Monday 8 April 2024

The Necklace: Analysing Imagery & Other Literary Devices


The Necklace was written by Guy de Maupassant in 1884 and published in the popular newspaper le Gaulois. The story's protagonist is a young woman, Mathilde, who is not very well off but has been invited to a ball and wants to look her best, look pretty, be adored and show that she has status in the world.  She borrows an expensive necklace, from a friend, Madame Forestier and her own husband has agreed to use their savings to buy her a new dress. The story unfolds, and she loses the necklace on the way home from the ball.  To replace the necklace is very expensive so the couple end up in debt and spend the next 10 years working and living poorly to pay this off. 

I am looking at this work, as it is a realist work, as is my own work, The Quietus.  My work is of its time as is Maupassant;s and there are parallels to be drawn by looking at the social status of the main protagonist, their environment and how imagery has been used in each work to explore and reveal character, so this is how I will begin.

Realism originally was a reaction against Romanticism and began in the 19th century, in literary terms authors like Balzac, Simenon and Zola all wanted to show real life as it was in a true, unfiltered and often gritty world where there is no fairy tale ending.  'In simple words, they argued that literature should depict ordinary people in real-life situations. If literature didn’t represent real-life situations and characters then it should not be called true literature' (Amjad, n.d.).  Maupassant in The Necklace exemplifies this style of writing with a simple story that in many ways is the Cinderella story as the woman wants to go to the ball and be whisked away by a handsome prince, instead, she is stuck with an undistinguished husband 'she let herself be married to a little clerk of the Ministry of Public Instruction.' (Maupassant:Bibliofile, 2019) and she ends up in more destitution at the end than when the story began.

In my own story, The Quietus, I have used imagery, as I have put my main character in a modern council office ‘The offices were dilapidated and in some places there were even holes in the ceiling, and buckets dotted about as water seeped from the roof every time it rained’ (The Quietus: P3) 

I also have described the home of my main character Amande; ‘Finally, when she felt human again she threw herself onto her sofa, old and tatty now, but once a lovely thing, one of the first items she ever bought after leaving home, deep red with patchwork patterns, mostly very comfortable’ (The Quietus:P8) 

In The Necklace, Mathilde’s take on her home; ‘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:Bibliofile, 2019) 

My modern Amande clearly loves the comfort of her rather tatty sofa as it makes her happy.  But Mathilde is embarrassed by her environment considering it not good enough and making her very angry. Amande also doesn't want things as such and doesn't seem in any hurry to find a husband, there is a sureity and safety in her own self.  Whereas Mathilde wanted a husband of higher status, she wants jewles and beautiful furnishings; 'She thought of silent antechambers hung with Oriental tapestry, illumined by tall bronze candelabra, and of two great footmen in knee breeches who sleep in the big armchairs, made drowsy by the oppressive heat of the stove.' (Maupassant:Bibliofile, 2019) Here the use of metaphor reveals a break from reality, an unreal fantasy that Maupassant allows the character to dream of these things as these fantasies of a better life will be the character's downfall. 

In comparing the two works it is clear how the imagery of the women’s homes also says something not just about place, but of character.  The social status of Amande is fairly lowly middle management in a council job however Amande is not unhappy with her lot and clearly is quite happy with her social status, the contrast in my own story is when she is made to go to the terrible Froggett Estate which is filled with inner city crime, dilapidation and general despair of poverty when she returns home from visiting the Estate she had; 'immediately thrown off all her clothes, considered burning them as they smelt so disgusting and then had the longest shower of her life' (The Quietus: P8).

In The Necklace the use of the necklace as a symbol of all the things that Mathilde desires is very well executed in this short story; 'Mathilde will get a taste of the affluent life only while wearing the necklace' (DELONGA, 2024) However the necklace once lost will become the source of despair and impoverishment and sets up the irony at the end of the story.  In my own work, I have not used symbolism throughout however the repeated sighting of the little person in the three chapters is a symbol of something, as yet unknown, in my own story.  

