The Development of Irony in
“The Necklace”


by

Kimberly Ednie








Mrs. Connolly
ENC 1102 M-W-F 9:00AM
Short Story Essay
January 29, 1997
The Development of Irony in “The Necklace”


Guy de Maupassant’s “The Necklace” is situational irony
written in 1884. The story was written in a time when there were very
distinct social classes primarily determined by one’s birth. It is about
a woman who can not come to terms with her position in the middle
class. Although she knows she can not escape her class, she
refuses to accept it gracefully. It is through Matilde that Maupassant
develops the story’s irony. This is reflected through Matilde’s
daydreaming, which only serves to torment her, the loss of the
necklace borrowed for show, which only worsens their economic
position, and finally, their unnecessary sacrifice.

The irony begins with Matilde’s frequent daydreaming. She is a
beautiful and charming woman who feels “herself destined for all
delicacies and luxuries” (4). Fate, however, placed her among the
middle class where life was very simple. For her, the only means to
a more affluent class was through her imagination. She dreams of
“large silent anterooms, expensive silks and of achievement and fame
that would make her the envy of all other women” (4). What she fails
to realize is that these daydreams only make her more dissatisfied
with her real life. As a result, she becomes more focused on what
she does not have rather than what she does have.

Contributing to the irony is the borrowed necklace. Matilde’s
husband brings a coveted dinner invitation home, and her first
reaction is concern for appearances. She tells her husband that they
can not possibly go because she has “nothing to wear” (5). Her
husband agrees to buy her a new dress. This, however, is not
enough for Matilde; she needs jewelry. She explains that, without
jewelry, she will appear “shabby in the company of rich women” (6).
In her quest to present herself as a wealthy woman, she decided to
borrow a “superb diamond necklace” (6) from a friend.
Unfortunately, upon arriving home, Matilde noticed that the necklace
was lost. When the necklace can not be found, Matilde and her
husband have no choice but to replace it. As a result, Matilde’s
desire to appear part of the upper class has only succeeded in
making them part of a lower one.

Without a doubt, the most ironic part of the story is the Loisel’s
unnecessary sacrifice. The Loisel’s decide to replace the necklace
without telling the owner of its loss. “In a shop in the Palias-Royal,
they found a necklace that seemed to them exactly like the one they
were looking for” (8). They secure the thirty-six thousand for the
necklace from Mr. Loisel’s inheritance and in the form of loans. They
struggle and live in poverty for ten years to pay off the necklace. By
now, Matilde looks old. “She had become the strong, hard, and rude
woman of poor households” (9). Matilde is walking along the
Champs-Elysees when she encounters the friend who loaned her the
necklace. Her friend is shocked when Matilde finally tells her about
the necklace. It is then that Matilde learns that the necklace her and
her husband toiled to replace was only costume jewelry. Even among
the rich there are apprearances to keep up.

Maupassant, through irony, shows us that in pursuit of wealth
or status it is easy to forget what one already has to appreciate. Also,
appearances are just that, no matter what class you belong to.
Because Matilde did not understand this, desire to rise above the
middle class was replaced with a desire to merely rise above poverty.







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