"The Diamond Necklace" Analysis
"The Diamond Necklace" by Henri Rene Albert Guy de Maupassant was firstly printed in the Parisian Newspaper in 1884. The story became popular very fast and later became a part of his short-story collection "Tales of Day and Night". In his story "The Diamond Necklace", the author describes the problem of many women in past and even present days. He believed that his story had to reflect the reality as much as possible.
The plot of the story takes place in France in the late nineteenth century, when person's social status was firmly established at birth. There were three classes of the society: poor class, which included uneducated poor people, middle class, which consisted of the educated people like clerks and doctors, and upper class of aristocrats and businessmen.
The main character of the story, Mathilde Loisel, was born into the clerk's family. She is a young and beautiful, but middle-class woman, who had no chance in her life to marry a rich man with a status. So, she got married to a clerk from the Ministry of Education, who could only offer her his heart and a modest life style.
Guy de Maupassant very realistically shows the unhappiness of the young woman. "Mathilde suffered ceaselessly, feeling herself born to enjoy all delicacies and all luxuries. She was distressed at the poverty of her dwelling, at the bareness of the walls, at the shabby chairs, the ugliness of the curtains. All those things, of which another woman of her rank would never even have been conscious, tortured her and made her angry" (Maupassant, 1884/1992). Her husband did the best he could to please her, but no matter how hard he tried, she remained unhappy. Her passionate desire for luxury and status made her not notice and not appreciate the things that she had. The author does not describe her as a mean or heartless woman, but as a "dreaming child". She lived in her "dream world" believing that life made a mistake by putting her in a position where she was. "She had no gowns, no jewels, nothing. And she loved nothing but that. She felt made for that. She would have liked so much to please, to be envied, to be charming, to be sought after" (Maupassant, 1884/1992). Her desire for wealth is quite understandable. In those days one of the way women used to demonstrate a class they belong to, was though their dresses and accessories. A low-class woman would make her dress by herself from a cheap material or sometimes remake her old dress according to the new fashion. A middle-class woman could buy some more expensive material and make a dress herself or get it done by a dressmaker. A woman of a high-class society would wear one-of-a-kind clothes that were made out of the very expensive fabric. That was probably hard for a woman like Mathilde to feel rejected from the higher society despite her inner and outer qualities only because she could not afford what other women could. She probably felt herself invisible next to those rich women and men.
One evening Mathilde's husband came home from his work with an invitation to a party hosted by the Ministry of Education in his hands. He was so proud of himself that he could manage to get it, and he was sure his wife would be happy to attend such an event. But instead of a smile on her face he saw anger and tears. He felt all confused and disappointed by her reaction. She told him through her tears that she had nothing to wear for this event and suggested to give this invitation to one of his friends, whose wives had better clothes. He asked her how much a gown could possible cost, and she told him that four hundred francs should have been enough. He was a bit shocked, but he wanted to see his wife happy above all.
Monsieur Loisel wanted to buy a gun for having fun with his friends by shooting some larks on the plain of Nanterre. He managed to save some money for this purpose, but after seeing tears in his wife's eyes he decided to give up his dream without any hesitation and told her that she could have the money.
The day when the event was on Mathilde Loisel started acting strangely. Mr. Loisel asked her what her problem was and she told him that she did not have any jewels to wear with her dress. He came up with a plan and suggested her to borrow something from her friend Madame Forestier. She agreed. She went and borrowed a diamond necklace from her friend. "Suddenly she discovered, in a black satin box, a superb diamond necklace, and her heart throbbed with an immoderate desire. Her hands trembled as she took it. She fastened it round her throat, outside her high-necked waist, and was lost in ecstasy at her reflection in the mirror" (Maupassant, 1884/1992). The author clearly shows here how obsessed Mathilde was with material things.
At the party Mathilde was the most beautiful woman. Everybody noticed her and gave her some attention. She felt like she finally got to the place where she belongs to. "She danced with rapture, with passion, intoxicated by pleasure, forgetting all in the triumph of her beauty, in the glory of her success, in a sort of cloud of happiness comprised of all this homage, admiration, these awakened desires and of that sense of triumph which is so sweet to woman's heart" (Maupassant, 1884/1992). In this part of the story Guy de Maupassant shows that the most important thing in Mathilde's life was making impression on other people. While she was dancing and having fun her husband was dozing in a deserted room. He demonstrated his love and devotion.
