Short Story #6: The Necklace by Guy de Maupassant
Title: The Necklace
Author: Guy de Maupassant
Short Story #6 out of 365
Rating: 4 (out of 5 stars)
Source: The World's Greatest Short Stories, Dover Thrift Edition, edited by James Daley. The story can also be found on this website.
SummaryA woman not quite settled with the life she has longs to be rich and enjoy a lavish life. Her husband shows her an invitation to a prestigious affair that he has acquired. The prospect is tempting but the women feels she does not have a good dress or jewelry to wear. Her husband provides money for a dress and ultimately, she borrows a diamond necklace from a more well-to-do friend. They go to the event and she has a wonderful time as everyone marvels at her youthful and vibrant appearance. So ashamed by her plight in comparison to the others at the ball, she demands that her and her husband walk a bit fo the way home so as not to look so humble by requesting a taxi. Upon return home, she realizes that she has lost the necklace. Her husband doubles back but cannot find it. They lament and eventually, they put themselves into utter debt in order to pay for a replacement that the woman returns to her friend without telling her what happened. For ten years, both husband and wife work savagely to pay back the monies borrowed and wear themselves raggard. Eventually, the woman encounters the friend she borrowed the necklace from. She still looks lively and beautiful while the woman is barely recognizeable. At this point she confesses to her friend what happened and the friend is amused because it was not a real diamond necklace and cost a fraction of what the woman and her husband had paid for with a decade of their lives.
ReflectionI'm a big fan of Guy de Maupassant (try Diary of a Madman when you have a chance!) and enjoyed this story. Maupassant's suspicion of base materialism coupled with pride as represented in the woman often leads to more problems. Her inability to be content or appreciate what she does have (for she does means at the story's beginning) coupled with her pride drive her to waste her life paying back a debt she never needed to owe. The irony is palpable and contrasts interestingly with O. Henry's The Gift of the Magi. However, where the lovers' sacrifice for one another and are in some ways richer by story's end, the woman of The Necklace has but a single night to reflect upon as the best night of her life with no serious means of appreciating the future.
For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.
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