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The Necklace

Guy de Maupassant

Realism

Themes, Motifs, and Symbols

The Surprise Ending and Irony

Maupaussant, like his mentor, Flaubert, believed that fiction should convey reality with as much accuracy as possible. He strived for objectivity rather than psychological exploration or romantic descriptions, preferring to structure his stories and novels around clearly defined plot lines and specific, observable details. However, he argued that calling fiction “realistic” was not correct—every work of fiction, he believed, was an illusion, a world created by a writer to convey a particular effect to readers. He was faithful above all to the facts and believed that close, focused observation could reveal new depths and perspectives to even the most common, unremarkable aspects of life. “The Necklace” clearly demonstrates Maupassant’s fixation with facts and observations. Rather than explore Mathilde’s yearning for wealth or unhappiness with her life, Maupaussant simply tells us about her unhappiness and all the things she desires. At the end of the story, he provides no moral commentary or explanation about Mathilde’s reaction to Madame Forestier’s shocking revelation; he simply reports events as they happen.There is no pretense, idealizing, or artifice to Maupaussant’s prose or treatment of his characters.

Realism began in France in the mid nineteenth century and rejected the tenets from the romantic movement that came before it, a literary movement that emphasized the idealization of characters rather than realistic portrayal of them. Realist literature often focused on middle-class life—such as the tragic lives of Mathilde and her husband—and was most concerned with portraying actions and their consequences with little or no subjectivity. Social factors and cultural environment are often powerful forces in realist literature, as are elements of rationalism and scientific reasoning. Flaubert was one of the earliest practitioners of realism, as typified by his novels Madame Bovary (1857) and Sentimental Education (1869). Realism was also an influential artistic school that included French painters such as Gustave Courbet, Edgar Degas, and Éduard Manet.

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