The party finished only at four o'clock in the morning. It was time for her to return from the fairy night back into reality. Her husband cloaked her shoulders and told her to wait for him inside, while he was catching a cab, but she was too embarrassed with the poorness of her wrap and decided to follow him outside. Once again her husband demonstrated his love and care, but she did not care much about it. She was only concerned about the false impression of her wealth she could make upon other people.
When they finally got home she discovered that the necklace was no longer around her neck. Her husband in the panic went out to look for it and came back only few hours later without any results. He suggested to Mathilde to go to her friend and tell her that the clasp of the necklace was broken and it is getting fixed.
They tried to find the necklace for a week with no result. After a week, they made a decision to replace it with a new one that looks exactly the same. They started going from one jeweler to another and eventually they found the similar necklace. The price was 40,000 francs. Even though the jeweler agreed to make them discount and sell it for 36,000 francs the price still remained astronomically high for Mr. and Mrs. Loisel.
They had to scrape up money from everywhere they could, make debts and mortgage, and literally do everything they could. After three days, they finally bought the necklace. Mathilde returned the necklace to her friend. Madame Forestier complained that it took her so long to return it and without even opening the case put it away. Mathilde felt relieved.
It took ten years of poverty and suffering for Mr. and Mrs. Loisel to pay back all their debts. They even had to move to a smaller apartment and dismiss their maid. Mr. Loisel had to take three jobs and Mrs. Loisel had to find out what the hard work around the house meant.
These ten years of miserable existence changed Mathilde's whole appearance. "Madame Loisel looked old now. She had become the woman of impoverished households—strong and hard and rough. With frowsy hair, skirts askew and red hands, she talked loud while washing the floor with great swishes of water" (Maupassant, 1884/1992).
One day Mathilde went out for a walk and saw her friend Madame Forestier. She greeted her, but Madame Forestier could not even recognize her until she said her name. After a short chat Mathilde confessed to Madame Forestier that she lost her diamond necklace and had a miserable life since then and till now. Madame Forestier was very shocked and said that the diamonds in that necklace were not real, and the whole necklace cost no more than five hundred francs.
Guy de Maupassant showed in this story how some people can waste their lives, energy, and effort on something that was not worth it. He used the necklace as a symbol of power of perception. It is beautiful but worthless. It represents separation between illusion and reality. Mathilde wants to feel rich at least for one night, and she wants to make this impression upon other people. The thought of having the real diamonds on her neck, even though they are not hers, makes her feel more worthy in her own eyes. On the other hand, her friend Madame Forestier also, probably, wants to look wealthier than she is, and that is why she does not tell Mathilde that diamonds are false.
The irony of the story is that Mathilde complained a lot about her life until she lost it all over something that was not worth it at all. It is also quite ironic that in Mathilde's life the most important thing was her appearance, and she lost it because of those ten years of suffering caused by paying for something worthless.
Mathilde overestimated the value of her beauty and considered it was wasted. That is why she always thought she deserved much more than she had. She could never be happy and appreciate anything she had, including her husband, who loved her even though he could not always understand her. Perhaps, after losing everything she had, she realized that she did not have a bad life and maybe she learnt her lesson.
"How I Met My Husband" Analysis
"How I Met My Husband" is the third story written by Alice Munro that qualified as a masterpiece. In this story, the author tells the reader about fifteen-years-old farm girl by the name Edie. Her parents made the effort to send her to high school. She did not do well at school and after a year Edie was quite happy that her father said it was enough of studying.
After school, the girl started working as a maid for Dr. and Mrs. Peebles. She was not scared of hard work and even enjoyed working for that family. Every time when she came home from work she was telling everybody the stories about how easy her job was and made everybody laugh. "When I went home I would describe to them the work I had to do, and it made everybody laugh. Mrs. Peebles had an automatic washer and dryer, the first I ever saw. Then there was practically no baking. Mrs. Peebles said she couldn't make pie crust, the most amazing thing I ever heard a woman admit. I could, of course, and I could make light biscuits and a white cake and a dark cake, but they didn't want it, she said they watched their figures" (Munro, 1974). She is quite wit and "down to Earth" girl for her age, but just like many girls of her age she was also curious and naive.
