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In any literay work, it is absolutely essential to have characters,
whether major or minor. It is also necessary to develop these characters
through out the story. Character development gives the reader insight to the
more important meanings or lessons of the story. These lessons are usually
brought out by the events that take place within the story. Looking at Guy De
Maupassant's piece “The Necklace”, we see a very clear development of the main
character Mathidle. In the story, we see a change in her attitude about life.
This change come about when she has to learn one of life's little lessons the
hard way. She and her husband are forced to live a life of hard work and
struggle because of her own selfish desires. Mathilde changes from a woman who
spends her time dreaming of all the riches and glory she doesn't have, to
realizing that she over looked all the riches she did have.
The story opens with the description of how miserable Mathilde is.
Maupassant describes her as “suffering constantly, feeling herself destined for
all delicacies and luxeries.” (Pg 4) She sits dreaming of silent rooms nicely
decorated and her own private room, scented with perfume to have intimate “tete-
a-tetes” with her closest friends. Then she is awakened, only to realize that
she is in her own grim apartment. In her eyes, she lives a tortured and unfair
life. Mathidle has a husband named Losiel. He is much the opposite of his wife.
He is completely content with his lifestyle. He seems to be a very passive
person, who doesn't let status or riches effect him. Of course, if he had the
chance to be rich he would, but he doesn't dwell on the fact that he is part of
the middle class. He seems ot be a hard worker and does his best to provide for
his wife. He demonstrates is simplicity the one night at dinner Losiel and
Mathilde sit down to eat. Mathidle is dreaming of fancy four course meals,
while he is ecstatic because they are eating boiled beef.
Losiel is aware that his wife has not yet adjusted to her status. One
night, he had come home from work very excited. He had worked extra hard to
get he and his wife invited to one of the biggest parties ever. Losiel thought
this would be please his wife, when in fact it only made her upset. Here was
Losiel trying to please his wife and she just started to cry. This just goes to
show how ungreatful she really is.
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When Losiel had inquired about why she was upset, she had said it was
because she had nothing to wear. She was hinting to her husband that she needed
a dress. Then Losiel, because he wanted his wife to be happy had willingly
given up his vacation money so his wife could have a dress to wear. Still, that
wasn't good enough for her. Mathilde wanted more.
Luckily, Mathilde had a friend in the upper class. She had gone to her
friend and had asked to borrow jewlery for the occasion. This just helped to
prove her need to have more. When she arrived at her friends house she had many
things to choose from. Mathilde had seen all kinds of things that delighted her
but one thing imparticular had caught her eye. “In a black satin box, a superb
diamond necklace, and her heart throbbed with desire for it. Her hands shook as
she picked it up. She fastened it around her neck, watched it gleam at her
throat and looked at herself ecstatically.” (Pg 6) She had gotten all she
wanted. Once again, Mathilde's selfish desires had been fulfilled.
After going to the ball and basically being the “life of the party”,
she returned home to her drab apartment, only to remember the events of the
evening where she was in the sporlight and people looked at her. It was at that
moment that she had noticed that the necklace was missing. She and her husband
had searched everywhere for it yet, the necklace was no where to be found. For
the next ten years Loisel and Mathilde worked their fingers to the bone to repay
Mathilde's friend for the necklace that Mathilde had carelessly lost. They had
to move to a different apartment, this worse than the last. They also had to
borrow money from the various people to pay some of the finance charges they had
aquired from owing loan sharks.
It was in this time, that Mathilde had began to change. Psysically, “
she had become the strong, hard , rude, woman of poor households. “ (pg 9) But
also there was a change on the inside , too . Sometimes she still sat and
thought about her moment of glory and then thought about what her life would
have been like if she would have never lost the necklace. She realized that her
selfishness and desire to be “on top” had caused her to expierence the major
down fall that she did. She also realized that she was at rock bottom now, her
and her husband both, and she had put them there.
Losiel in this time really didn't change. He just did what had to be
done in order to pay for his wife's mistake. I don't think he complained about
it either. He saw that she was working hard to correct her mistake and indeed
was learning from it. Once again, Losiel was demonstrating his passiveness.
Maupassant uses Mathilde as a round chacter. She is the one who changes or
evolves with the events of the story. She learns that “one should be content
with what one has” and “ it's ok to dream, but not to let your dreams keep
you from seeing reality. “ Losiel then, is a flat character. He remains the
same or is constant. With all the comotion in the story, Losiel manages to
keep the same character traits. His life is effected yet, he's still the same
person. Another example of a flat character is Mrs. Forriester. Even though
her necklace is lost, it really doesn't have an impact on her character. She
too, remains constant.
Mathilde dreams of unattainable wealth and comfort yet, fails to see
that her dream life ends up harming her real life. Maupassant does and exellent
job of showing the transformation of Mathilde's character from a person who is
selfish and ungreatful to a person who realizes that her mistakes and pays for
it the rest of her life. Even though the story is fiction, Maupassant has
made it believeable and lifelike. Someone reading this story could benefit
greatly from it. We all must deal with selfishness at some point in our lives.
Why not learn from other peoples mistakes , fiction or not.
De Maupassant, Guy. “The Necklace.” Literature : An Introduciton to Reading
and Writing , Edgar V. Roberts and Henry E. Jacobs. Upper Saddle River, NJ.
Prentice Hall, 1995. 3-10.