The Necklace


Guy de Maupassant

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The Necklace: Style 1 key example

Explanation and Analysis:

The style of  “The Necklace” relies heavily on strong imagery to show the physical changes in Mathilde (which, in turn, signal emotional changes). As her life changes, the strongest imagery appears in descriptions of her workload and her physical body, as her beauty disappears under the stress of her circumstances:

Her hair ill kempt, her skirts awry, and her hands red, she spoke loudly and she washed the floor with big buckets of water.

Note the economy of the imagery here: it focuses on key details—like her red hands and her disheveled outfit—to depict the rugged disarray that Mathilde's life has taken on. Before losing the necklace, Mathilde was careful to keep her nails “rosy” and clean. Similarly, before the ball, she was exceptionally choosy about her dress, refusing to go if she could not find one suitable to the occasion. Now, though, everything has changed, and the story's descriptive but straightforward style helps convey in plain but evocative language just how far she has fallen.

Although the story is often concise and economical, the style is remarkably robust, as de Maupassant layers short clauses on top of each other to create a lush but still streamlined effect:

She danced, intoxicated, swept away, heady with pleasure, thinking of nothing, in the triumph of her beauty, in the glory of her conquest, in something like a cloud of happiness made of all that homage, all that admiration, all that awoken yearning, all that complete victory that is so dear to a woman’s heart.

Despite the simplicity of the prose, these clauses come together to create a rich onslaught of information. The repetition of words like "in" or "all" lends a sense of urgency and intensity to the writing, and this, in turn, helps convey the "intoxicated" happiness that Mathilde feels in this moment at the ball.