Edexcel English IGCSE: The Necklace by Guy de Maupassant
Q1. In ‘The Necklace’, what does the writer teach the reader about material possessions?
In your answer, you should write about:
- Madame Loisel’s opinions;
- the deceptiveness of appearances;
- the value of material items;
- the writer’s use of language.
You should refer closely to the passage to support your answer. You may use brief quotations.
Edexcel English IGCSE Model Essay by an Expert
In this story, the writer shows that material possessions are not the key to happiness, and that in fact, placing too high a value on material things can lead to misery.
Due to her obsession with material possessions, Madame Loisel never achieves real happiness. At the beginning of the story, her dissatisfaction with her current possessions is shown through her constant daydreaming. The writer highlights the differences between her perceived reality and imagined ideal with contrasting adjectives: her apartment is “run-down”, “peeling” and “battered”, but she dreams of a room which is “great”, “fine” and “tall”. Again, when she is eating her dinner, an abundance of adjectives highlights the material things that she wishes for: “elegant”, “gleaming”, “mythical”, and many more. This constant daydreaming prevents her from enjoying her real life. The damaging nature of this approach is highlighted by the contrast with her more contented husband, who is happy and excited about his stew.
One major theme of the story is that appearances can be deceiving. When Madame Loisel finally achieves her dream of being admired for her appearance, she is simply using material possessions to create a deceptive appearance of her wealth. Whilst she achieves temporary pleasure at the “homage, admiration and desire” that this evokes, her anxiety returns when she has to wear “a commonplace coat” that betrays her average wealth. The alliteration reflects her disgust. The coat is described as “violently” contrasting the rest of her appearance; the hyperbolic language here shows the strength of Madame Loisel’s emotions regarding material things. The central storyline of the necklace offers the most obvious lesson about the deception of appearances: it appears valuable, when it is in fact an imitation. It is this deceptive appearance which causes Madame Loisel and her husband years of poverty.
The overall message of this story is that material possessions should not be valued too highly. It is literally valuing the necklace too highly that leads the Loisels to have to live in poverty. Their emotional struggle begins as soon as the necklace is lost, and continues for another ten years. The struggle that they face as a result of this mistake is emphasised with the emotive imagery used to describe their new lives. Their lives are “grindingly horrible”, and Loisel fears “the grim poverty which stood ready to pounce”. This image personifies poverty as a predatory animal, making it seem frightening and even life-threatening. This experience renders Madame Loisel’s initial dissatisfaction with her possessions ironic, as her desire for better possessions ultimately led to her losing her own.
The moral of this story shows the importance of being satisfied with what one has, and not placing too much value on material things, since they do not lead to happiness.