For what reason do people wear jewelry?  It is because jewelry is beautiful for people’s eyes. Jewels are well shaped stones, but they are estimated as more than just stones.  Their fascination can be often confused with wearers’ attractiveness.  Mathilde believes that “all the men saw her” and “she was prettier than anyone else” at the party because she wears the necklace around her neck.  She defines herself as an object to be seen by other people just as she is attracted to Mrs. Forrestier’s “superb diamond necklace” at first sight.  Her adoration toward dreamy life stimulates her to evaluate jewels higher than its real price.  This experience justifies Mathilde’s self-objectification, for example, she enjoys herself being “eyed” like an over-estimated jewel.  She is a diamond herself at the party who chooses to remain as a visual object.

Mathilde knows that she looks beautiful from other people’s eyes.  She acts as if she had heard others saying.  She is conscious of her appearance very much in comparison with other women’s appearances; “I’ll look like a beggar”, “there’s nothing more humiliating than looking shabby in the company of rich women”, “. . . hurried away to avoid being noticed by the other women who luxuriated in rich furs”.  These quotations revealing Mathilde’s self-consciousness lead to her worries which can be sensed in the following sentence, “would she [Mrs. Forrestier] not have taken her for a thief?”.  All those negative assumptions and exaggerations share a common property with Mathilde’s origin of confidence.  They are derived from Mathilde’s self-consciousness.

Mathilde never knows to be satisfied because of her self-consciousness.  It is literally Mathilde’s consciousness so that readers do not know whether she will “look like a beggar” or not.  She does not know, either.  Even though jewels are optional objects by way of ornament that one does not die if she or he lacks jewels, Mathilde’s standard for satisfaction which is derived from her self-consciousness cannot meet her economic circumstances.  She judges by her high standards that she is in the status of lacking something in her.  The only solution of the problem she seeks is to wear the “superb diamond necklace” which can fill her insufficiency.  She narrows her aspects where she can find satisfaction with to just one aspect, external beauty.

If the necklace helps her become perfect as she hopes and plans, the perfectibility can be removed as the necklace disappears.  She not only admires the beauty of the necklace but also identifies herself with the necklace.  Her loss of the necklace equals to the loss of the crucial part of herself.  If Mathilde regarded jewels as optional or additional part of her life, she would not be suffering as much as she actually suffers in the story.  Because her glory is based upon vulnerable things such as the necklace which can disappear one night without a trace, she cannot avoid being disturbed more than she needs to.  The thing she loses the night of the party is not just a necklace.  Shabby Mathilde loses sparkling Mathilde that night.

Thus, the loss of the necklace has an important meaning in the story.  The whole story is written in the tone mainly focusing on Mathilde’s recollection “of that evening so long ago, of that party, where she had been so beautiful and so admired”.  The background setting of her borrowing-the-necklace motive is explained in detail while the ten years after Mathilde loses the necklace are briefly summarized without any dialogue between characters.  If Mathilde looks back her life after she undergoes all the hardships, her dreaming of the good old days would be mostly about the events before she loses the necklace. 

Therefore, the story can be read as Mathilde’s retrospective journal about her experience of losing her identity.  The description of the scenes at the party might be Mathilde’s own interpretation captivated by her illusion overestimating the diamond necklace’s remedy.  Mathilde’s voice as a narrator has nothing much to say about Mathilde’s life after she loses the necklace because the necklace is Mathilde’s identity itself.  She can now only scorn her efforts as “childish”.  Mathilde’s effort turns out to be redundant at the end of the story.  The equations below suggest that Mathilde lose much more than she gets.

 

1.  (Mathilde) + (a superb diamond necklace) = (a triumph)

2.  (a superb diamond necklace) (Mathilde)

3.  (Mathilde) – (a superb diamond necklace) 0

4.  (Mathilde) + (a superb diamond necklace) – (a superb diamond necklace)

=(Mathilde) + 500 francs – 3600 francs + (a sense of guilty and fear)

=(Mathilde) – 3100 francs + (a sense of guilty and fear)}

Since,  (a superb diamond necklace) = (only costume jewelry)

5. -3100 francs + (a sense of guilty) + {(extra charges imposed by loan sharks) + (the accumulation of compound interest)}

< 10 years of hardship + Loisel couple’s mental/physical stress + . . .

 

Therefore,

 (Mathilde) + (only costume jewelry) – (a superb diamond necklace)

< (Mathilde) + 10 years of hardship + Loisel couple’s mental/physical stress

= not (a triumph)

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