Okay, I think I know where Guy de Maupassant is coming from now.

"The Necklace", originally "La Parure" is an 1888 short story by Guy de Maupassant, and one of is most famous. In it, a middle class woman is invited to a party at the home of a cabinet minister, and borrows an expensive necklace from another woman (I have to admit, I didn't get this part, because apparently the woman was rich enough to be invited to a cabinet minister's party, but not rich enough to have the proper necklace), and after a memorable night where she is the belle of the ball, loses the necklace, forcing her to go into deep debt, with her and her husband working in dire poverty (which, of course, means not having a servant), until she finds out at the end of the book that the "lost" necklace she replaced was costume jewelry.

Maybe I should stop reading these stories.

The thing that bothered me about this were two: first, the contrived circumstances, because it seems unlikely that someone could borrow what they thought was a (checks currency exchange rate, and this might be very vague): $600,000 necklace with no idea that it was costume jewelry. But sometimes that is part of literature. What bothered me more was the concern trolling: how Maupassant wants to offer pity to the woman, but does it by portraying her as silly and materialistic. It is a contrived lesson to push a point that seems more misogynist than anything.

And finally, as an American (the worlds most sophisticated culture), it is hard to understand just how literal the French are. In the United States, we have something called irony: it is our attitude and opinions towards things that mark us, not the things themselves. Early on in the story, when the woman is trying to get ready for the party, she bemoans not having the correct "things" to wear, and I can only imagine an American woman in the same place using it to show off her authenticity, that her minimalism and lack of possessions would itself be bragworthy. But to the literal-minded French, that never occurs--- jewels and furs are things they looked at without irony, apparently.


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