Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Friday, October 1, 2010

"The Diamond Necklace" by Guy de Maupassant

"The Diamond Necklace" by Guy de Maupassant (1884, 5 pages)

Guy de Maupassant (1850 to 1893-France) is considered one of the founders of the modern short story.   I have already posted on two of his short stories, "A Father's Confession" and "Boule de Suif".     I also posted on his very highly regarded short novel, Jean et Pierre.      I was motivated to read "The Diamond Necklace" (some times simply called "The Necklace")  by Amateur Reader's comment that it was among the most read of Guy de Maupassant's short stories.      

As the short story became popular a demand arose in the publications of the day for works that would be popular with the widest possible audience.    There developed to meet this demand what is sometimes called the trick ending genre of short story.    O Henry is the American archtype in this form and Saki in England.   The appeal of these stories did not come from how well they were written or the quality of the character and plot development.    I have nothing against a good trick ending story but these stories lose their interest once you begin to look for the trick ending or know what is coming.    Guy de Maupassant wanted and needed to have his stories appeal to a wide audience but he also was schooled by Flaubert and even Turgenev and Tolstoy looked over his shoulder so we have a right to expect more from him.

As our story opens, we meet Mathilde and her husband.   Mathilde has always fancied that she is somehow entitled to great luxury and wealth even though her husband is but a simple clerk.    The descriptions of her mental state and her surroundings are very well done.   

She suffered endlessly, feeling herself born for every delicacy and luxury. She suffered from the poorness of her house, from its mean walls, worn chairs, and ugly curtains. All these things, of which other women of her class would not even have been aware, tormented and insulted her. The sight of the little Breton girl who came to do the work in her little house aroused heart-broken regrets and hopeless dreams in her mind. She imagined silent antechambers, heavy with Oriental tapestries, lit by torches in lofty bronze sockets, with two tall footmen in knee-breeches sleeping in large arm-chairs, overcome by the heavy warmth of the stove.
One day her husband comes home in a great mood.   He and his wife have been invited a party given by the head of the government ministry he works for.    He thinks his wife will be elated but she becomes abusive toward him and tells him she cannot go as she has nothing to wear.    I do not want to give away any more of the plot as it is fun.   The story does a great job of showcasing the hardships of the very poor in contrast to the rich.    De Maupassant  brings to our minds the physical impact of poverty in just a paragraph.

De Maupassant does a lot in just five pages and I can see why "The Diamond Necklace" might be a story commonly anthologized  and taught in  literature classes.

I see no reason not to endorse this story as well worth the few minutes it will take to read it.     I would say do not make it your only de Maupassant but it would be an ok first story.

"The Diamond Necklace" can be read online here

Mel u

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