The Necklace


Guy de Maupassant

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Themes and Colors
Reality and Illusion Theme Icon
Women and Beauty Theme Icon
Ambition, Greed, and Material Possessions Theme Icon
Sacrifice, Suffering, and Martyrdom Theme Icon
Happiness Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Necklace, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Reality and Illusion

In “The Necklace,” Guy de Maupassant demonstrates that appearances—especially the appearance of wealth—are often at odds with reality. Attempting to appear richer than she truly is, Mathilde Loisel borrows a diamond necklace from her friend Jeanne Forestier and then loses it at a ball. She and her husband buy an expensive replacement on credit, return the replacement to the friend as though it’s the original, and then live ten years in poverty to repay their…

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Women and Beauty

At the beginning of “The Necklace,” Guy de Maupassant writes that for women, “their beauty, their grace, and their charm serve them in lieu of birth and family background” and that “Their native finesse, their instinct for elegance, their versatile minds are their sole hierarchy, making shopgirls the equals of the grandest ladies.” His implication is that a woman’s beauty and poise can offer her upward social mobility. While Maupassant presents this as being the…

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Ambition, Greed, and Material Possessions

“The Necklace” is, at its heart, a story about Mathilde’s social ambition, which takes the form of a desire to acquire luxurious objects that she cannot afford. Through her ruin, Maupassant warns against the dangers of greed and criticizes those who ascribe too much value to wealth and material possessions.

Mathilde invests objects like the diamond necklace she borrows from Mme. Forestier with enormous significance, and her happiness is heavily dependent on her possession…

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Sacrifice, Suffering, and Martyrdom

In the final section of “The Necklace,” Mathilde and her husband suffer for a decade as they struggle to pay back their enormous debt from the loss of the necklace. This suffering, combined with the fact that the Loisels live on “rue des Martyrs,” suggests that Maupassant wants readers to see Mathilde and her husband both as martyrs, albeit martyrs of different sorts.

Mathilde is a martyr for a cause: her desire for symbols…

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In “The Necklace,” Guy de Maupassant demonstrates the importance of knowing how to achieve happiness in a meaningful and lasting way. At the beginning of the story, Mathilde and her husband live a modest life, but with enough money to live comfortably. However, Mathilde is perpetually discontented, unable to be happy without the clothes and jewels of a wealthy woman. Although Mathilde achieves a fleeting moment of happiness during the party, the next ten years…

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