Mathilde – the Princess born to Suffer
- Mathilde was a pretty woman.
- She was born in an artisan family but she began fighting with her miserable life for a higher rank.
- She got married to a gentleman, Loisel, a clerk at the Ministry of Education.
- Though Loisel was working to keep her happy, Mathilde continued to drag her miserable existence.
Questions and Answers
- Why was Mathilde feeling miserable?
Mathilde was born in an ordinary family of artisans in France. She was a dreamer and lived in a world dreams. When she saw that she was doomed to be poor, doomed to be married to an ordinary man, Mathilde was greatly miserable. Even as the wife of an ordinary clerk, she made an attempt to live like a little queen but that life was limited to her dreams.
- What was the essential fault with Mathilde? How could she have overcome her miseries?
She was one of those pretty and charming girls born, as though fate had blundered over her, into a family of artisans. She had no marriage portion, no expectations, no means of getting known, understood, loved, and wedded by a man of wealth and distinction; and she let herself be married off to a little clerk in the Ministry of Education. Her tastes were simple because she had never been able to afford any other, but she was as unhappy as though she had married beneath her; for women have no caste or class, their beauty, grace, and charm serving them for birth or family, their natural delicacy, their instinctive elegance, their nimbleness of wit, are their only mark of rank, and put the slum girl on a level with the highest lady in the land.
- She suffered endlessly, feeling herself born for every delicacy and luxury. She suffered from the poorness of her house, from its mean walls, worn chairs, and ugly curtains. All these things, of which other women of her class would not even have been aware, tormented and insulted her.
- Why did Mathilde feel heartbroken on seeing the Breton girl who came to do work in her little house?
The sight of the little Breton girl who came to do the work in her little house aroused heart-broken regrets and hopeless dreams in her mind.
- What kind of interior did Mathilde dream of?
She imagined silent antechambers, heavy with Oriental tapestries, lit by torches in lofty bronze sockets, with two tall footmen in knee-breeches sleeping in large arm-chairs, overcome by the heavy warmth of the stove. She imagined vast saloons hung with antique silks, exquisite pieces of furniture supporting priceless ornaments, and small, charming, perfumed rooms, created just for little parties of intimate friends, men who were famous and sought after, whose homage roused every other woman’s envious longings.
- When she sat down for dinner at the round table covered with a three-days-old cloth, opposite her husband, who took the cover off the soup-tureen, exclaiming delightedly: “Aha! Scotch broth! What could be better?” she imagined delicate meals, gleaming silver, tapestries peopling the walls with folk of a past age and strange birds in faery forests; she imagined delicate food served in marvellous dishes, murmured gallantries, listened to with an inscrutable smile as one trifled with the rosy flesh of trout or wings of asparagus chicken.
- She had no clothes, no jewels, nothing. And these were the only things she loved; she felt that she was made for them.
- Why did Mathilde refrain from visiting her school friend?
She had longed so eagerly to charm, to be desired, to be wildly attractive and sought after. She had a rich friend, an old school friend whom she refused to visit, because she suffered so keenly when she returned home. She would weep whole days, with grief, regret, despair, and misery.
- Once Loisel returned from office with a broad grin and a big invitation card.
- It was a family invitation to attend a party that clerks rarely got invited.
- But this, however, didn’t cheer Mathilde. She said she had neither ornaments nor a good gown. She asked Loisel to give the invitation to someone else whose wife had enough resources to afford a gown and ornaments.
- Loisel was not ready to give up. He promised her a gown and bought one with the money that he had collected for buying a gun for shooting.
- The gown arrived but again, Mathilde was sad. Where shall she get a matching necklace?
- Loisel suggested her the idea of natural flowers, a little traditional style, a little cheaper…
- Mathilde began to cry. She said she didn’t wish to attend the ball party.
- The good Loisel asked her to visit her old friend, Madame Forestier to borrow some ornaments.
- Mathilde got a very expensive necklace from her friend and together the husband and wife went to the party.
Questions & Answers
- Why was Mr. Loisel excited about the invitation?
One evening her husband came home with an exultant air, holding a large envelope in his hand. “Here’s something for you,” he said. Swiftly she tore the paper and drew out a printed card on which were these words: “The Minister of Education and Madame Ramponneau request the pleasure of the company of Monsieur and Madame Loisel at the Ministry on the evening of Monday, January the 18th.” Instead of being delighted, as her husband hoped, she flung the invitation petulantly across the table, murmuring. “What do you want me to do with this?” “Why, darling, I thought you’d be pleased. You never go out, and this is a great occasion. I had tremendous trouble to get it. Everyone wants one; it’s very select, and very few go to the clerks. You’ll see all the really big people there.” She looked at him out of furious eyes, and said impatiently:
- How did Mathilde turn down the invitation?
