Comparison “The Necklace” and “The Rocking-Horse Winner”
At first glance, The Necklace by Guy de Maupassant and The Rocking-Horse Winner by D. H. Lawrence are very different stories. The former is set in 19-th century Paris, while the latter is set in England after the First World War. However, both stories revolve around families of medium-income with women who are deeply dissatisfied with reality. Obsession with wealth is a theme recurring in both works, and both stories end rather ironically, albeit the outcome in Lawrence’s story is far more ominous. Both women are deeply dissatisfied with their lives and believe they were denied happiness and prosperity. They are obsessed with wealth and eventually, their obsession leads them to a disastrous outcome.
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Dissatisfaction with Reality
Guy de Maupassant describes his heroine as deeply dissatisfied with her life. She cannot enjoy the things she has, as she does not think it is enough for her. Madame Loisel sincerely believes that due to her beauty and grace she deserves much more than she has ever had. Being of a modest descent, from a middle-class family, Mathilde is married to a clerk. She does not hold her husband in high esteem since he is but a simple clerk and has no privileges in high society. Unfortunately, belonging to the upper class is Madame Loisel’s lifelong dream. Meanwhile, she does not appreciate her husband. She notices neither his care nor his efforts to provide for her at all costs. Monsieur Loisel is willing to deny himself a lot to make his wife happy. Unfortunately, it is not enough for Mathilde, as she is a vain, capricious, and prideful woman.
In The Rocking-Horse Winner by D.H. Lawrence, we follow a story about a boy, whose mother sees herself and her family as very unlucky. Hester does not appreciate her husband and her son. She is unhappy and feels that it should not be the case. To her mind, the key to success is luck, as being lucky ensures you can always solve any problem, manage anything, and earn or win a fortune. Hester is bitter and displeased with everything she has. Lawrence describes her actions in a manner that makes the readers question her motherly feelings. It seems as though Hester convinced herself thoroughly that she could not look forward to anything pleasant in her life, which makes her bitter and unable to love and be compassionate.
Both heroines display similar tendencies: dissatisfaction with reality. Mathilde and Hester both believe they were destined to be rich and happy, but they are misguided in their convictions. They believe that the source of their happiness is external, that it should come from outside. Hester tells her son that she used to be happy once, before she got married, and explains that her husband is very unlucky. Mathilde believes that an upper-class social status would finally make her happy while Hester believes that the source of her dissatisfaction is the absence of luck. Both women think they are not treated fairly in life and that they deserve much more.
Obsession with Wealth
Mathilde in The Necklace would rather spend her time wishing she was an admired woman of high society than notice her husband’s care and attention. With a hint of irony, Maupassant indicates that luxurious possessions she constantly dreams about are all that she loves (790). She spends her time daydreaming about luxurious things, upper-class balls, and intimate soirées with the elite of society and feels that she leads a life far too poor and boring for her grace and beauty. Her imaginary world is well thought out and rich in detail. It is abundant in decorations, luxurious interiors, upscale Oriental furnishings, and even in perfume and scents. The walls of her illusory mansion are decorated with elegant portraits of aristocrats, with wall hangings depicting famous people, as well as paintings of exotic birds, fairytale landscapes, and enchanted forests (Maupassant 790). Upper-class people are part of her fantasy as well. She dreams about rich, respected, and distinguished men from high-society, who would come to intimate gatherings she would hold, and admire, worship her endlessly. The attention of these men was supposed to make every woman jealous, make her the most sought after person in the high-society where she wants to belong. She feels that she was made for them, so she suffers in her longing for the things they cannot afford.
Hester displays a similar quality: an obsession with money. She believes her husband is not rich due to the absence of luck. The tone of Lawrence’s story is ironic yet ominous. Paul’s unexplained ability to predict a horse-race winner aside, the family’s house seems to be whispering incessantly “There must be more money” (Lawrence 710). Hester is convinced that if it were not for the lack of money, they would be happy. The desire for acquiring more money is the driving force of the plot. It overshadows everything else that could bring joy to Hester. Moreover, the final phrase in the story uttered by Paul’s uncle, Oscar, fully demonstrates the family’s obsession with wealth. Upon discovering that Paul is dead, Uncle Oscar tells Hester that she is now rich, but a son short.
