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Analysis of The Necklace and The Prodigal Son Essay

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Updated: Jul 8th, 2020


‘The Necklace’ and ‘The Prodigal Son’ are both depictions of how materialism can lead to one’s demise. The narratives indicate that covetousness leads to deceit, strained relationships, and misery.


In ‘The Necklace’, the author starts by describing Mathilde Loisel’s social standing. She seems disempowered by the social structures around her. The author notes that Mathilde would never get a chance at meeting a man of a high social standing because she did not belong to an elite family. This reveals that Mathilde had limited control of her life, as a woman in the late nineteenth century.

However, after learning about her goals in life, one immediately realizes that Madame Loisel was still responsible for her circumstances. Although her husband was not extremely wealthy, he was also not poor. He tried his best to provide for his family, and his wife could have chosen to be happy with their modest things.

However, her materialism prevented her from appreciating what she already had. Mathilde and her husband had a comfortable, middle-class status. Her husband earned enough to feed his family and even to save something for his gun (De Maupassant 39). Besides that, the two had a maid and had gone to school. Madame Loisel did not bother about these great qualities in her home.

When she presents dinner to her husband, he seems delighted by the Scotch broth (soup- tureen). However, all Mathilde can think about are the delicate meals, marvelous dishes and the asparagus chicken. She sought after luxurious items such as jewels and fancy clothes, yet they could not afford such items.

Madame Loisel coveted her former schoolmate’s lifestyle, and even avoided visiting her because of this. All she could notice inside her house was “the ugliness of the curtains and the worn out looks of the chairs” (De Maupassant 38).

Similarly, in the story of the prodigal son, the younger son did not appreciate the life that his father provided him. His father had plenty of servants and wealth, and when this young man was mature enough, he would have inherited the wealth.

However, his quest for materialism caused him to ask for the inheritance prematurely. Instead of appreciating the life that his father gave him, he started longing for the things that money can buy (Luke 15:13). If these two characters had looked at all the positive things that were working for them, they would have lived a fulfilled life, rather than one filled with despair and misery.

Mathilde’s relationship with her husband further highlights her obsession with superficial things (Seyler 22). When her husband asks her to go to the ball, she immediately acts unappreciatively. She manipulates her husband into using all the money that he had saved up for his trip. Mathilde did not care that this was a significant event in her husband’s life.

She also did not care that she was taking everything that he had. Furthermore, when her husband bought her the beautiful gown, Mathilde does not even say one word of appreciation; instead, she asked for more. Madame Loisel started fussing and frowning about the fact that she had no jewelry to accompany her dress. Her selfish materialism prevents her from treating her husband in a better way.

It also causes her to think that the world revolves around her. It is almost as if nothing can ever fulfill her longings because should would always find something else to fancy. Likewise, the prodigal son had a poor relationship with his friends and family members. Instead of helping his father out with the estate, and thus expanding it, he chose to take property away from his father.

The inheritance would have been quite useful if he took it for the right reasons. However, he wanted to use the inheritance to accomplish his selfish aims. He wanted to have a fantastic time and impress everyone. Never, at one moment, does he think about the effect of these actions have on his father. He did not appreciate what his father did for him because he would have behaved in a responsible way.

One realizes the fleeting nature of materialism as one reads ‘The Necklace’. This woman would never satisfy her desires no matter what. In one instance, she talks about how she would have loved “To be sought after and to be envied” (De Maupassant 38). In the party, she partially fulfills her wishes when she dances with passion and charms everyone in the room.

However, this condition is never sustainable; no single woman remains young forever. She wanted unrealistic things that could only last for a few hours. Her triumph after the party is superficial and vain. In fact, the author emphasizes this futility by making her excitement quite short-lived. This occurs when Madame Loisel realizes that she had lost her friend’s diamond necklace.

The same thing happened to the prodigal son. Materialism is always so futile because human resources can barely satisfy one’s desires. The young son went to squander his father’s property in a distant land (Luke 15: 14). He had an exciting experience for a short time before the money ran out. The prostitutes and the fake friends abandoned him when his resources dwindled.

This young man was alone in a strange land because he valued temporary things. He did not understand what real wealth was, and this made it quite difficult for him to find happiness. Essentially, the prodigal son illustrates to audiences what can happen to an individual when one holds on to superficial values.

It is crucial to understand why Mathilde was a materialist in the story. When the author wrote the novel, women had limited economic control. Society defined their value on the basis of uncontrollable things, such as beauty, elegance and charm (De Maupassant 38).

However, this does not imply that women could not counter these inequalities in their own way. Other women, in the same position, managed to live within their means. They coped with the limited resources and avoided excesses that they could not afford.

The other valuable thing about these women was that lived in wisdom. They also learnt from their mistakes; sadly, Mathilde was not one of them. She often fantasized about that fateful night when she was the star of the evening. Even after ten years of suffering, poverty and despair, she still thought that there was something valuable about the evening. This woman had learnt nothing from those ten years.

In the prodigal son, materialism probably emanates from the sense of entitlement that the young son developed in his childhood (Linemann & Anderson 55). Older siblings tend to be more responsible than younger ones because they understand what it at stake when they do not behave appropriately. However, young siblings tend to take things for granted because so many relations can take care of them.