Although the invitation to the party was expected to cheer Mathilde, she was not. On the contrary, this made her more terrible and disappointed. She was not prepared to attend the party with the gown that she went to the theater. She wanted a new dress for the party. But with a violent effort she overcame her grief and replied that she would not go to the party. She even advised him to give the invitation to any of his friends whose wife would be happy to accept it.
- How did Mr. Loisel arrange for the gown?
Mr. Loisel arranged for Mathilde’s party dress with the four hundred francs he had saved for buying him a gun. He had long cherished a dream to go for shooting with his friends.
- Why was Madame Loisel (Mathilde) still sad even after her dress was ready?
The day of the party drew near, and Madame Loisel seemed sad, uneasy and anxious. Her dress was ready, however. One evening her husband said to her: “What’s the matter with you? You’ve been very odd for the last three days.” “I’m utterly miserable at not having any jewels, not a single stone, to wear,” she replied. “I shall look absolutely no one. I would almost rather not go to the party.”
- What did Mr. Loisel think of getting jewels for Mathilde? How did Mathilde feel about that?
“Wear flowers,” he said. “They’re very smart at this time of the year. For ten francs you could get two or three gorgeous roses.” She was not convinced. “No . . . there’s nothing so humiliating as looking poor in the middle of a lot of rich women.” “How stupid you are!” exclaimed her husband. “Go and see Madame Forestier and ask her to lend you some jewels. You know her quite well enough for that.” She uttered a cry of delight. “That’s true. I never thought of it.”
- From Mr. Loisel’s act of buying his wife a party dress with the money he had saved for buying a gun, what impression do you form of him?
Meeting Madame Forestier
- Why did Mathilde visit Madame Forestier?
Next day she went to see her friend and told her her trouble.
- How did Madame Forestier entertain Mathilde?
Madame Forestier went to her dressing-table, took up a large box, brought it to Madame Loisel, opened it, and said: “Choose, my dear. First she saw some bracelets, then a pearl necklace, then a Venetian cross in gold and gems, of exquisite workmanship. She tried the effect of the jewels before the mirror, hesitating, unable to make up her mind to leave them, to give them up. She kept on asking: “Haven’t you anything else?” “Yes. Look for yourself. I don’t know what you would like best.”
- Suddenly she discovered, in a black satin case, a superb diamond necklace; her heart began to beat covetously. Her hands trembled as she lifted it. She fastened it round her neck, upon her high dress, and remained in ecstasy at sight of herself. Then, with hesitation, she asked in anguish: “Could you lend me this, just this alone?” “Yes, of course.” She flung herself on her friend’s breast, embraced her frenziedly, and went away with her treasure.
- Mathilde was the attraction of the day. Women envied her, men wished to dance with her and her husband, prided.
- Late that night, the party was over and Mathilde and her husband rushed home in a shabby cab.
- Reaching home, Mathilde went to her wall mirror and admired her beauty in the mirror. She found her beauty, but no necklace could she find. It was lost!!!
Questions & Answers
- “Madame Loisel was a success.” What does it mean?
She was the prettiest woman present, elegant, graceful, smiling, and quite above herself with happiness. All the men stared at her, inquired her name, and asked to be introduced to her. All the Under-Secretaries of State were eager to waltz with her. The Minister noticed her. She danced madly, ecstatically, drunk with pleasure, with no thought for anything, in the triumph of her beauty, in the pride of her success, in a cloud of happiness made up of this universal homage and admiration, of the desires she had aroused, of the completeness of a victory so dear to her feminine heart.
- Loisel restrained her.
- “Wait a little. You’ll catch cold in the open. I’m going to fetch a cab.”
- Going home was not as entertaining as the party. What do you know about the Loisel’s return from the party?
- When they were out in the street they could not find a cab; they began to look for one, shouting at the drivers whom they saw passing in the distance. They walked down towards the Seine, desperate and shivering. At last they found on the quay one of those old nightprowling carriages which are only to be seen in Paris after dark, as though they were ashamed of their shabbiness in the daylight.
- Why was Mathilde sad as she walked to her apartment after the party?
