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The Necklace From the Marxist Theory Perspective

Introduction

The Necklace by Guy de Maupassant depicts a woman who is unsatisfied by her social position and desires to be accepted among the upper class. Although the author dwells on several issues, including the role of gender in society or psychological conflict, the Marxist theory is best applied to the analysis of the story as it uncovers the struggles between social classes. Maupassant criticizes the class structure of the society showing that being born poor is a life sentence for many people who cannot change their fate no matter how hard they try.

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The author highlights the injustice of the social status acquired by birth, showing that having no dowry, Matilda has no means of becoming rich. Moreover, the rich and the poor are separated in the story by their commodity, so Matilda is welcomed among the upper class, only acquiring some attributes of wealth. Lastly, the author hyperbolizes the disparity by showing that the Loisel family had to endure ten years of hard work to maintain their status.

Social Injustice

The Necklace uncovers the unfairness of that the social structure where a person’s position depends on the family where one is born. In France of the 19th century, social status and life opportunities were determined by birth, so people, especially women, could not do anything to change it. The story about Matilda proves the statement, as her parents were poor clerks, and she possessed no dowry, so the only choice for her was to be married to a man from the same class. Thus, such a caste-like society when talent or hard work do not matter reinforces inequality between rich and poor.

In the case of Matilda, it is not only the poverty itself is tormenting her, but the feeling that it is not a deserved fate. Maupassant writes: “Matilda suffered ceaselessly, feeling born to enjoy all delicacies and all luxuries” (31). From this evidence, it is clear that she did not perceive herself to be less worthy than people of the upper class, given her beauty and elegance. Thus, the feeling of being deprived of life possibilities made her even more resentful. The perception that human value is determined by social class made Matilda strive for recognition. That is why the day when she is welcomed on the ball is the peak of her life. Even thinking of herself as equal to other rich women, her social position makes Matilda desire their recognition.

Materialism

In the class society, criticized by Maupassant, the value of an individual is perceived through their wealth, not their personality or talent. That is why the demonstration of wealth attributes is essential to be accepted among the rich. Although Matilda’s husband feels happy for getting an invitation to the ball with the ‘select’ people, she feels uncomfortable when she thinks of a public appearance without even one piece of jewelry. That is why she uses details of a rich life, such as a fancy dress or a necklace, to make an impression on the ball.

The perception of wealth through visual attributes is especially popular among the poor, as this is the only aspect of power they can observe. That is why Matilda “would think of elegant dinners, of the shining silverware, of the tapestries” (Maupassant 32). She does not think of the power or influence that the privileged social position would give, so she focuses only on visual imagery. Commodification is the perception of people or objects solely for their material value, not their use or purpose. The diamond necklace is such a commodity that symbolizes wealth in the story. Matilda desires to have a beautiful home or clothes not because she needs them or finds them useful, but because they speak of wealth, thus they are mere commodities.

Class conflict

Apart from the inner struggles of a protagonist, Maupassant depicts the external conflict between rich and poor as the latter tries to join the closed circle of the former. The life of the Loisel family was comfortable, so it is not the lack of money that vexed Matilda, but the inability to transition to the upper class, no matter the effort. Ten years of hard work brought her no wealth and could only pay for one day of luxurious life. Thus, the story shows that in this conflict, the lower social class is helpless, and their attempts to change the situation are futile.

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Unequal relations of power make the unprivileged class feel humiliated and ashamed for their condition. Matilda states that for her, “there’s nothing more humiliating than to have a shabby air amid rich women” (Maupassant 33). Although there is no guilt in being born poor, people feel helpless with their inability to become rich. Class conflict is also reflected in the vulnerable position of the lower class. Mrs. Forestier, for example, would not suffer from losing the necklace, even if it had been genuine, while it became a life tragedy for Matilda that cost her years of life. This evidence justifies the author’s position in criticizing the class society as he draws attention to the insecurity and vulnerability of the poor.

Conclusion

From the perspective of Marxist theory, The Necklace Guy de Maupassant illustrates the case of class conflict between the rich and the poor. The social injustice of being born in a poor family made Matilda desire material goods that are associated with luxury. She believed that possession of jewelry or clothes would make her closer to the world of the rich with which she wanted to identify herself. The attempt to join the upper-class society turned into a tragedy for the Loisel family, thus highlighting the hopelessness and futility of the efforts of unprivileged classes.

Work Cited

Maupassant, Guy de. “The Necklace.” The Necklace and Other Short Stories, Dover Publications, 1992, pp. 31–37.

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StudyCorgi. (2022) 'The Necklace From the Marxist Theory Perspective'. 6 July.

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