Symbolism is a powerful literary device employed by Guy de Maupassant in The Necklace. There are several symbolic objects, but the most important are the necklace, Madame Loisel’s wraps, and her dress.
Madame Loisel, the main character of the story, is a woman who is not satisfied with her social standing. She is married to a clerk who works in the ministry. The family lives in relative comfort and even has a servant. Nevertheless, Madame Loisel is still unhappy with “the poorness of her house.” She goes to her friend to borrow some jewelry to wear to a party. She sees a necklace and instantly becomes infatuated with it and the way it looks on her.
The necklace has a symbolic meaning of wealth, which is the constant object of desire of the main character. It reflects the social status she does not have. It represents everything Madame Loisel dreams about and wants to have in her life. When she first got to touch it, her hands “trembled”. This shows how much she wishes to be rich and own expensive possessions. When she loses the necklace, it symbolizes her inability to become wealthy and lead a life of luxury.
The necklace has other meanings, one of them being Madame Loisel’s beauty. It concerns only her appearance but not her character and personal qualities. The fake necklace reflects how shallow the main character is at the beginning of the story. After Madame Loisel loses the necklace, she begins to gradually lose her beauty as well. In the end, it makes her a better person.
The wraps which her husband bought for her to wear after the party symbolize the ordinary life of Madame Loisel. This is what she is trying to conceal from the others. The wraps are modest but quality garments that can provide a certain comfort level and protect from the cold. Similarly, Madame Loisel has a lifestyle that does not imply excess but is modest and pleasant. Yet, compared to other women at the party who wear furs, the wraps indicate the main character’s status.
Madame Loisel is afraid of what others may say about her. She fears that the wealthy audience will consider her poor and decides to take off the wraps. This symbolizes her desire not to let anyone see what her actual life is. She wants to make people believe that she is worth more. Her husband purchased the wraps and this also supports the idea that they symbolize the lifestyle he provides.
The dress, which Madame Loisel buys for attending the party, symbolizes her narcissism. It represents her preoccupation with appearances and the way she looks. This can be observed in the scene when she puts on the necklace and the dress. She looks in the mirror and becomes “lost in ecstasy at her reflection.” She bought the dress using the money her husband initially planned to spend on a gun. This shows that the dress represents Madame Loisel’s neglect of the needs of others and obsession with her vanity.