- It was the end, for her.
- She had to return the necklace to Madame Forestier.
- No more parties.
- No more glorious days.
- Back to her shabby house in a backward quarter of Paris.
The Necklace is Lost!
- What did the Loisels do immediately after they saw that the necklace was lost?
- “I . . . I . . . I’ve no longer got Madame Forestier’s necklace. . . .”
- He started with astonishment. “What! . . . Impossible!”
- They searched in the folds of her dress, in the folds of the coat, in the pockets, everywhere.
- They could not find it.
- “Are you sure that you still had it on when you came away from the ball?” he asked.
- “Yes, I touched it in the hall at the Ministry.”
- “But if you had lost it in the street, we should have heard it fall.” “Yes.
- Probably we should. Did you take the number of the cab?”
- “No. You didn’t notice it, did you?” “No.”
- They stared at one another, dumbfounded. At last Loisel put on his clothes again.
- “I’ll go over all the ground we walked,” he said, “and see if I can’t find it.”
- And he went out. She remained in her evening clothes, lacking strength to get into bed, huddled on a chair, without volition or power of thought.
- Her husband returned about seven. He had found nothing.
- He went to the police station, to the newspapers, to offer a reward, to the cab companies, everywhere that a ray of hope impelled him. She waited all day long, in the same state of bewilderment at this fearful catastrophe. Loisel came home at night, his face lined and pale; he had discovered nothing.
- “You must write to your friend,” he said, “and tell her that you’ve broken the clasp of her necklace and are getting it mended. That will give us time to look about us.” She wrote at his dictation.
- By the end of a week they had lost all hope.
- Loisel, who had aged five years, declared:
- “We must see about replacing the diamonds.”
- How did the Loisels buy a new necklace for Madame Forestier?
- Next day they took the box which had held the necklace and went to the jewellers whose name was inside. He consulted his books.
- “It was not I who sold this necklace, Madame; I must have merely supplied the clasp.
- Then they went from jeweller to jeweller, searching for another necklace like the first, consulting their memories, both ill with remorse and anguish of mind.
- In a shop at the Palais-Royal they found a string of diamonds which seemed to them exactly like the one they were looking for.
- It was worth forty thousand francs. They were allowed to have it for thirty-six thousand.
- They begged the jeweller not tO sell it for three days.
- And they arranged matters on the understanding that it would be taken back for thirty-four thousand francs, if the first one were found before the end of February.
- Loisel possessed eighteen thousand francs left to him by his father.
- He intended to borrow the rest.
- He did borrow it, getting a thousand from one man, five hundred from another, five louis here, three louis there.
- He gave notes of hand, entered into ruinous agreements, did business with usurers and the whole tribe of money-lenders.
- He mortgaged the whole remaining years of his existence, risked his signature without even knowing it he could honour it, and, appalled at the agonising face of the future, at the black misery about to fall upon him, at the prospect of every possible physical privation and moral torture, he went to get the new necklace and put down upon the jeweller’s counter thirty-six thousand francs.
- What was Madame Forestier’s reaction when Mathilde returned the necklace?
- When Madame Loisel took back the necklace to Madame Forestier, the latter said to her in a chilly voice:
- “You ought to have brought it back sooner; I might have needed it.”
- She did not, as her friend had feared, open the case. If she had noticed the substitution, what would she have thought? What would she have said? Would she not have taken her for a thief?
- How did the Loisel’s life change after they had bought the necklace?
- Introduction – Madame Loisel came to know the ghastly life of abject poverty. From the very first she played her part heroically. This fearful debt must be paid off. She would pay it.
- The servant was dismissed.
- They changed their flat. They took a garret under the roof.
- She came to know the heavy work of the house, the hateful duties of the kitchen.
- She washed the plates, wearing out her pink nails on the coarse pottery and the bottoms of pans.
- She washed the dirty linen, the shirts and dish-cloths, and hung them out to dry on a string;
- Every morning she took the dustbin down into the street and carried up the water, stopping on each landing to get her breath.
- And, clad like a poor woman, she went to the fruiterer, to the grocer, to the butcher, a basket on her arm, haggling, insulted, fighting for every wretched halfpenny of her money.
- Every month notes had to be paid off, others renewed, time gained.
- Her husband worked in the evenings at putting straight a merchant’s accounts, and often at night he did copying at twopence-halfpenny a page.
- And this life lasted ten years.
