‘The Necklace’ by Guy de Maupassant

Maupassant, Guy de 1884

The Necklace by Guy de Maupassant, 1884

The magic trick:

Using a twist ending to not only surprise the reader with a neat plot resolution but also hammer home the story’s key themes

It’s only one of the most famous short stories ever written. Probably about time it made an appearance on the SSMT website then, right?

We’ve looked at a lot of twist-ending stories here – particularly from O. Henry, who no doubt adopted much of his style from Maupassant. The twist ending in “The Necklace” is full of irony and that strange mix of comedy and tragedy that O. Henry mastered so well. It’s greater than that, though. The ending here isn’t simply a neat plot twist; it hammers home the story’s main themes. Materialism is a false religion. The whims and codes of society are false judgments. The ending of “The Necklace” teaches those lessons loud and clear. And that’s quite a trick on Maupassant’s part.

The selection:

“What’s the matter with you? What’s the matter with you?” he faltered.

But with a violent effort she overcame her grief and replied in a calm voice, wiping her wet cheeks:

“Nothing. Only I haven’t a dress and so I can’t go to this party. Give your invitation to some friend of yours whose wife will be turned out better than I shall.”

He was heart-broken.

“Look here, Mathilde,” he persisted. “What would be the cost of a suitable dress, which you could use on other occasions as well, something very simple?”

She thought for several seconds, reckoning up prices and also wondering for how large a sum she could ask without bringing upon herself an immediate refusal and an exclamation of horror from the careful-minded clerk.

At last she replied with some hesitation:

“I don’t know exactly, but I think I could do it on four hundred francs.”

He grew slightly pale, for this was exactly the amount he had been saving for a gun, intending to get a little shooting next summer on the plain of Nanterre with some friends who went lark-shooting there on Sundays.

Nevertheless he said: “Very well. I’ll give you four hundred francs. But try and get a really nice dress with the money.”

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