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Symbolism in "The Necklace"

In The Necklace, Mathilde Loisel, the main character, is symbolic for many reasons.  Primarily, she represents a woman living a common lifestyle of the nineteenth century. The author, Guy de Maupassant stated, “For women have no caste or class,” which notes the lack of stature that women, like Mathilde, endured.  Mathilde felt herself “born for every delicacy and luxury” (Maupassant).   In today’s society, women that aspire to have many material possessions may achieve their goal by working hard and/or getting an education.  However, in the 19th century, these opportunities were not readily available to women.  Very few women were in the work force.  Those that worked were often ridiculed, because it was a belief of society that women were to cook, clean, and mother children (Early). 

Therefore, Mathilde symbolizes the lack of power that women of her era had, because she was seemingly stuck in her rank by the standards of society. 

Mathilde’s marriage is symbolic of the average marriage in the 19th century.  Marriage was considered a necessity and women were wed at a very young age (before twenty years old).  Single women were scorned and often ostracized by the general public (Cooper).  Mathilde’s marriage to “a little clerk in the Ministry of Education” was probably not her choice, but rather a decision made for social acceptance and economic support.  Mathilde felt that, “she had married beneath her,” because she was “one of those pretty and charming girls born” (Maupassant).   Women during this time were forced into marriages unrelated to love, and Mathilde’s unhappiness accentuates this problems. 

Mathilde’s callous and bitter persona depicts the true feelings of women in the 19th century.  Mathilde suffered from her rank in society and her undesired marriage. Furthermore, one exception of Mathilde’s marriage versus the average marriage is that she appears to not have bore any children.  This factor was of great importance in 19th century society (Cooper).  Her lifestyle and lack of ability to contribute to her family through salary and children changed her inside and outside. 

In the end, Madame Forestier noticed the transformation of Mathilde and this change (from young beauty to aged distress) may have been noticeable in many women of Mathilde’s time. 





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