The ironic, albeit gloomy, ending of Lawrence’s story conveys a moral lesson about the value of life. Madame Loisel receives a moral lesson in the end as well, upon learning that the necklace she tried to pay off for ten years was not worth it. The ironic final remarks in both stories are there for the reader to see the described events and characters in a new light. Both Mathilde and Hester suffered due to their obsession with wealth. Their illusory ideas about happiness were the main reason for their unhappiness and led to an ultimate disaster.
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The desire for more money leaves Hester bitter, unhappy, and unable to express her motherly love. Madame Loisel’s pride and misconceptions about the upper class and the significance of a high-society lifestyle leave her in poverty. However, in both stories, there are characters that wish to help the women and make them happy. For Mathilde, it is her loving and compassionate husband, who sacrifices a great deal to accommodate her capricious nature. For Hester, it is her son, Paul, in whom she inadvertently confides in, revealing her bitter feelings about her unlucky husband. Monsieur Loisel is willing to do anything to please Mathilde. Despite their moderate-income, he agrees to buy an expensive gown for the soirée. However, his efforts go unnoticed. Similarly, Paul’s eagerness to be lucky and win plenty of money is caused by his mother’s unhappiness. Paul is merely a child and cannot understand that his mother’s unhappiness is not caused by external reasons but is rather intertwined with her internal bitterness and an inability to appreciate her life.
Both stories have a disastrous, yet ironic finale. The Loisels are driven by Mathilde’s illusory ideas about the high-society and its supposed virtues. Terrified of telling the truth, Mathilde would rather work hard and lose all her beauty than admit that she lost the diamond necklace. Ironically, her obsession with luxury eventually leads her to a life of poverty. The outcome of the story is disastrous for Mathilde, as she finds out that the debt could have been paid off much sooner and it would not have required them to live in such poverty. Hester in The Rocking-Horse Winner faces tragic repercussions of her mistakes. Although it cannot be determined whether the heroines comprehend their fault, it is clear for the readers. Paul’s efforts to earn his mother’s love and affection went unnoticed, just as Monsieur Loisel’s did. Striving desperately to become lucky and earn as much money as he can, Paul dies in a frenzied and feverish state of exhaustion. The only words Paul utters before his death are the ones that he probably thought would make his mother happy – that he is lucky now. Both stories reveal the main faults of the heroines and the repercussions they now have to face.
The Necklace by Guy de Maupassant and The Rocking-Horse Winner by D. H. Lawrence revolve around women dissatisfied with their lives. Their unhappiness is unjustified, as they are immersed in illusions of their own making and refuse to acknowledge their good fortune. Their obsession with money, luxury, wealth, and luck result in disastrous outcomes. Maupassant and Lawrence’s stories provide the readers with an important moral lesson about the necessity to appreciate life as it is. However, the heroines discussed differ significantly in their perception of their suffering. While Mathilde seems to have learned the moral lesson by accepting the necessity to work hard to pay off the debt, Hester does not acknowledge her mistakes. She does not understand what Paul did for her and why he did it. A striking contrast between Hester’s lack of affection for her child and Paul’s generous and loving spirit highlights the heroine’s inability to appreciate the moral lesson. Unlike Hester, Mathilde sees her misfortune as a result of her mistakes and does all she can to support her husband and help pay off the debt. Thus, the stories discussed both revolve around women dissatisfied with reality. However, they differ considerably in the heroines’ perception of their mistakes and their attitude towards the moral lesson they receive.
Maupassant, Guy De. “The Necklace.” Short Fiction. Classic and Contemporary. Ed. Charles Bohner and Lyman Grant. Upper Saddle River: Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2006. 789-795. Print.
Lawrence, David Herbert. “The Rocking-Horse Winner.” Short Fiction. Classic and Contemporary. Ed. Charles Bohner and Lyman Grant. Upper Saddle River: Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2006. 709-720. Print.