- How did the ten years of toil transform Mathilde?
- Madame Loisel looked old now.
- She had become like all the other strong, hard, coarse women of poor households.
- Her hair was badly done, her skirts were awry, her hands were red.
- She spoke in a shrill voice, and the water slopped all over the floor when she scrubbed it.
- Did Mathilde’s character change after the ten years of miserable life? How did it change?
But sometimes, when her husband was at the office, she sat down by the window and thought of that evening long ago, of the ball at which she had been so beautiful and so much admired. What would have happened if she had never lost those jewels. Who knows? Who knows? How strange life is, how fickle! How little is needed to ruin or to save!
- Who was the young woman whom Mathilde recognized at the Champs-Elysees? Why was she surprised?
- Why was Mathilde undecided about talking to Madame Forestier? Why did she finally talk to her?
- What was Madame Forestier’s reaction on meeting Mathilde after several years?
She went up to her. “Good morning, Jeanne.” The other did not recognise her, and was surprised at being thus familiarly addressed by a poor woman. “But . . . Madame . . .” she stammered. “I don’t know . . . you must be making a mistake.” “No . . . I am Mathilde Loisel.” Her friend uttered a cry. “Oh! . . . my poor Mathilde, how you have changed! . . .” “Yes, I’ve had some hard times since I saw you last; and many sorrows . . . and all on your account.”
- Why did Mathilde blame Madame Forestier for her poor appearance?
“On my account! . . . How was that?” “You remember the diamond necklace you lent me for the ball at the Ministry?” “Yes. Well?” “Well, I lost it.” “How could you? Why, you brought it back.” “I brought you another one just like it. And for the last ten years we have been paying for it. You realise it wasn’t easy for us; we had no money. . . . Well, it’s paid for at last, and I’m glad indeed.” Madame Forestier had halted.
- Did you like the climax of the story? What makes the climax very unique and interesting? (Minimum 6 sentences)
- How did Madame Forestier feel when she was told the truth about the loss of her necklace ten years ago? (2 sentences)
Madame Forestier… deeply moved… took her two hands…. “Oh, my poor Mathilde! But mine was imitation. It was worth at the very most five hundred francs!”
- “She lived like the poor lived, not what she thought was poverty earlier on.” What do you think this line conveys about Mathilde?
Mathilde was an exceptional woman. Although she was born to an ordinary family to be later married to an ordinary clerk who was happy being himself, she was never happy. Since the day she lost Madame Forestier’s necklace, Mathilde’s life went through a sudden transition. She had to face poverty with all its meaning, all its sufferings and all its humiliations. It broke her back and the solidity of her pride and stubbornness. Earlier she had been living on the margin of poverty but now she was pushed into the filth and sweat of life that the poor lived. Her house reduced to a shed and her servants gone, Mathilde learnt the essential meaning of poverty.
- If you were to suggest Mathilde to make some changes in her character and outlook, what would be your suggestions?
- Mathilde was not happy with the life she lived and this was the cause of all her miseries. She should have found happiness in her life. There is nothing wrong with thinking of a better life but that should be put into practice.
- She had the best of husbands but she didn’t realize his love and care. I would suggest Mathilde to appreciate the little happiness she had in her married life. She shouldn’t have been sad when he brought the invitation.
- Finally, she should have told Madame Forestier the truth. If she had told the truth, then her life would not have gone through such a misery.
- “Her friend uttered a cry. “Oh, my poor Mathilde! How you have changed!!” Which changes are Madame Forestier referring to?
Madame Forestier is referring to Mathilde’s physical changes. Although the two were of the same age, more or less, the ten years’ miserable life transformed Mathilde into an old woman. She had lost her youthful charm which she had been all about. She became stronger and harder. She now lost the smoothness of her hair that turned frowzy. She wore a skirt which was askew. Her soft and fluffy hands turned red due to the laborious work she did at home.
- “Your actions are responsible for your fate.” Comment on this statement on the basis of your understanding of the story.
- Fate is the total amount of happiness and hardship in one’s life.
- Some people are born to happy surroundings while some are born to poor surroundings but that necessarily doesn’t decides one’s fate.
- To be continued.
- Imagine yourself as Madame Forestier. After learning how miserable a life Mathilde had lived, you decided to return the money that the latter had spent for buying the necklace. Write a letter to Mathilde asking her to meet you at your residence, 2/C, Rou de Mortimere, Ville Ave Marie, Paris – 3.