Maupassant also uses alliteration to emphasise the beauty of the things that Mathilde desires, alliteration makes these things sound poetic and beautiful to the ear, not just a picture in her mind, she imagines; 'dainty dinners, of shining silverware...strange birds flying in the midst of a fairy forest; and she thought of delicious dishes' (Maupassant:Bibliofile, 2019).  In my own story I have used alliteration in places such as when Mr French arrives and there is 'a muddled and messy introduction' (The Quietus: P11) and to describe Amande clothes she; 'pulled off her black bobbled coat that had seen better days' (The Quietus:P4) Maupassant uses alliteration for fantasy and beauty and I have used it when things had gone slightly wrong or something is rather shabby so as an opposing device to Maupassant.  I believe in my own story the shabby is exulted somewhat by this device, a heightened sense of shabbiness!.

Looking at Maupassant and comparing the realism from different times it exposes how social status has changed and perhaps what we desire has changed somewhat.  There are parts of society that perhaps do still think that expensive things will make life and social status better however in my own story social status is not a key element but has been highlighted through the use of the Froggett Estate to exemplify modern poverty. 

My own story was just a beginning and it is still a story I do feel that I must continue, The Necklace has been concisely and beautifully written to be a short story that originally appeared in a newspaper, it is almost a moral story about coveting things and showing that much wealth is an illusion. 


Amjad, I. (n.d.). Realistic Elements in Guy de Maupassant’s Story ‘A Piece of String’ | PDF. [online] Scribd. Available at: [Accessed 8 Apr. 2024].

Bibliofile, T. (2019). The Necklace by Guy de Maupassant. [online] The Bibliofile. Available at: [Accessed 8 Apr. 2024].

DELONGA, A. (2024). In ‘The Necklace,’ what does the necklace symbolize? - [online] eNotes. Available at: [Accessed 8 Apr. 2024].

Van-de-Velde, Z. (2024) The Quietus, Blurb Publishing, The Netherlands

Thursday 4 April 2024

Diane Arbus: Photographer and Image

 Diane Arbus (1923-1971) was a controversial photographer who began working as a photographer after World War II in fashion photography but she soon started to suffer from depression and walked out.  Arbus was trained first by her husband Allan Arbus but then she was tutored by Lisette Model and this friendship did last a lifetime.  Arbus always wanted to photograph something different and 'Model helped her identify and accept what subjects she wanted to photograph—what Doon Arbus later called “the forbidden.” Art critic Peter Bunnell has said that Arbus “learned from Model that in the isolation of the human figure one can mirror the essential aspects of society.”'(Mac Austin, 2010).  Here I will look at an image, from Arbus' 'Freaks' collection and consider Arbus' ideas and how they connected to wider society.

Diane Arbus's photograph of Eddie Carmel in “A Jewish giant at home with his parents, in the Bronx, N.Y., 1970,”

The image of Eddie Carmel was borne out of Arbus's friendship with the giant, this was established a long time before the image was taken and continued afterwards.  The image here looks at first like a snapshot one might have taken in any living room.  The room itself including the ceiling is in the frame due to the sheer size of the subject.  The parents stand with their son, the giant, they seem to stand awkwardly between the living room furniture.  We are viewing just as the photographer as if we have had to stand back just to understand the scale involved in the image.  The photographer clearly used a flash as otherwise this black and white film image would have been far to dark in this interior environment.  Some have suggested it has a 'Weegeesque' feel about it; 'The atmosphere is added to by the Weegeesque stark flashlight, giving the picture the feel of a “found specimen of urban horror”, as Hevey observes “Arbus, as an ex-fashion photographer, knew what she was doing in using technical disharmony as an underwriting of the narrative disharmony“' (Whetham, 2016) There is technical disharmony here, it is an awkward shot the parents gaze up and their son the giant gazes down upon them.  They do not look at the camera, this is their world we are now in and it is a wonder, as one ponders what a mother must think, that she bore this son, an almost mythical human being. Arbus could have chosen to photograph this in many ways but she chose this frame, in the cramped environment of the family home and to include the parents.  

