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Comparing the Female Characters in The Necklace and Recitatif

The Use of Female Characters in The Necklace and Recitatif

In Guy de Maupassant’s “The Necklace” and Toni Morrison’s “Recitatif,” materialism and the desire to be envied are vital ingredients in the themes of the stories. Both authors enhance their themes through the manipulation of plot and the use of women as their central characters. Maupassant and Morrison prove the notion that women are effective characters in depicting themes that deal with the social issue of craving material wealth.

The theme of these stories can be determined through an analysis of the narrator’s attitude toward the characters in each story. The narrator in “The Necklace” reflects a disapproving opinion of Mathilde. He believes that Mathilde is snobby and too concerned with her social image: “She suffered ceaselessly, feeling herself born for all the delicacies and all the luxuries. She suffered from the poverty of her dwelling, from the wretched look of the walls, from the worn-out chairs, from the ugliness of the curtains” (66). Through this description of her personality, the narrator illustrates his notion that Mathilde feels that she deserves a wealthier, upper class existence. The narrator also exhibits his beliefs in stating, “She had no dresses, no jewels, nothing. And she loved nothing but that. She felt made for that. She would so have liked to please, to be envied, to be charming, to be sought after” (63). In these sentences, the narrator reveals his ideas about Mathilde and her concern for the way others view her.

The narrator of “Recitatif” does not expose his attitude toward Roberta as obviously as the narrator of “The Necklace.” In “Recitatif,” the narrator suggests that Roberta is obsessed with ma…

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…terialistic desires that Mathilde expresses. Therefore, Mathilde is more beneficial to the development of the theme than her husband.

Maupassant and Morrison convey their themes of social acceptance and materialistic longings through the narrators’ attitudes and develop these themes through the manipulation of plot. To maximize the effect of the themes, Maupassant and Morrison present them through female characters with an inherent desire for others to covet them and an attraction to materialistic wealth.

Works Cited

Maupassant, Guy de. “The Necklace.” Understanding Fiction. 3rd ed. Eds. Cleanth Brooks and Robert Penn Warren. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1979. 66-72.

Morrison, Toni. “Recitatif.” New World of Literature: Writing From America’s Many Cultures. 2nd ed. Eds. Jerome Beaty and J. Paul Hunter. New York: Norton, 1994. 210-225.

Bellamy’s Looking Backward: Utopia or Fantasy?

Bellamy’s Looking Backward: Utopia or Fantasy?

Although Edward Bellamy’s twentieth century society in Looking Backward appears to be the perfect utopia, it could never exist. The very factors that Bellamy claimed contributed to the society’s establishment and success are, in reality, what would lead to its failure. The twentieth century society lacked the possibility for advancements in technology while at the same time lacking competition and appropriate incentives. Even if we ignore these faults, we observe that when Bellamy created his society for Looking Backward, he made several false assumptions about human behavior and failed to realize that the only way his society could be imposed would be involuntarily.

Technology definitely has played a role in shaping the utopian society of Looking Backward: “The purposeful, positive use of technology–from improved factories and offices to new highways and electric lighting systems to innovative pneumatic tubes, electronic broadcasts, credit cards–is, in fact, critical to the predicted transformation of the United States from a living hell into a heaven on earth” (Segal 91). Even though technology made “hell into a heaven on earth,” Bellamy does not seem to leave much room for further advancements in technology. The regimentation of the twentieth century society does not allow for it. In Bellamy’s society, a strict path is laid out for the citizen to follow at a very early age. In fact, this path is the law: “We require, indeed by law, that every man shall serve the nation for a fixed period. . .” (Bellamy 100). From age six to twenty-one, the young child attends school. School, among other things, teaches about specific trades and their histories and …

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…technology, competition, and incentives would prevent it from being successful. Even after reading this novel, it still is quite clear that the capitalist system is a far better method for running a nation’s economy.

Works Cited

Edward Bellamy, Looking Backward. Editor Cecelia Tichi. New York: Penquin Books USA Inc., 1986.

Gerald Gutek, “Analysis of Formal Education In Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward.” In History of Education Quarterly. Volume IV. Number 1. March 1964.

James D. Gwartney, and Richard L. Stroup ed. Economics:

Private and Public Choice. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1995.

Howard P. Segal, “Bellamy and Technology: Reconciling Centralization and Decentralization.” In Looking Backward 1988-1888: Essays on Edward Bellamy. Edited by Daphne Patai. Amherst: The University of Massachusetts Press, 1988.

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