The Necklace | Study Guide

Guy de Maupassant

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The Necklace | Symbols



The necklace represents two of the story's themes: the link between beauty and entitlement and the painful clash of fantasy and reality. It appears to be a beautiful, shining piece of jewelry in a satin case. When Madame Loisel borrows it, she thinks it is beautiful and valuable; it validates her sense of self-importance and makes her feel at ease in a grand setting. For the first time she feels a sense of rightness in her life; her entitlement is on display.

The ball is indeed the single most important event of her life, but not in the way Madame Loisel expects as she works the next 10 years to pay off the price of the replacement necklace. And the necklace itself is worth little; like her aspirations, it is a sham, made of paste and glass.


Roads, paths, and vehicles that travel over them often appear in fiction as symbols for life and change as they carry characters from one point to another. The cab in "The Necklace" is not a regular cab, for the Loisels cannot find one to bring them home. They must walk in the cold to find transportation as regular cabs pass them by.

They end up in an old, shabby night cab, one that is "ashamed to show [its] shabbiness during the day." It is almost as though the Loisels board a ghost cab: it seems to appear out of nowhere, cannot show itself in daylight, and vanishes after they leave it. The cab symbolizes the Loisels' descent into shabby and dark circumstances. No trace of it, or the glittering piece of jewelry presumably left inside, exists after it completes its ominous mission.

Rue des Martyrs

The "ghost cab" brings the Loisels home to their apartment on Rue des Martyrs, French for "street of the martyrs." The name symbolizes the situation in which the Loisels find themselves. They become martyrs to duty. Like the religious martyrs for whom the street is named, the Loisels suffer the death of their former life because of the loss of the necklace. Madame Loisel is a martyr to her own beliefs, and her old self symbolically dies for them as she loses her youth and beauty.

Her "sudden heroism" in accepting her fate may be seen as another interpretation of her martyrdom. She gains depth of character by renouncing her own comfort and laboring for years to do what she believes she must.

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