borrow jewelry for the occasion. This just helped to prove her need to have more. When she arrived at her friend’s house she had many things to choose from. Mathilde had seen all kinds of things that delighted her but one thing, in particular, had caught her eye.
“In a black satin box, a superb diamond necklace, and her heart throbbed with desire for it. Her hands shook as she picked it up. She fastened it around her neck, watched it gleam at her throat, and looked at herself ecstatically.” (Pg 6) She had gotten all she wanted. Once again, Mathilde’s selfish desires had been fulfilled. After going to the ball and basically being the “life of the party”, she returned home to her drab apartment, only to remember the events of the evening where she was in the spotlight and people looked at her. It was at that moment that she had noticed that the necklace was missing.
She and her husband had searched everywhere for it yet, the necklace was nowhere to be found. For the next ten years, Monsieur Loisel and Mathilde worked their fingers to the bone to repay Mathilde’s friend for the necklace that Mathilde had carelessly lost. They had to move to a different apartment, this worse than the last. They also had to borrow money from the various people to pay some of the finance charges they had acquired from owing loan sharks. It was at this time, that Mathilde had begun to change.
Physically, “she had become the strong, hard, rude, woman of poor households. “ (pg 9) But also there was a change on the inside, too. Sometimes she still sat and thought about her moment of glory and then thought about what her life would have been like if she would have never lost the necklace. She realized that her selfishness and desire to be “on top” had caused her to experience the major downfall that she did. She also realized that she was at rock bottom now, her and her husband both, and she had put them there.
Monsieur Loisel in this time really didn’t change. He just did what had to be done in order to pay for his wife’s mistake. I don’t think he complained about it either. He saw that she was working hard to correct her mistake and indeed was learning from it. Once again, Monsieur Loisel was demonstrating his passiveness. Maupassant uses Mathilde as a round character.
She is the one who changes or evolves with the events of the story. She learns that “one should be content with what one has” and “it’s ok to dream, but not to let your dreams keep you from seeing reality. “ Monsieur Loisel then is a flat character. He remains the same or is constant. With all the commotion in the story, Monsieur Loisel manages to keep the same character traits. His life is affected yet, he’s still the same person. Another example of a flat character is Mrs. Forriester. Even though her necklace is lost, it really doesn’t have an impact on her character.
She too remains constant. Mathilde dreams of unattainable wealth and comfort yet, fails to see that her dream life ends up harming her real life. Maupassant does an excellent job of showing the transformation of Mathilde’s character from a person who is selfish and ungrateful to a person who realizes that her mistakes and pays for it the rest of her life.
Even though the story is fiction, Maupassant has made it believable and lifelike. Someone reading this story could benefit greatly from it. We all must deal with selfishness at some point in our lives. Why not learn from other people’s mistakes, fiction or not.
De Maupassant, Guy. “The Necklace.” Literature: An Introduction to Reading and Writing, Edgar V. Roberts and Henry E. Jacobs. Upper Saddle River, NJ. Prentice Hall, 1995. 3-10.
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