The Necklace

by

Guy de Maupassant

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Mathilde Loisel Character Analysis

Mathilde Loisel is the daughter of a middle-class family and is married to M. Loisel. A remarkably beautiful woman, Mathilde is perpetually dissatisfied with her lot in life, constantly dreaming of the glamour and riches to which she feels her beauty entitles her. Mathilde finally has a chance to live her dreams when she and her husband receive an invitation to a party from the Minister of Education, and she borrows a diamond necklace from her friend Jeanne Forestier in order to look her best at the party. Mathilde is a huge success at the ball but disaster strikes when she loses the necklace during the carriage ride home. She and her husband spend the next ten years struggling to pay for an expensive replacement, and Mathilde’s beauty fades as she experiences the hardships of poverty. When she runs into Mme. Forestier on the Champs Elysée, Mathilde is proud to tell her that the debt has finally been paid off, only to discover that the necklace she replaced was made of paste. Mathilde’s primary character traits are her beauty, her vanity, and her social ambition, all of which play their part in leading her to her ruin.

Mathilde Loisel Quotes in The Necklace

The The Necklace quotes below are all either spoken by Mathilde Loisel or refer to Mathilde Loisel. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Reality and Illusion Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Random House edition of The Necklace published in 2003.
The Necklace Quotes

Unable to adorn herself, she remained simple, but as miserable as if she’d come down in the world. For women have no caste or breed; their beauty, their grace, and their charm serve them in lieu of birth and family background. Their native finesse, their instinct for elegance, their versatile minds are their sole hierarchy, making shopgirls the equals of the grandest ladies.

Related Characters: Mathilde Loisel
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:

She suffered endlessly, feeling that she was meant for all delicacies and all luxuries. She suffered from the poverty of her apartment, the dinginess of the walls, the shabbiness of the chairs, the ugliness of the fabrics. All these things, which wouldn’t have even been noticed by any other woman of her station, tortured her and infuriated her. The sight of the Breton girl who did her humble housework aroused woeful regrets in her and desperate dreams.

Related Characters: Mathilde Loisel
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:

Whenever she sat down for supper at the circular table covered with the same tablecloth for three days, she faced her husband, who, removing the lid from the tureen, ecstatically declared: “Ah! A good stew! I don’t know of anything better!”

But she fantasized about elegant dinners, about shiny silverware, about tapestries filling the walls with ancient figures and exotic birds in the midst of a magic forest; she fantasized about exquisite courses served in wondrous vessels, about gallantries whispered and listened to with sphinxlike smiles, while the diners consumed the rosy flesh of a trout or the wings of a grouse.

Related Characters: Mathilde Loisel, M. Loisel
Page Number: 4
Explanation and Analysis:

The night of the ball was approaching, and Madame Loisel appeared sad, worried, anxious. Still, her gown was ready.

One evening, her husband said to her: “Listen, what’s wrong? You’ve been acting funny for three days now.”

And she replied: “I’m annoyed that I don’t have any jewelry—not a single gem, nothing to put on. I’ll look downright poverty-stricken. I’d almost rather not go to the ball.”

Related Characters: Mathilde Loisel (speaker), M. Loisel (speaker)
Page Number: 6
Explanation and Analysis:

Madame Loisel looked first at some bracelets, then at a pearl necklace, then at a marvelously crafted Venetian cross made up of gold and precious stones. She tried the pieces on before the mirror, wavering, unsure whether to keep them or leave them. She kept asking: “Don’t you have anything else?”

“Of course. Keep searching. I can’t tell what you’ll like.”

All at once, in a black satin box, Madame Loisel unearthed a superb diamond necklace, and her heart began pounding with unrestrained desire. Her hands trembled when she picked up the necklace. She placed it on her throat, against her high-necked dress, and remained ecstatic in front of her reflection.

Related Characters: Mathilde Loisel, Jeanne Forestier
Related Symbols: The Necklace, The Mirror
Page Number: 6-7
Explanation and Analysis:

Monsieur Loisel, bringing the wraps for their exit, tossed them over her shoulders: they were the modest garments of ordinary life, their poverty clashing with the elegance of the ball gown. She sensed the discord and wanted to flee, to avoid being noticed by the other women, who were bundling up in expensive furs.

Related Characters: Mathilde Loisel, M. Loisel
Page Number: 7
Explanation and Analysis:

[The carriage] brought them to their front door on Rue des Martyrs, and they sadly trudged up to their apartment. It was all over for her. And as for him, he knew he had to be at the Ministry by ten a.m.

Related Characters: Mathilde Loisel, M. Loisel
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:

Madame Loisel now knew the horrible life of necessity….She performed the gross household tasks, the odious kitchen chores. She washed the dishes, wearing down her rosy nails on greasy pots and on the bottoms of pans. She washed the dirty linen, the shirts and the dishcloths, and let them dry on a line. She lugged the garbage down to the street every morning and hauled up the water, stopping at every landing to catch her breath. And dressed like a pauper, she went to the produce store, the grocer, the butcher, her basket on her arm, haggling, insulted, defending her miserable cash sou by sou.

Related Characters: Mathilde Loisel
Page Number: 10
Explanation and Analysis:

Madame Loisel looked old now. She had become the strong, and hard, and crude woman of poor households. Her hair ill kempt, her skirts awry, and her hands red, she spoke loudly and she washed the floors with big buckets of water. But sometimes, when her husband was at the office, she would sit down at the window and daydream about that long-ago ball, where she had been so beautiful and celebrated.

