Guy de Maupassant

Exploring the Theme of Jealousy in The Necklace

Jealousy, a complex and often destructive emotion, plays a pivotal role in Guy de Maupassant’s “The Necklace.” This tale intricately explores the repercussions of envy and longing for a life beyond one’s means. Through the character of Mathilde Loisel, Maupassant delves into how jealousy can cloud judgment and lead to life-altering decisions. The significance of this theme is not only central to understanding the protagonist’s plight but also offers valuable insights into human nature and the societal pressures that fuel discontentment and desire.

The article further examines jealousy in “The Necklace,” highlighting its influence on Mathilde’s character development and the series of events that unfold as a consequence. It delves into the interplay between pride, vanity, and jealousy, showcasing how these emotions serve as catalysts for Mathilde’s downfall. Additionally, the piece discusses the realization and the severe price paid due to the choices spurred by envy. Through this exploration, the article aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the destructive power of jealousy and the lessons learned from Mathilde’s experiences.

The Role of Jealousy in Mathilde’s Character

Mathilde’s dissatisfaction with her life is poignantly depicted through her constant daydreaming of a luxurious lifestyle, far removed from her modest middle-class existence. Her home, described as having “shabby” rooms, becomes a symbol of her perceived confinement. The allure of “oriental tapestries” and “gleaming silverware” represents more than mere objects; they symbolize the life of affluence she desperately yearns to lead. This longing, however, is not rooted in a direct envy of individuals but rather a desire to escape her societal limitations.

Her perceived inferiority among the rich further exacerbates her feelings of discontent. During a rare opportunity to mingle with the upper class at a ball, Mathilde is momentarily transformed. The borrowed necklace she wears becomes a potent symbol of the opulence she wishes to permanently inhabit. Ironically, her joy is not derived from greed but from the fulfillment of her deeply held aspirations to blend into a world she feels she was unjustly denied. This night of escape, though fleeting, highlights the intense disparity between her desires and her reality, underscoring the profound impact of societal divisions on individual psyche.

Consequences of Jealousy

The Night of the Ball

Mathilde Loisel’s longing for a life of opulence culminated in a fateful evening at the Palace of Ministry ball. Her husband, Mr. Loisel, believed this invitation would bring joy to Mathilde, who spent her days fantasizing about such grandeur. However, her initial reluctance stemmed from not possessing attire that matched her luxurious desires. This event, meant to fulfill her dreams, only magnified her feelings of inadequacy and envy towards the wealthy.

The Loss of the Necklace

The aftermath of the ball proved catastrophic for Mathilde. Upon realizing the necklace she borrowed was lost, her life took a drastic turn. Instead of confessing the loss, Mathilde and her husband chose to replace the necklace, unaware of its true value. This decision plunged them into a decade of hardship, struggling to repay the enormous debt incurred from purchasing a replacement that mirrored the original. Their life of bare necessities starkly contrasted the brief illusion of wealth she experienced at the ball. This period of severe deprivation highlighted the destructive consequences of her envy and pride, as they lived a life far harsher than before, all because of a misplaced adornment that was, ironically, a mere imitation.

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Pride and Vanity as Catalysts for Jealousy

Mathilde’s obsession with appearance is deeply rooted in her vanity and pride, which significantly influence her actions and decisions throughout “The Necklace.” She is constantly discomforted by her middle-class lifestyle, feeling entitled to a life of luxury and elegance, which she believes she deserves. This dissatisfaction manifests in her relentless pursuit to appear affluent, especially among those she perceives as her social superiors.

The symbolic significance of the necklace

The necklace Mathilde borrows symbolizes her deep-seated desire to project a facade of wealth and status. It represents more than just an accessory; it is a critical element that she believes can transform her from her ordinary existence into the glamorous life she yearns for. Ironically, the necklace is not genuine, mirroring the falsity of Mathilde’s pretensions. Her tragic realization that the necklace was a mere imitation, after enduring ten years of hardship to replace it, underscores the destructive consequences of her vanity and pride. This revelation highlights the irony of her situation and serves as a poignant commentary on the dangers of placing too much value on appearances.

The Realization and the Price Paid

The Aftermath of Losing the Necklace

After losing the necklace, Mathilde Loisel and her husband faced severe financial ruin. They dismissed their servant, moved into a cheaper apartment, and Mathilde took on physically demanding jobs that prematurely aged her. The once vibrant woman became a coarse, hardened figure of poverty, her beauty eroded by the harsh realities of her new life. The transformation was stark; Mathilde’s hands were roughened, her voice became shrill, and her overall demeanor grew bitter and overwhelmed.

Mathilde’s Transformation Over Ten Years

Over the decade, Mathilde’s character underwent a significant transformation. Initially driven by vanity and the desire for social status, she evolved into a person who understood the value of hard work and humility. The realization that the necklace was a mere imitation, worth only a fraction of what they had paid, came as a crushing blow. This revelation, however, was pivotal. It stripped away her illusions and forced her to confront the superficiality of her earlier desires. Mathilde emerged from her ordeal a wiser and more resilient individual, no longer enslaved by the materialistic values that had once defined her.


Throughout the intricate narrative of “The Necklace,” Guy de Maupassant masterfully illustrates the perils of envy and the profound consequences it can bring upon individuals. The journey of Mathilde Loisel, driven by relentless jealousy and a desire for a life beyond her means, encapsulates the destructive nature of such emotions when paired with pride and vanity. Her story serves as a compelling exploration of human behavior, underlining how societal pressures and materialistic values can cloud judgment and lead to irreversible decisions. Mathilde’s experiences, culminating in a harsh decade of hardship, unfold a poignant lesson on the importance of valuing one’s reality over the allure of superficial appearances.

In the end, Mathilde’s tale is not just a cautionary narrative about envy and desire but also a reflection on the transformative power of adversity. The irony of her situation, discovering the bitter truth about the necklace’s real value after years of suffering, emphasizes the futility of placing excessive importance on wealth and social status. This realization brings to light the significance of authenticity and humility, emerging as key themes of the story. As readers, we are left to ponder the broader implications of Mathile’s journey, which underscores the universal truth that true contentment lies not in outward appearances, but in embracing the simplicity and genuineness of our lives.


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