In a way, this was a masterstroke (in photographic terms) as the intimate family relationship is physically contained and claustrophobic in this miniature house but it is clear it must have been difficult due to scale for the parents to have an intimate relationship as Eddie is far above and far away from them as he is a 'freak' of nature and his parents are just 'normal' how could they have understood.  As a voyeur of this image, we are voyeurs, looking at something that looks so private. Arbus' own argument was;  “there are things nobody would see if I didn’t photograph them”, but, it is really her way of seeing them – the tension that exists in her images between the empathetic and the exploitative – that draws us in and, to a crucial degree, makes us complicit in her transgressive art.' (O’Hagan, 2016) This complicity in the image does make it complicated for the viewer as the image makes us uncomfortable but fascinated and really should we be staring?  When we tell our children when they point out differences when they are young before they know any of the rules of polite society, to 'not stare, as it is rude'

Now, when we look at these images from Arbus we might be inclined to think that she was deliberately trying to be controversial however I don't think this is the case.  I believe that Arbus felt compelled to take these images and, her own life was strange and complicated, there are many views about how she came across to other people and her own transgressive lifestyle, perhaps these people were her people. O'Hagan writes about Arbus;  'The deceptive art of photography also allowed her to create images that complied with her neuroses: about life, about childhood, about outsiderness, physical and psychological.' (O’Hagan, 2016) At the time of these images, these people were outsiders and treated as such, some were, abused, marginalised and attacked.  they went against society, as they spoiled the natural order. In the Zwirner exhibition quotes from opinion makers of the time were included, an example states; “Arbus’s work shows people who are pathetic, pitiable, as well as horrible, repulsive, but it does not arouse any compassionate feelings.”(Smee, 2022) This does show that times have changed and some argue that Arbus' images due to their notoriety helped to change society's opinions of the marginalised. 'Arbus appears less perverse than many of her detractors suggest, but more of a social commentator in the vein of Frank and Evans before her.' (Whetham, 2016).  There is also the suggestion that, as a woman, Arbus had strayed into male territory and this was another reason she was so pilloried for the images taken.  Perhaps if she had been a man they would have, at the time, been hailed as opening society's eyes to those who try to remain invisible for fear of society's wrath. 

There is so much more that could be said here on Arbus and so much has already been written.  As a photographer I always hope that I am compelled to take the image I take, it is not a choice but an urge that will not go away until it is done. Arbus' images are important and however uncomfortable they make me feel personally, they have an important place in photographic history and without Arbus we would never have seen these people and now with the lens of time, these people can be seen as important, as they agreed to this exposure, and they, as they stare back at us, can teach us so much.  


Lubow, A. (2014). The Woman and the Giant (No Fable). The New York Times. [online] 9 Apr. Available at: [Accessed 4 Apr. 2024].

Mac Austin, H. (2010). Diane  Arbus | Jewish Women’s Archive. [online] Available at: [Accessed 4 Apr. 2024].

O’Hagan, S. (2016). Diane Arbus: Portrait of a Photographer review – a disturbing study. [online] the Guardian. Available at: [Accessed 4 Apr. 2024].

Smee, S. (2022). Review | Diane Arbus was accused of exploiting ‘freaks.’ We misunderstood her art.. Washington Post. [online] 26 Sep. Available at: [Accessed 4 Apr. 2024].

Tusa, I.M. (2020). The PhotograpHER addiction diaries - Diane Arbus. [online] Street Hunters. Available at: [Accessed 4 Apr. 2024].

Whetham, C. (2016). Diane Arbus and her ‘freaks’. [online] Carl Whetham photography. Available at: [Accessed 4 Apr. 2024].

Welcome to Summer Term One!

 Welcome to the new term!  I am looking forward to creating new things and, in my case, I am not yet sure what that will be!  I am working in Art Portfolio and Applied Media Practice.  For Applied Media I am creating a video diary and I have already recorded and edited the video, please see below.

