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The Necklace | Study Guide

Guy de Maupassant

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The Necklace | Quotes


She dressed simply, being unable to afford anything better, but she was every whit as unhappy as any daughter of a grand family who has come down in the world.


Maupassant came from minor nobility and had opportunity to observe families whose fortunes had fallen, especially since France had lost the Franco-German War. He knew how bitterly these families resented their social descent. Madame Loisel's feelings about staying in the same economic class where she was born reveal her sense of entitlement and dissatisfaction.


Ah, the good soup! I don't know anything better than that.

Monsieur Loisel

In contrast to his wife's chronic discontent, Monsieur Loisel shows satisfaction with and appreciation of what he has, without aspiring to a standard of living far above his station in life. In fact, as he comments on the soup, Madame Loisel is dreaming of being served elegant fare and using fine silverware


She would have given anything to be popular, envied, attractive, and in demand.


Vain and shallow, Madame Loisel more than anything else longs to be admired for her looks and glamorous attire. The statement later turns out to be an example of verbal irony, for when she does get a chance to be popular and envied for one night, she does in fact have to give up everything to pay for the lost necklace.

This is also one of several sentences early in the story that start with She. The repetition creates a rhythm and focuses attention on Madame Loisel at the same time as it depersonalizes her. Maupassant does not give her a name until she marries.


She had no gowns, no jewels, nothing. And she loved nothing but that. She felt made for that.


In these sentences the narrator explains Madame Loisel's situation and mindset. She had no beautiful clothing or jewelry, yet these are the only things that interest her or that she cares about. Feeling entitled because of her good looks, Madame Loisel is characterized again as shallow and constantly dissatisfied.


Instead of being delighted as her husband had hoped, she tossed the invitation peevishly onto the table and muttered: 'What earthly use is that to me?'

Madame Loisel

This line efficiently characterizes Madame Loisel and the dynamic between her and her husband. She has always wanted to attend this kind of event, and her husband has worked hard to obtain the invitation in an attempt to please her and raise his status in her estimation. However, it is not enough.


No; there's nothing more humiliating than to look poor among other women who are rich.

Madame Loisel

Madame Loisel is all about appearances. She makes this remark when her husband suggests she wear flowers instead of jewels to the ball. For Madame Loisel wearing flowers is a sign she has no jewels, and despite her new and expensive dress she feels the need to adorn herself even more with signs of wealth, which is all-important to her. She is incapable at this point of satisfaction.


Suddenly she discovered ... a superb diamond necklace. And her heart throbbed with an immoderate desire. She fastened it around her throat ... and was lost in ecstasy at her reflection in the mirror.


After going through her friend's jewelry and not finding what she wants amidst the finery, Madame Loisel, ever dissatisfied, finally finds a diamond necklace she wants to borrow. Believing it valuable and therefore beautiful, Madame Loisel, vain even without her own jewelry, enjoys looking at herself, adorned with diamonds, in the mirror. Borrowing the necklace to appease her vanity and present a deceptive image of wealth is Madame Loisel's undoing.


Madame Loisel was a success. She was the prettiest woman there, elegant, graceful, radiant, and wonderfully happy.


This is the moment of Madame Loisel's dreams. She isn't just pretty: she is the prettiest woman there. The sentences describe a fantasy. And like a perfect moment in a myth, fairy tale, or dream, it is bound to end soon.


Suddenly she gave a cry. The necklace was no longer round her throat!


At this moment Madame Loisel realizes she has lost the necklace. It occurs just after she has turned to look at her reflection in a mirror one last time before her magical night is over. Although she does not know it yet, this is the moment at which her life is about to change forever.


They lived like this for ten years.


This is one of Maupassant's striking lines. A flat, declarative sentence, it states the simple truth of the Loisels' life. It is a noteworthy example of compression. Minimalist lines like these reveal Maupassant's influence on later authors such as Hemingway.

This line is also poignant in its simple summary. This couple had a solid life before they lost the necklace. Now, though, they have experienced 10 years of endless toil.


Life is so strange, so fickle! How little is needed to make or break us.


Most of the narration follows Madame Loisel closely, but at key points it pulls back to offer universal reflections, making her radical reversal of fortune something that might happen to anyone.

Maupassant places this reflection directly after describing Madame Loisel's habit of periodically thinking back on her one magical night, thus showing that despite what that night cost her, Madame Loisel still values beauty and appearance over reality.


Yes, I've been through some hard times since I saw you, very hard times. And it was all on your account.

Madame Loisel

Madame Loisel says this to her old friend Madame Forestier when they meet again, 10 years after Madame Loisel "returned" the necklace she had borrowed and lost by replacing it with another one. The quotation shows how much Madame Loisel has changed from her 10 years of hard work. On one hand, she is more direct and willing to admit what she did, even taking pride in it, since she and her husband have paid off a massive debt.

On the other hand, despite her growth and maturity, there is still a passive-aggressive element to Madame Loisel. Madame Loisel borrowed the necklace by choice and lost it in part because she was unwilling to wait for a cab at the ball because other women would see her cheap coat. However, she still blames her friend for her fate.


Oh, my poor Mathilde! But it was only an imitation necklace. It couldn't have been worth much more than 500 francs!

Madame Forestier

By revealing the shocking truth of the necklace and then immediately ending the story, Maupassant pulls the reader into the story to complete it. Readers can only imagine Madame Loisel's reaction to one of literature's most famous examples of situational irony and can only ask why neither friend was direct enough to tell the truth.

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