One day a little plane landed in old fairgrounds that were across the road from the Peebles's house. Landing of a plane was a big event for the whole place because the pilot, whose name was Chris, took people for a ride for dollar.
The next day after plane had landed Mrs. Peebles took her two children to the town for a haircut and Edie was left at home alone. After she cleaned the kitchen spotless she went to the Mrs. Peebles's bedroom out of curiosity. She looked around and then she decided to look into her closet. She noticed nice long dress, and she could not resist the temptation of trying it on. She also put on some makeup and pinned up her hair.
After putting on a dress and makeup, Edie went to the kitchen to have a glass of ginger ale. While she was in the kitchen, Chris, the pilot of the plane, appeared at the door. He came to ask for permission to use their pump for water. He mistakenly thought that Edie was the lady of the house and made her lots of compliments. Even though Edie worried about someone seeing her in Mrs. Peebles gown, she was very flattered with all those compliments. The girl confessed that she was only a "hired girl" in the house, but even after that he did not treat her any different. Later that evening Edie ran over to Chris and asked him not to tell anybody about the dress. He promised and even had a cigarette with her.
Chris seemed to be a real man for naive Edie. He was an exotic, barnstorming pilot, who had been in the war and flew wherever his imagination could take him. He treated Edie as a real woman and even kissed her. Of course, Edie fell in love with the man. She could hardly speak in his presence.
The author describes another character, Alice Kelling, who was Chris's fiancée. She was a former army nurse, who chased Chris trying to make him marry her. He was not well mannered and she did not care much if she was hurtful to people. Of course, Edie became jealous of her, and they had an argument. When Chris saw his fiancée, he decided to leave the very next day. Before he left, Edie made a cake and took it to Chris. He was not in a good mood, but he was glad to see Edie again. He kissed her long and tender and promised her to write her a letter.
Edie was coming to the mailbox and waiting for a letter every day except Sunday for a long time until one day she realized that no letter was going to come. Every day while she was waiting she smiled and spoke to the young postman. She was very surprised when one day he asked her for a date. Eventually, they got married and lived happy ever after.
Even though, both these stories are very different, they have got something in common. Each story describes the life of a young, beautiful, but not rich woman. They both want to be happy, but the perception of happiness is completely different for each of them.
As any other girl Edie is looking for love and fulfillment in her life. She dreams about a boyfriend, who would kiss and hug her with passion. She admires herself in the mirror while she is naked in the bathroom. For her happiness means loving and being loved. She likes the house where she works; she admires such simple things as double sink, color of the bathroom, washing machine, and even mirrors. But unlike Mathilde, she does not get frustrated because she does not have these things at home. She is happy to be able to take a bath once a week and use some expensive soap. She can appreciate what she has got, although, she compares, just like Mathilde, her place with the house where she works.
She fell in love with a man, who was like a hero in her eyes, but he was not reliable. She could, like Mathilde, live in a "dream world" and wait if not for Chris then for somebody like him, but she has chosen a simple guy, who could make her happy. After she got married, she probably did not become too rich, but she obviously had enough. That is why she was happy.
Mathilde is the other type of person. She is self-centered young woman, who, actually, loves nobody but herself. She cannot notice how much her husband loves her and what he does to make her happy. She feels herself as a victim of unfair life, even though she lives in the much better conditions than Edie does. Mathilde lives in the world of illusions, refusing to see and to appreciate the reality.
Happiness does not depend on the things we have got; sometimes it does not even depend on the circumstances of life. Happiness is nothing but the mindset. It is clearly shown in these two stories.
Hooper, B. (2008). The Fiction of Alice Munro: An Appreciation. Greenwood Publish Group.
Korba, J. (2007). The Diamond Necklace. A Play Adaptation. Benchmark Education Company.
Maupassant, G. d. (1884). The Diamond Necklace. Creative Editions.
Munro, A. (1974). Something I've Been Meaning To Tell you. New York.
SparkNotes Editors. (2007). SparkNote on The Necklace. SparkNotes. Retrieved October 11, 2014.
Sutton, B. (2014). Comfortably ever after': romance and reality in Munro's 'How I Met My Husband'. The Free Library. Retrieved October 11, 2014.