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Symbols & Themes in The Necklace by Maupussant


The narrative opens with an exposition of the protagonist. The author describes the persona’s background as being one of discontentment characterized by envy for a better life. (Maupassant 4). However, the persona is only able to dream of her objects of envy as her life provides limitations. The opening paragraph of the narrative is ironic since the author tells the reader of a persona who is pretty but with no means of using beauty to her advantage. The author also brings out the theme of feminism by describing the fact that in the society that the persona lives, it is difficult for a woman to achieve her potential since that society deprives them of opportunities. The narrative also outlines the challenges that working-class women have to face in the male-dominated society. (Probst 87).

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Themes and Styles

The persona is a woman who had big dreams only for the dreams to be shattered by the realities of society. The theme of reality and appearance is outlined in this case because for the persona, the appearance of society is slowly becoming different from the realities experienced. Therefore the persona is condemned to a life of sadness and discontentment. In the introductory paragraphs, the reader quickly discerns that the plot is of conflict. There is conflict within the persona because she aspires to achieve and own expensive things that their current financial status cannot afford. The author explains that the persona, unlike other women spends most of her time dreaming of the expensive and luxurious things that she lacks. Conflict is also brought out by looking at the aspirations and dreams between the persona and her husband. The persona’s husband is content with being a clerk for the ministry of education. On the other hand, the persona dreams of things that apparently her husband cannot afford. Conflict is also realized when the persona’s husband comes home with a letter of invitation hoping that the persona would be happy. Instead, the persona exclaims that: “What do you want me to wear to go there?” (Maupassant 6). The ensuing conversation ends up in the husband offering to buy a new dress. However, the persona is still not contented as she still needs jewelry. The relationship between the persona and her husband also brings out irony. We see the persona constantly buried in her dreams and aspirations and ignoring some chores, like cleaning the table cloth. The persona’s husband on the other hand displays an indifferent attitude and seems to be in a jovial mood. The persona’s appearance of life is in conflict with reality and this causes her to suffer. The author writes that: “She would weep for the entire day afterward with sorrow, regret, despair and misery.” (Maupassant 5).

The aspect of dramatic irony can also be used to describe the situation that the persona’s husband was in. The husband should have realized that his wife was being eaten by envy of wealth and material things. However, the husband went on and overstretched the limits in order to satisfy the persona. As the narrative progresses, the reader is consumed by expectations of a turning point where the persona would realize her flawed judgment and perceptions. The author manages to bring a moment of crisis by bringing this realization to the persona. The crisis comes in terms of the lost necklace that apparently the persona had borrowed from Mrs. Forrestier. The persona and her husband go to lengths to find the necklace but in vain. Finally, the persona’s husband is forced to empty all his savings visit loan sharks, and obtain credit from various sources in order to gather money to replace the lost necklace. The author uses hyperbole to explain the lengths to which the persona and her husband went to repay the loans they had gotten. The author writes that: “And this lasted for ten years.” (Maupassant 9).

Ironically, the happiness that the persona yearned for so much becomes her source of grief. Immediately after she enjoys momentary happiness during the party, where she had become the envy of everyone including the mayor, not only does she go back to her previous state, but their situation is worsened. (Maupassant 7).

Eventually, as the persona does her part in ensuring that they pay for the loans they secured, her beauty fades and she even looks older. According to the author’s description, “Her hair unkempt with uneven skirts and rough, red hands…” (Maupassant 10). This is a sharp contrast to the woman who was the envy of everybody during the party. This contrast sandwiches a period of realization, strain, and regrets and one feels pity for the persona. The persona becomes conscious of the realities of her life and even manages some acceptance. This is realized when the persona decides to tell Mrs. Forrestier the whole truth about the necklace. (Maupassant 11).


The necklace is used symbolically to signify the envy of the persona and reality versus appearance. To the persona, the necklace looked expensive but in reality, it was just a costume that was worth much less. This fatal mistake condemns the persona and her husband to an even worse life than before. (Probst 29).


Maupussant, Guy. The Necklace. Trans. Roberts Edgar.

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Probst. Elements of Literature: Fourth Course with Readings in World Literature. London: Holt McDougal, 2000.

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1. StudyCorgi. "Symbols & Themes in The Necklace by Maupussant." December 31, 2021.


StudyCorgi. "Symbols & Themes in The Necklace by Maupussant." December 31, 2021.


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StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Symbols & Themes in The Necklace by Maupussant'. 31 December.

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