Teaching Ideas for "The Necklace" by Guy de Maupassant
By Trent Lorcher
Review the plot and theme of "The Necklace" by Guy de Maupassant and then have your student do some of these activities.
"The Necklace" Summary
Madame Loisel is miserable. She wants to be high class, but she's married to a clerk. Her husband, the clerk, comes home one afternoon, after a hard days work, no doubt, with an invitation to a party at the Minister of Education's house. Madame Loisel is unhappy for she has no dress to wear. Her husband, who has worked hard, no doubt, to save up money for a gun, uses the money to buy Madame Loisel a dress. She's still not happy, for what use is a really nice dress if you have no necklace for it?
That's where Madame Forestier comes in. She has lots of jewels, including a beautiful necklace she reluctantly loans to Madame Loisel for the party. Now, Madame Loisel's happy...until she loses the necklace. They must borrow money to replace the necklace and spend the next 10 years of their life, working hard, no doubt, earning enough to pay back the money they borrowed. One day while "strolling along the Champs Elysees," Madame Loisel runs into Madame Forestiere and tells her what happened. Forestiere, taken aback by Madame Loisel's sorry plight, informs her that the necklace she lent her that day ten years ago was a fake.
Class Discussion Topics
These four ideas could serve as excellent fodder for class discussion, or essay assignment ideas:
Vanity and Pride - An important "Necklace" theme is the danger of vanity and pride. It is Madame Loisel's vanity that causes her to want to live beyond her means and her pride that prevents her from telling Madame Forestiere the truth.
The Dangers of Debt - "The Necklace" theme of the dangers of debt is as timely today as it was when the story was written.
Irony - Madame Loisel labors for that which is of no worth.
Theme - Because of its obvious message, "The Necklace" makes a great short story for teaching theme.
Write a found poem. Not only will your students recognize the cleverness of writing a found poem about a lost necklace, they'll practice using details from a story, analyzing evidence, and discovering a theme. A found poem is created by using exact quotes from the story to make a poem. Here's my example:
Unable to afford jewelry, she dressed simply.
She suffered constantly
She tossed the invitation on the table and muttered,
Draw conclusions about characters. This idea will have students learning about characterization while drawing conclusions. Make a box, two for each character. Below the character box, draw two smaller boxes, one for actions and one for traits. Connect the top box to the two lower boxes with arrows. Underneath the two smaller boxes, draw another large box and draw a conclusion about the character based on the details you wrote in the two smaller boxes. This activity works best after the students write a summary of the text and understand the themes.
Write a Review
Have each student do the following after reading the story:
Write a brief summary, 100-200 words.
Write a brief analysis, extolling its literary merit, 150-200 words. Be sure to include the theme.