Modern Fairy Tale: How The Necklace Tricks the Reader

The Necklace by Guy De Maupassant is an intriguing story with an unexpected ending that any average reader might find at least interesting. The author is highly esteemed for the skillful structuring of his writings’ composition as well as for their plot. A massive part of his legacy comprises the short stories, which amount to nearly 300 works. Maupassant made genuinely impressive contributions to the corpus of critical realism literature, manifesting the details of French people’s lives around the 1870s in abundance (Wang, 2017). In The Necklace, Maupassant not only elaborated an amusing narrative but also imbued it with a philosophical meaning that might seem to be concealed, tricking the reader into taking the story for a purely entertaining piece.

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Distinctive Features of Guy De Maupassant’s Writings

One of the methods used by Maupassant in the story is making it similar to a traditional fairytale. Warner (2018) describes this genre and its obligatory components. Particularly, the short length of a story serves as a typical characteristic. The next feature is a striking affinity of tales between each other that evokes parallels in the mind of a reader on a conscious or subconscious level. Another attribute of the genre is “the necessary presence of past makes itself felt through combinations and recombinations of familiar plots and characters, devices and images” (Warner, 2018, xxv). Finally, the language of fairytales contains symbols, concise imagery urging to remember the motifs of a story told or read. To conclude, a fairytale obtains certain peculiarities that make it distinctive from any other genre and, therefore, functions in its own way.

The Characteristics Present in The Necklace

As previously stated, the style of The Necklace somewhat corresponds to these characteristics. According to Chomiuk (2017), “the author applied an innuendo to the fairy tale about Cinderella in order to demonstrate the discrepancy between reality and daydreams” (p. 205). The plot of the well-known tale intrinsically penetrates the narration. Precisely, the main character Madame Loisel is a beauteous and miserable woman simultaneously, who dreams about a sumptuous house full of exquisitely decorated furniture and gets an invitation to a ball, but, unfortunately, has nothing to wear for it (de Maupassant, 2003b). In addition, the author provides his short story with a vivid, memorable symbol—the necklace. Thus, the work encompasses allusion to an old one and corresponds to the fairytale genre length and language.

Realism: The Style of Guy De Maupassant

Nevertheless, The Necklace still has the uniqueness inherent to all writings of Maupassant. As Cinderella, Loisel is complemented about her necklace and dress at the ball, rejoicing at the moment her dreams came true; yet, her story has no happy ending. The loss of the precious decoration assigns years of constant toil to her and her husband, which presents a realistic turn in the plot (de Maupassant, 2003a). Realism, as well as the amplitude of details, pertains to Maupassant’s main style. In regards to Wang (2017), he uses it to “[describe] in depth the mundane life of some ordinary characters in the real world, or the daily trivialities that occur around ordinary people” (p. 144). In brief, the writing manner of the author is distinguished by the presence of realistic and naturalistic motifs.

Significance of Guy De Maupassant’s Writings

Notably, the talent of Maupassant has set in motion the tradition of writing. Firstly, his influence can be seen in the works of James, although indirectly. Furthermore, the collection of his books made an impact on Hemingway’s literary style, which consequently shaped “the pattern for the American short story”; the aftersound of his approach to narration is seen even in the sphere of movie production (Gopnik, 2003, para.5). In this view, Maupassant can be safely reckoned as an important figure in literature, a founder of Modern.

Motifs of a Catastrophe

Considering the significance of Maupassant’s legacy, his stories start to look less simplistic, hence the presence of hidden meaning may be assumed. The tale of Loisel, now weary and exhausted, ends with her realizing that seemingly deserved suffering and an eternity of miserable existence have been endured in vain: “how little it takes to doom you or save you!” (de Maupassant, 2003b, para. 101). This catastrophe, as it is conceived by a reader, appears to be uncommon only at first; in fact, life is full of similar occurrences. Such realistic depiction of human essence resembles the motifs present in works of those writers adherent to existentialism, “an eclectic philosophy which deals with responsibility and commitment to humankind (Agarwal & Cruise Malloy, 2000), (as cited in Canavan, 2019, p. 2). The absurdity fills the story from its beginning: the woman having no dowry, later living with a poor husband, starts to dream about luxurious life instead of accepting the burden of her social status. Therefore, Maupassant’s work can be regarded as not only a fairytale with an unprecedented ending but also an important existential work, portraying life as it is.

The Trick of The Necklace

It follows thence that The Necklace has a symbolical meaning, deliberated by the author intently. Canavan (2019) observes that Maupassant expresses the despair and disappointment experienced by humans, as well as desolation, even before enunciation of these motifs in the field of philosophy (p. 2). However unfair, terrible, and frightful life is to Loisel, she takes responsibility for her actions just as in Sartre’s (1948) perspective every man should do consciously “to be happy, to be oneself” (as cited in Canavan, 2019, p. 3). The pithiness, spurious plainness, and fairytale-like structure are all misleading, or parts of the refined delusion created to bestow even more joy to a reader that manages to decipher the author’s thought. Under such circumstances, the methods selected by Maupassant may be declared special, intended for both entertaining the mass audience and soothing the literati.

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Conclusion

In summary, The Necklace is a remarkably ambiguous, complex work with various aspects of style, structure, and meaning that make it an unadulterated masterpiece of Modern literature. Maupassant’s efforts to extract as much point of the surrounding reality, acquaintance with the writings of his predecessors and contemporaries, and his own thoughts are highly valued. The generations of authors read his stories and inevitably consumed the sapience of his words, transmitting them even further, rendered by their observations. The complexity hidden behind the “inartificial” plot and straightforward language incorporates the pre-existential awe before the irrationality of life and its true absurdity. The impossibility to change this does not implicate an excuse for inertia and refusal to maintain the function to which one might be assigned, as could be concluded from Loisel’s example. Although the style of Maupassant is not of much concinnity, his ideas are profound and far-reaching.

References

Canavan, B. (2019). Tourism-in-literature: Existential comfort, confrontation and catastrophe in Guy De Maupassant’s short stories. Annals of Tourism Research, 78(102750), 238–247. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.annals.2019.102750

Chomiuk, A. (2017). Anti-fairy tale in a novel like frame. On The Necklace by Guy de Maupassant [Abstract]. Czytanie Literatury, 1(6), 195–205. https://doi.org/10.18778/2299-7458.06.10

de Maupassant, G. (2003a). Introduction. In Gopnik. A. (Ed.), The Necklace and Other Tales. (Neugroschel, J., Trans.). Modern Library.

de Maupassant, G. (2003b). The Necklace and Other Tales. (Neugroschel, J., Trans.). Modern Library.

Wang, H. (2017). On the writing style of Maupassant’s short stories. Advances in Social Science, Education and Humanities Research, 144, 144–146. https://doi.org/10.2991/icadce-17.2017.31

Warner, M. (2018). Fairy Tale: A very short introduction. Oxford University Press.

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