The necklace that Mathilde borrows from Jeanne Forestier represents the idea that appearances can be deceiving. The necklace looks like it is made of expensive diamonds, but it is in fact made of paste, costing at most 500 francs. The fact that Mathilde is unable to tell the difference between the two reveals her inability look beneath the surface to see the true value of things. From Mathilde’s perspective, the necklace is the physical embodiment of the class and social status she so desires, and the fact that she picks the most expensive-looking (but not necessarily the most valuable) item from Mme. Forestier’s jewel box points to her unrestrained greed and ambition. Likewise, the revelation that the necklace is a fake demonstrates that Mathilde’s ambition is woefully misguided in the sense that she puts too much stock in physical objects and their power to change her life. The necklace is also thematically linked to the dangers of female beauty, especially with regard to the ugliness that an attractive outward appearance can conceal.
The Necklace Quotes in The Necklace
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.
“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!”