Theme of Fatalism in The Necklace

In the short story the Necklace, Guy de Maupassant draws on the recurring theme that humans are victims of fatalism, especially women in the mid-nineteenth century.

Mathilde’s marriage and middle class existence are great examples of how women in the nineteenth century were governed by fate. Mathilde’s fate was that she was born into a poor family, so she was doomed to be poor all her life for two reasons. First, women in the mid-nineteenth century were discriminated against by the ideology of domesticity, where they were expected to look after the household and the kids, but they were restricted from entering the work force. Mathilde did not have the authority to get a job,education, or change to climb the economic ladder. Thus, she had no way of obtaining the dazzling things that lucky women like her rich friend Madame Forestier enjoyed. Secondly, though her family being poor, she did not have enough of a dowry to entice a rich man to wed her. The author presents Mathilde’s situation well by stating, “she had no marriage portion, no expectations, no means of getting known, understood, loved, and wedded by a man of wealth and distinction”. With the helplessness of Mathilde’s character realized, her actions become more justifiable, and fate, not Mathilde, emerges as the antagonist of the story.

The lost necklace serves to broaden the theme of fatalism to human beings of any day or age. Mathilde had no control over the disastrous disappearance of the necklace, and neither would any other person. The fact that this one event ruined the lives of the couple for ten years shows how cruel fate can be. Mathilde’s character expressed this realization wondering. “what would have happened if she had never lost those jewels [……] how strange life is, how fickle! how little is needed to ruin or save”. Just when Mathilde felt like she had some power over her life, because she bought a dress, borrowed a necklace, and successfully earned an admirable reputation among the upper class, fate struck a tiny blow and shattered her life to pieces.

Maupassant’s main theme is that fate can be cruel, but at the end he shows that fate can only bring one down to the extent that he or she allows it to. Guy de Maupassant explicitly portrays his negativity towards fate in the story explaining that from the very beginning of Mathilde’s life “fate had blundered over her”. However, if Mathilde had just told her friendt hat she lost the necklace, she would not have had to spend several years suffering because of the misfortune. Here, Guy de Maupassant is saying that if we accept our fate, and do not try so hard to change it, we will not have to suffer so much.

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