Edexcel English IGCSE: The Necklace by Guy de Maupassant

Q5. How does the writer portray Madame Loisel’s thoughts and feelings in ‘The Necklace’?

In your answer, think about:

  • Madame Loisel’s attitude to her life before the party;
  • her experience of the party;
  • any changes in her character after losing the necklace;
  • the writer’s use of language techniques.

You should refer closely to the text to support your answer. You may use brief quotations.

Edexcel English IGCSE Model Essay by an Expert

Because of her obsession with material possessions, Madame Loisel is always dissatisfied with her life. The only time when she is happy is at the party.

Before the party, Madame Loisel is frustratingly dissatisfied with her situation. She considers it “torture” to live in an average household; this hyperbolic language makes her sound ridiculous. There are extended descriptions of her daydreams, including adjectives creating a sense of luxury, such as “tall”, “huge” and “great”.  These adjectives contrast with those used to describe her apartment, like “peeling”, “battered” and “ugly”, showing her hatred for her surroundings. She is also rude to her husband when he brings her the invitation to the party:  instead of being excited, she acts “peevishly” and “irritably”. This shows that she is irritable and ungrateful.

The party is the only time when Madame Loisel feels truly happy, but she is perhaps happy for the wrong reasons. At the party, she finally achieves her dream of being in luxurious surroundings, admired by others for her appearance. The sentence describing her joy is long, reflecting the opulence and excess of the party. Language implying victory is used, such as “victorious”, “success” and “triumph”. This reveals Madame Loisel’s competitive approach to life, reflecting the way that she constantly compares herself to others. The language used to describe her feelings at the party also indicate a lack of control over her emotions: she is “intoxicated”, and is “swept along”, with the metaphor of “floating on a cloud”. Her obsession with being physically admired completely takes over.

Superficially, Madame Loisel’s character changes when they pay back their debts for the necklace, but she retains her obsession with materialism. The description of her changed behaviour creates an exaggerated sense of drama: the short, clipped sentences reflect the austerity of their situation, and repeated triple structures, such as “sheets, shirts and floorcloths”, emphasises how Madame Loisel’s sees her new life as a sacrifice. However, she retains her obsession with appearances. For example, she admires Madame Forestier for being “still young, still beautiful, and still attractive”. The repetition and triple structure creates a tone of jealousy and regret. The way that she phrases her story to Madame Forestier is unnecessarily cruel. She says it was “all on [her] account”, placing responsibility on her friend for her life of poverty; in fact, it was entirely Madame Loisel’s fault for losing the necklace and then lying about it. Her experience of poverty has evidently not improved her character.

Madame Loisel is not a likeable character. She is unnecessarily mean to those close to her, and she does not learn any lessons from her experience, retaining her obsession with appearance.

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