Guy de Maupassant wrote over three hundred short stories, six novels, poems, travel books, articles, four plays and pornography and was a hugely influential writer, establishing the modern short story form and writing stories which have been hard for others to equal when it comes to quality, intriguing twists in the tail, and an almost photographic realism. He could never explain his own literary ability and grew quite panic-stricken when asked about his gift, or even when others talked of literary matters in his presence. He didn’t want to analyse – just to represent and narrate.
I vividly remember my first reading of this powerful short story. I was about 11 years old and attending Tokoroa Intermediate School in New Zealand. It was a cold, wet winter afternoon and our teacher, Mr Collins, suggested we all open a School Reader Journal and do 30 minutes of silent reading. I opened up the book and was attracted by one title – The Necklace. I began to read … and soon the classroom walls seemed to disappear, and I found myself in Paris, borrowing a necklace from a friend and then finding to my horror that it was no longer around my neck.
“women belong to no caste, no race; their grace, their beauty, and their charm serving them in the place of birth and family.” – Guy de Maupassant
I think it was the first time in my life that I had fully recognised the power of really great literature, had experienced what a writer can do to make us see a scene and picture the characters and gasp for breath at the end. I couldn’t wait to get on my bike and race home to tell my mother. I simply had to share with her this amazing story. She was at the kitchen bench, preparing dinner, and as I began recounting the plot, she smiled and said “Ah, you’ve been reading The Necklace. She went to the shelves and brought me a collection of Guy de Maupassant tales (which actually belonged to my Dad, who also loved his stories) and suggested I go away and read the story The Piece of String. That’s another incredibly moving, simply tale – another superb piece of short fiction!
Guy de Maupassant was a chronicler for his time, but a writer for all time – his stories touch on truths about the human condition. For many, he is the finest short story writer the world has ever known!
I have loved The Necklace ever since, have lectured on it, thought about its greatness and how much can be achieved within such a short work. I hope you enjoy reading and thinking about it too, and encourage you to go on to read more by this master of the short story.
This Literary Readers’ Guide is a real treat! In it I reveal intriguing stories about the author to help you understand what prompted this book to be written. I identify the main characters and their roles, analyse the themes behind the story, and describe the influence that the era, lifestyle and circumstances have on the book’s setting. Included are 8 thought-provoking discussion points, perfect for books clubs or just to get you thinking a bit harder yourself.
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