Over the 'break' I was reading a book called 'Failure' which is stories from modern artists and their failures when creating work.  failure is essential if we are going to learn and these documents of failure are good to read as it really shows how the artists think, all artists have a vision however the execution of that vision is fraught with challenges. 

Documents of Contemporary Art: Failure£20.00

Edited by Lisa Le Feuvre

Many artists live their lives and never become successful and often fame only comes after their death.  Picasso was one of the rare artists that became very successful in his own lifetime.  Artists like Vincent Van Gogh, Johannes Vermeer and so many others suffered terrible poverty and pain during their lifetime, but they believed that their art was worth the struggle. 

Johannes Vermeer actually had 15 children (or, should I say, his wife had 15 children!) 4 died during the birth. Vermeer managed an art dealer business inherited from his father, he made only 36 (known pictures in his lifetime but he could not sell these so he left his family in debt, with his wife petting for bankruptcy the year after his death in 1675. Interestingly, Vermeer used a lot of blue in his painting which was a very special and expensive blue pigment, ultramarine;' It was made of a bright blue mineral called lazurite from the semi-precious stone lapis lazuli, which came from Afghanistan. Ultramarine was very rare, so it was the most expensive pigment you could buy at that time. It was even more expensive than gold. How Vermeer could afford it is a mystery.'   (Mauritshuis, n.d.)

On the Tate website, you can see the work of Marlene Dumas and a film about her 'Rejects' series.  This is a series of works that uses portrait paintings that she has rejected from her other collections.  

I found these artworks interesting as the artists had one image on top of another to create these slightly strange-looking faces.  the faces themselves under the title 'Rejects' almost become more interesting because they have been rejected. Lucy Ella Rose write on her blog; 'Rejects challenges the idea of a perfect model and places the excluded or marginalised centre stage, reclaiming outcasts and representing the invisible.' (Rose, 2015) I personally don't think this is particularly true as one of the 'rejects' was Charlotte Rampling (famous actor) and this series wasn't about marginalised people but choices that an artist made regarding her work, to show the work that one once rejected is brave, in this case, the work has been brought together well and there is a clear curation of work and thought and this is more about the artist/author as a kind of God over the images. Dumas states; 'I really like this title rejects because conceptually, if you call something rejects, it is like a failure already, so you can’t really fail because you already acknowledge that you failed. I like that play on the word rejects. [Marlene Dumas:Rejects, 2015] The rejects were an experiment and experimented with, and this is all about the artist's methodology when presented with these past works.  Artists all work in a different way as Canau states in his paper on the creative process Marcel Duchamp was methodical about his research and drawings and notes on each of his works, his works were so extensively studied and researched that he tried to make it impossible for his work to fail and through these notes, anyone could construct his pieces. 'Marcel Duchamp is essentially associated with the conceptual approach, mainly with the readymade, and not with a rational and paradigmatic approach in terms of assimilation and mastering of technical processes at the genesis of the work of art' (Canau, 2022) 

Marlene Dumas, Rejects (1994-2014)

As artists, we should all embrace the idea that we are going to fail, probably quite catastrophically, before we might succeed.  If this happens in our lifetime we should consider ourselves privileged to see our art appreciated.


Listverse. (2023). Ten Renowned Artists Who Were Unappreciated in Life. [online] Available at: [Accessed 3 Apr. 2024].

Mauritshuis (n.d.).  Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675). [online] Available at: [Accessed 3 Apr. 2024].

National Gallery of Art (n.d.). Who Is Vermeer? [online] Available at: [Accessed 3 Apr. 2024].

Rose, L.E. (2015). Marlene Dumas: ‘The Image as Burden’ at the Tate Modern, London, Gallery 1. [online] Available at: [Accessed 4 Apr. 2024].

Canau, A. (2022). The mind in the creative process. [online] Researchgate. Available at: [Accessed 4 Apr. 2024].