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

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