A very famous French writer Guy de Maupassant described in the short story "The Necklace" the incident which changed the life of a person. It's interesting that it was the second story which I had read in English of this author where one event that had a crucial influence on the future life of the protagonist. The first was "The Log", I have already published the analysis of that story on my blog.
The plot of the short story "Necklace" is about a young woman, Mathilde, who was rather pretty and her prospects in life should have been good and bright. The author believed that "Women don't belong to a caste or class; their beauty, grace, and natural charm take the place of birth and family". But she "had no dowry, no expectations, no means of becoming known, understood, loved or wedded by a man of wealth and distinction; and so she let herself be married to a minor official at the Ministry of Education." Mathilde dreamed about a charming style of life, about beautifully furnished rooms with luxurious chandeliers, about elegant cavaliers who would appreciate and admire her beauty.
Once her husband brought home an invitation for a ball in the Ministry, instead of being glad, she started crying. Mathilde complained to her husband that she didn't have the clothes for the party. For his question how much money for buying appropriate clothes she needed, she answered calculating the price equal to all their savings. Her husband approved it, but it wasn't enough. She felt the need for a piece of Jewellery to go with the dress. Her husband advised her to borrow it from her former rich friend Madame Forestier. So she did as advised, she asked to borrow it for a short period of time and in return to her request received a beautiful necklace for the ball.
Mathilde has a great success during the ball. Every respectable man wanted to dance with her, she was noticed by the Minister. When the party was over the spouses came home and suddenly Mathilde saw she had lost the necklace. This fact terrified the couple. They tried to find the jewelry but without results. They decided to replace the necklace by buying a similar item.
The husband gathered all savings what he had, he borrowed money from all his acquaintances and they bought the necklace which looked similar to the original one. Mathilde returned this replacement to Madame Forestier, she noticed nothing.
Next ten years the spouses struggled to gain money for returning borrowed money. Mathilde "looked old now. She had become strong, hard and rough like all women of impoverished households."
It is how Guy de Maupassant described the climax of the story: "One Sunday, as she was walking in the Champs Élysées to refresh herself after the week's work, suddenly she saw a woman walking with a child. It was Madame Forestier, still young, still beautiful, still charming." Mathilde decided to disclose the story of replacement. Madam Forestier didn't recognize her at first and when Mathilde explained that her exhausted looks were caused by the tremendous efforts to arrange the money for buying the necklace: "Madame Forestier, deeply moved, took both her hands. "Oh, my poor Mathilde! Mine was an imitation! It was worth five hundred francs at most! ..."
This story could be interpreted differently but I'd highlight one very important idea. People could have positive and negative attitudes to the fate and their choice defines the quality of their lives. Imagine the beauty of Nature, a freshness of the air, magnificent Parisian streets (Champs Élysées was mentioned in the text), they are equal for everyone: for rich and poor people. Mathilde could enjoy her life having the husband who loved her, living in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. But no, she separated herself from her family and friends once concluded that she is different.
It is interesting to think about the author's opinion about her. It seemed that Guy de Maupassant sympathized with her (he described her beauty), but I discerned in many details of the story that the author tended to appraise her character as a selfish, egoistic person. In contrary, her husband was looked at by Mathilde as a minor official, good-for-nothing man. After attentive reading, I drew an opposite conclusion.
"The Necklace" might be used as a didactic story for motivating people to avoid focusing on negative circumstances and paying more attention to the positive side of the life.
The story has a surprise ending, almost a twist in the tale which adds to the interest of the reader.
The Necklace by Guy de Maupassant