The name of the story refers to the necklace that initiates the change of the protagonist’s identity. The primary meaning of The Necklace is that abandoning the pursuit of material wealth can reveal a person’s true identity.
The Necklace is one of the most famous works by Guy de Maupassant. He was a French short story writer and supporter of naturalism in fiction. The literary school of naturalism emphasizes the accidental causes of events, which determine human happiness or suffering. Social or economic pressures and the environment have a great impact on characters and build an ardent narrative. The story first appeared in the French newspaper Le Gaulois in 1884, and its author received public attention and praise. The narrative demonstrated that moral or immoral behavior was the product of human instincts and knowledge rather than fate.
The protagonist of The Necklace is Mathilde Loisel. She is a woman from a poor family whose husband is a low-rank official in the Ministry of Education. Despite her current social status, the woman has hard-driving ambitions of becoming an affluent member of high society. Madame Loisel prioritizes materialistic wealth over personal virtues and despises her modest surroundings and poorly-dressed neighbors. At first, Mathilde is selfish, indulgent, and indifferent to the feeling or problems of others.
The protagonist does not realize her faults until one particular event changes the course of the story. This signifies the beginning of the change of Mathilde’s personality. The invitation to the party organized by the Minister is the starting point. Madame Forestier, an old friend of the protagonist, agrees to lend her a luxurious piece of jewelry. The expensive necklace creates an illusion of confidence, passion, and success. Mathilde enjoys herself at the formal event, mindlessly dancing and socializing with the wealthy guests.
Her happiness did not last long as the treasure disappeared at the party. In a desperate attempt to find a solution, the protagonist decides to buy a new necklace. Madame Loisel asks her husband to use the inheritance he received after his father’s death. She tells him they would borrow the rest of the money. The expensive purchase leads to debt. This places the family in a difficult financial situation.
Mathilde has to face the changes and adapt to her poor living conditions and harsh environment. Ten years of debt greatly affected the lifestyle of the character. She learns how to be a good housewife, able to cook well and take care of the house. Her newfound role and social status helped her become a humble and modest person. The unfortunate event became a powerful life lesson for the woman.
During the final scene, the main character encounters Madame Forestier. She cries while telling the story of the lost necklace and blames her friend for the outcome. Madame Forestier confesses that the expensive-looking necklace was a fake. This is when Loisel realizes that her pursuit of treasures and luxury was an illusion. The meaning of the story is that material things and luxury cannot ensure happiness. However, a simple and modest life might uncover one’s positive traits.