Related Characters: Mathilde Loisel
Page Number: 10
Explanation and Analysis:

“You say you bought a diamond necklace to replace mine?”

“Yes. You didn’t catch on, did you? They were fairly alike.”

And she smiled with proud and naïve joy.

Madame Forestier, deeply moved, took hold of Madame Loisel’s hands. “Oh, my poor Mathilde! My necklace was paste. It was worth at most five hundred francs!”

Related Characters: Mathilde Loisel (speaker), Jeanne Forestier (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Necklace
Page Number: 12
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Necklace PDF

Mathilde Loisel Character Timeline in The Necklace

The timeline below shows where the character Mathilde Loisel appears in The Necklace. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Necklace
Women and Beauty Theme Icon
Ambition, Greed, and Material Possessions Theme Icon
Mathilde Loisel is a pretty and charming woman who was born, “as if through some blunder... (full context)
Women and Beauty Theme Icon
Ambition, Greed, and Material Possessions Theme Icon
Happiness Theme Icon
Though Mathilde has always been middle-class, she grieves as though she is actually a woman who has... (full context)
Reality and Illusion Theme Icon
Women and Beauty Theme Icon
Ambition, Greed, and Material Possessions Theme Icon
Happiness Theme Icon
Mathilde is therefore constantly unhappy because instead of the “delicacies” and “luxuries” for which she believes... (full context)
Reality and Illusion Theme Icon
Ambition, Greed, and Material Possessions Theme Icon
Happiness Theme Icon
...content, declaring over dinner, “Ah! A good stew! I don’t know of anything better!” Meanwhile, Mathilde dreams of fashionable dinner parties and “exquisite courses served in wondrous vessels.” (full context)
Happiness Theme Icon
...Education. Despite the fact that he “went to endless trouble” getting such a sought-after invitation, Mathilde initially rejects the offer to attend, and is close to tears when she tells him... (full context)
Women and Beauty Theme Icon
Ambition, Greed, and Material Possessions Theme Icon
Seeing how unhappy Mathilde is, her husband asks what it would cost to buy her an outfit. Mathilde contemplates... (full context)
Ambition, Greed, and Material Possessions Theme Icon
Sacrifice, Suffering, and Martyrdom Theme Icon
Happiness Theme Icon
Turning briefly pale, M. Loisel agrees to give Mathilde the money, even though he had been saving 400 francs to buy a new rifle... (full context)
Reality and Illusion Theme Icon
Ambition, Greed, and Material Possessions Theme Icon
Happiness Theme Icon
On the day of the party, Mathilde’s new dress is ready but she is still unhappy. When her husband asks her why,... (full context)
Reality and Illusion Theme Icon
Women and Beauty Theme Icon
Ambition, Greed, and Material Possessions Theme Icon
Happiness Theme Icon
At her husband’s suggestion, Mathilde decides to pay her wealthy friend Mme. Forestier a visit in order to borrow some... (full context)
Reality and Illusion Theme Icon
Women and Beauty Theme Icon
Happiness Theme Icon
At the party, Mathilde is a huge success. She is “lovelier than any other woman” and is noticed by... (full context)
Reality and Illusion Theme Icon
Ambition, Greed, and Material Possessions Theme Icon
Happiness Theme Icon
As they are leaving the party, M. Loisel covers Mathilde with the wraps that he had brought from home, “modest garments of ordinary life, their... (full context)
Happiness Theme Icon
Unable to find a carriage, Mathilde and her husband walk towards the Seine, “desperate and shivering.” They eventually find a carriage... (full context)
Sacrifice, Suffering, and Martyrdom Theme Icon
Happiness Theme Icon
The carriage drops them off at their apartment on the “rue des Martyrs.” Mathilde realizes that “it is all over,” meaning that her night of happiness and social recognition... (full context)
Reality and Illusion Theme Icon
Women and Beauty Theme Icon
Stopping to admire herself one last time in the mirror, Mathilde suddenly realizes that the necklace is gone. She and her husband search everywhere for the... (full context)
Ambition, Greed, and Material Possessions Theme Icon
After buying the replacement, Mathilde returns the necklace to her friend. Mme. Forestier doesn’t even open the box and so... (full context)
Ambition, Greed, and Material Possessions Theme Icon
Sacrifice, Suffering, and Martyrdom Theme Icon
Happiness Theme Icon
The following years are difficult for both Mathilde and her husband as they are forced to “experience the horrible life of necessity.” After... (full context)
Reality and Illusion Theme Icon
Women and Beauty Theme Icon
Sacrifice, Suffering, and Martyrdom Theme Icon
Happiness Theme Icon
...years, the terrible debt is finally repaid. This period of hardship takes its toll on Mathilde, who loses her once-remarkable beauty. She appears like an old woman now, but consoles herself... (full context)
Reality and Illusion Theme Icon
Women and Beauty Theme Icon
One day while taking a walk on the Champs Elysées, Mathilde sees Mme. Forestier, who is still young-looking and beautiful. Mme. Forestier barely recognizes her old... (full context)
Reality and Illusion Theme Icon
Ambition, Greed, and Material Possessions Theme Icon
Sacrifice, Suffering, and Martyrdom Theme Icon
Now that the debt has been settled, Mathilde decides to tell Mme. Forestier the whole story, proud that she had been able to... (full context)