A Comparison of Guy de Maupassant's "The Necklace" and "The Mother of Monsters."
Appearance is Everything
Both of the lead characters in Guy de Maupassant's "The Necklace," and "The Mother of Monsters,' believe that appearance is everything. Yet, by the end of the stories they both begin to realize that this belief is flawed.
In "The Necklace," the lead character believes she is being held back from the life she deserves due to her not having the wealth to make her appearance fit her nature. She empasizes how ladies should look and feels she does not look ladylike.
"She suffered ceaselessly, feeling herself born for all the delicacies and all the luxuries..."
Her reality was all appearance without substance.
"She had no dresses, no jewels, nothing. And she loved nothing but that; she felt made for that."
The lead character in "The Mother of Monsters" believes that the Mother of Monsters appearance puts her on a very low social and moral standing and compares appearances, in the end, with that of a social woman with a higher level of standing.
He describes the Mother of Monsters as "...about forty, tall, hard-features, but well built, vigorous...the true type of robust peasantry, half animal and half woman."
He then goes on to describe the appearance of a social woman as "...a charming and elegant lady, the most skillful of coquettes, surrounded by several men who have the highest regard for her."
What if This is Wrong?
Neither of the lead characters realize how their veiws on appearance begin to make major changes in their lives.
In "The Necklace" the lead character understands how graceful she becomes while decked out at the Ball. She feels at that moment that her appearance illuminated her true class standing.
"Mme. Loisel made a great success. She was prettier than them all, elegant, gracious, smiling, and crazy with joy."
In contrast, after the loss of the necklace, she was described as looking "old" and "worn." She, proud that she was able to pay back the debt of the necklace with her hard work, approached Mme. Forestier without any consideration of her appearance.
The lead character in "Mother of Monsters" pities the appearance of the social woman's children, yet does not realize why he feels such a strong feeling of pity towards them.
"A pathetic pair of crutches lay on the ground. Then I way the three children were deformed, hunch-backed and lame; hideous little creatures. The doctor said to me: 'Those are the offspring of the charming young lady you met just now.' I felt a profound pity for her and for them."
The doctor goes on to explain that the beautiful social woman was wearing corsets during her pregnancy to hide her outward appearance.
Appearance is Only a Myth
The lead character in "The Necklace" realizes at the end that she is poor and that appearance will never change her position in life. Her realization came from the misunderstanding over the paste necklace.
She also seemed to come to terms with her social standing and was proud of the fact that she was able to work hard and pay back Mme Forestier the cost of the necklace.
"Mme. Forestier had stopped. 'You say that you bought a necklace of diamonds to replace mine?' 'Yes. You never noticed it, then! they were very like.' And she smiled with a joy which was proud and naïve at once. Mme. Forestier, strongly moved, took her two hands. 'Oh, my poor Mathilde! Why, my necklace was paste. It was worth at most five hundred francs!"
Guy de Maupassant ends the story and does not explain the epiphany that Mathilde undergoes, but it is understood that she has finally accepted her place and realized that appearances will not change anything.
The lead character in "The Mother of Monsters" realizes at the end of the story that both the beautiful social woman and the peasent woman who sold her deformed children, were "Mothers of Monsters."
This realization brings to him an understanding that all of us can create horrific events no matter what our appearances may show.
"Don't pity her, my dear fellow,' replied my friend. 'It's the poor children who are to be pitied. That's the result of keeping the firgure graceful right up to the last day. Those monsters are manufactured by corsets. She knows perfectly well that she's risking her life at that game. What does she care, so long as she remains pretty and seductive?' And I remembered the other, the peasent woman, the She-Devil, who sold hers."
As in "The Necklace" an epiphany occurs within him. He finally understands that outward appearance only leads to a shallow understanding of what is really occurring in the world around him.
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