The prodigal son’s older brother tended his father’s fields. He was wise enough to know that asking for his inheritance when his father was still alive would only result in poverty and desperation. He understood that one must earn one’s rewards.

The young son had not learnt these lessons yet; he thought that he had the right to own everything he wanted, and no one would deny him this. It was this misconception that brought him all his tragedies. If he had known what his older brother knew, then it is likely that he might have been less materialistic or superficial.

The story of the ‘The Necklace’ also illustrates the fruitlessness of materialism. In other words, it proves that fate will often catch up with people who focus all the energy and attention to these superficial things.

Madame Loisel thinks that by buying an expensive gown and wearing a diamond necklace, she will get a taste of the high- end life. Instead of satisfying this longing, the necklace only dooms Mathilde to a life of poverty and desperation. The necklace only satisfied her for a night but caused her immense suffering for ten years.

When her husband made promises to all sorts of money lenders, he knew that their lives would change from that point onward. In fact, even audiences can forebode the events that will follow later in Mathilde’s life. It is quite tragic when one realizes that Mathilde and her husband had wasted ten years of their life on a fake diamond. The narrative proves that only misery can emanate from an obsession with materialism.

The same thing occurred to the prodigal son; fate conspired against him. When his resources dwindled, a massive famine came upon the distant land that he had visited, and he could not find work anywhere. Furthermore, he lived so desperately that he envied the pigs in his employer’s barn. These assertions depict the fact that materialism has its consequences.

These two narratives serve as valuable lessons today; society still has many Madame Loisels or prodigal sons (Fowler & Aaron 15). In fact, one may argue that there is a small Mathilde in most Americans. People obsess about making money or chasing the American Dream, yet few of them even understand what the American dream truly means. The day of reckoning came in the 2007 economic depression that has persisted to date.

People created this scenario by focusing on fast money and living luxurious lifestyles that they did not earn. Just like the prodigal son, many individuals bought homes and luxuries. They enjoyed this for a while until the economy came tumbling down like a house of cards. One can also liken the problems in the recent recession to Madame Loisel’s situation.

She wanted to live a life that she did not deserve by borrowing things and manipulating her husband. Her experience changed when the same things she wanted, were the same things that trapped her. People who took shaky loans to finance the acquisition of houses did not enjoy their new-found status because the economy plunged.

In ‘The Necklace’, the author also illustrates that materialism and deceit often come hand in hand. Mathilde lied to herself and her friends, and this eventually created an unfulfilled life. When Mathilde realizes that she has lost her friend’s diamond necklace, she does not tell her friend about it. Instead, she chooses to replace it secretly by spending thirty six thousand francs on a real diamond necklace.

Everything goes downhill form there because Lady Loisel could not be honest about her predicament. Since she obsessed about appearing capable to her friend, she was willing to sacrifice anything in order to achieve this. Her suffering emanated from the deceit that accompanied her quest for superficial things.

Similarly, the prodigal son lived in his own version of deceit. He lied to his new-found friends and female companions that he was a wealthy man. This young man lied to himself by thinking that he could buy friends who would stick by him through thick and thin. However, that deceit led him to live an undesirable life because no one wanted to stick by him when they realized that he had nothing.

It should be noted that wanting luxurious things is not necessarily an unwelcome thing. When greed occurs at moderate levels, it can inspire and motivate people to improve themselves. However, when it becomes an obsession, then that is where the problem begins (Anderson 103). Mathilde is willing to do anything to look and feel glamorous. She jeopardizes her whole marriage and life owing to these desires.

The dress her husband bought for her would have been enough had it not been for such an intense longing. The prodigal son also took his obsessions with material things to the extreme by abandoning his family and friends for the high-class life. The two protagonists mirror what goes on in modern societies today.

When individuals become too obsessed with material things, then they might end up committing crimes and shortchanging their values in order to achieve this.


The Necklace and the Prodigal son illustrate how destructive materialism can be. First, Madame Loisel fails to appreciate the life that she already possesses. This means that she created her own misery. Similarly, the prodigal son did not value the extraordinary life that his father provided him because of his obsession with luxurious things.

Materialism ruined the protagonists’ relationships with others. It reduced Mathilde’s relationship with her husband to one of manipulation and dissatisfaction. The same thing happened to the relationship between the prodigal son and his father.

Materialism also caused both characters to live in deceit; it also led to massive harm and misery. Mathilde and the prodigal son still exist today as witnessed through the 2007 economic crash. People obsessed about acquiring material things without working for them, and this led to their demise.

Works Cited

Anderson, Daniel. Writing about literature in the media age. NY: Pearson, 2005. Print.

De Maupassant, Guy. The necklace and other short stories. NY: Dover publications, 1992. Print.

Fowler, Ramsey & Aaron, Jane. Little, Brown Handbook. NY: Longman, 2011. Print.

Linemann, Erika & Anderson, Daniel. A rhetoric of writing teachers. Oxford: OUP, 2001. Print.

New International Version Bible. [Colorado Springs]: Biblica, 2011. Web.

Seyler, Dorothy. Introduction to Literature: reading, analyzing and writing. NY: Prentice Hall, 1990. Print.

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