The well-known proverb says, “Things are not always what they seem.” The line betwixt perception and reality can not only be hard to discover, but can hide major differences between the two. What we believe about our world, both on a material and philosophical level, can be far from the truth. Nowhere is this fact more evident than in the classic short story, The Necklace, written by Guy de Maupassant. The Necklace successfully shows that ones' perception and reality often are not even close to being the same. This essay will prove this to be true by exploring the theme of perception versus reality through the three literary elements of character, irony, and symbolism.
The most obvious way that the theme is found in the story is through the characters of the piece. The main character, and the most well-developed, is Madame Mathilde Loisel. Madame Loisel is a simple housewife who is married to a government clerk. A very important aspect of her character is that she idealizes the upper class and longs to be above her current status. She “[felt] herself born for every delicacy and luxury.” Madame Loisel, despite a decent living as a middle class lady, falsely perceives the upper classes as happier, exciting, and more romantic. She despises and looks down upon her own life as less valuable and worthwhile, to the extent that she doesn't visit her own friend who is wealthier than herself. However, within the story, the upper classes are not necessarily better off or happier. Her wealthy friend Madame Forestier, for instance, keeps a fake necklace even though she is wealthy, demonstrating that even the wealthy don't “have it all.” What's more, Madame Loisel's status quo at the beginning of the tale is a life in which she has all of her needs taken care of and she is well-provided for- not the humiliation she believes it to be. Her perceptions do not match the real situation.
Her character is not limited to having her own issues with reality. She also attempts to place a deception over others. Madame Loisel wastes her money buying rich clothing and ends up borrowing an “expensive” necklace from her friend. She believes that she must look equal to all the others at the party, and thus must dress the same, down to the necklace. This prideful aspect of her character once again demonstrates the theme of the story. The reality is that the Loisel's are a simple middle class family. Yet Madame Loisel attempts to make those around her at the party perceive her as wealthy, higher class, and therefore “happy.” In chasing after one falsehood she perpetrates another. Thus, a careful look at the character of Madame Mathilde Loisel reveals the underlying theme of the story. She is either herself confused with reality due to her perceptions of the classes and happiness, or she is trying to fool others into thinking she belongs to the upper crust and is thus hiding the reality of who she really is.
The idea of the way things are perceived versus the way they...