Analysis of The Jewelry by guy de Maupassant and The Birthmark by Nathanial Hawthorne

The short stories “The Jewelry” by Guy de Maupassant and “The Birthmark” by Nathanial Hawthorne are works of literature that have substance, form, and compositional similarities. Both pieces of literature concerning marriage were written at the same time in the 1800s, with “The Jewelry” published in 1884 and “The Birthmark” written in the 1840s. This paper attempts to examine the two short stories in order to establish a shared thread, discuss related symbols, and discuss the historical context in which they are located. Common theme between the “The Jewelry” by Guy de Maupassant and “The Birthmark” by Nathanial Hawthorne are works of literature that carry analogies in content, style, and composition. The two pieces of literature both telling about marriages were written around the same time in the 1800s, “The Jewelry” was published in 1884 while “The Birthmark” was written in the 1840s. This paper seeks to analyze the two short stories, to find the common theme between them, discuss similar symbols, and the historical context in which they are set.

Common theme between the “The Jewelry” by Guy de Maupassant and “The Birthmark” by Nathanial Hawthorne

The common theme in both these pieces of literature is irony; the two writers use the marriages of their characters and symbols to bring out the irony of life as follows;

Irony of Life in “The Jewelry”

The Maupassant portrays how life can be full of irony in the story The Jewelry by using Monsieur Loisel and Mathilde’s characters. Mathilde is described as a type of lady that is virtuous and perfect in the eyes of every man, that any young man would inarguably put his life’s happiness in her hands, she was lavished with praise from men who viewed her as pure and angelic one that was easy to the eye and lovely but the irony is that she is anything but virtuous, she had low morals.

Mathilde slept around with other men to get what her husband could not provide, she had affairs with other men to get expensive gems thus it was ironical that she was considered virtuous before other men’s eyes when she was nothing like it to her husband. It is ironic she was considered angelic when her true character was far from it. The whole story shows us a devil in a pretty body and a beautiful face; it is ironic that an angel brings pain to the simple life that Monsieur Loisel was living so much he had to work all his life to repay a debt he should never have settled in the first place.

The second irony portrayed in the story is that Mathilde was called modest and down to earth when she was actually coveting expensive things in life. She was called modest when she, in fact, despised the low life they lived due to her husband’s meager pay. Mathilde had expensive taste and had an affinity for expensive jewelry, she adored gems so much she openly admired them before her husband. She lied about not wanting to go out with her husband because she was not into the fine things of life; it is ironic that she spends time in high-end places with other men at the expense of her husband who was away at work during the day.

The third irony is that Mathilde and Loisel’s marriage seemed like a perfect marriage, she was Loisel’s deepest desire but turns out she would be the sole contributor to his troubles and sorrow. She was called lovely but her whole existence brought him pain, it is ironic that she was his affection yet she was showing other men all the affection she could so as to get the things she was fond of.

In addition, Maupassant portrays the irony of luxury in the story; the couple seemed to live an opulent life which they actually did unbeknown to Loisel, the good life was courtesy of Mathilde’s many extramarital affairs. It is ironic that Loisel could not piece together the fact that he is the sole provider of the house with meager means, one that could not afford the fine wine and food that was presented at the table. If he was self-aware and observant of his household it would be evident to him that someone else is supplementing their finances.

Lastly, the author uses the major symbol in the story to bring out the irony of fake versus real. Mathilde is considered a real gem among women and men covet her yet she adores the diamond necklace that is a fake, she fell for her friend’s necklace unbeknown to her it was not real. It is ironic that Monsieur Loisel had to work for ten years to pay for a fake piece of jewelry when he loses his wife he learns that the jewelry she left behind was real and worth so much. In the end, he sells off his wife’s jewelry after she dies and deceives himself that he will be happy now that he is rich. It is ironical that when he remarries this time to a nice honorable woman she makes his life agonizing.

Irony of Life in “The Birthmark”

Hawthorne uses the three types of irony, situational, verbal and dramatic to tell the story. Georgiana calls her birthmark magical; it is verbally ironic since it does not carry the aura that anything magical comes with. Her birthmark does not have magical powers that make her life superior; instead, it is the one thing she so desperately wants to get rid of after she gets married. If it were magical she would not want to lose it, in one scene she urges Aylmer to remove it no matter the cost lest they go mad. It is ironic because if she thinks of the birthmark as magical she would not be so eager to have her husband get rid of it.

The author applies situational irony to explain Aylmer’s experiment in finding the elixir, Georgiana and Aylmer were so transfixed in finding a way to remove the birthmark they considered the remedy an answer to mortality. Aylmer calls his experiment the elixir of immortality but ironically it is the remedy that takes away the love of his life. The couple is under the assumption that the remedy will lead them to a perfect life, if only it could get rid of her birthmark they would live in perfection. After taking the elixir Georgiana she passes away, it is ironic that the thing they expected to render her immortal reassured them that the ultimate thing about human life is mortality.

Lastly, the author uses dramatic irony to show the obsession that Aylmer had in his work and how tragic it was. Aylmer did not realize he was playing God in the attempt to make his wife perfect by removing the birthmark; it is ironic that he thought a successful experiment would make him happy yet he was making Georgiana miserable. He was so drawn to getting the elixir so much so he ruined a happy relationship. Aylmer thought making his work a perfect being would make her happy little did he know she was happy with herself before he brought up the topic of the birthmark. It is ironical that his lifetime dedication to finding an answer to perfect life only turned a perfectly happy woman into a sad one and ultimately took away a perfect soul.

Similar symbols in the “The Jewelry” and “The Birthmark”

Symbols in “The Jewelry”

In this story symbolism is seen in the necklace that Mathilde owns, she lies to Monsieur Loisel that they are fake symbolizes the nature of their marriage which is fake. They are seen living a luxurious life yet it is all fake, they are living unhappy lives because of the jewelry she is fond of. The jewelry that Loisel has to work so hard to replace is fake just like the relationship he is so affectionate about.

The necklace, though sparkling and beautiful is actually worthless; it is a symbol that depicts the power of impressions and the split between reality and flashy appearances. Mathilde takes Madame Forestier’s necklace with the assumption that it will portray her as wealthy at the party little does she know it is fake, Madame Forestier on the other hand does not reveal that the necklace is actually a costume jewelry and fake for that matter because she wants to be upheld in Mathilde’s eyes as a wealthy woman. Mathilde is deceived into believing she adorns real gem at to the party, the jewelry that is the center of all lies is what leads to the downfall of a marriage and the relationships around it. The necklace as a symbol shows that if people keep denying the real situation in their lives they will land in trouble trying to be something else.

Symbols in “The Birthmark”

Hawthorne uses the Birthmark as a symbol of mortality in the story. Georgiana’s birthmark is a representation of the flaws that humanity fights every day, human beings and all other living things cannot miss a flaw. The author tells us that we can find happiness if we are content with what we have and who we are. Georgiana was happy and content with her birthmark, it was a reminder that she was human and in her imperfection, she was still beautiful until she met Aylmer who thinks otherwise.

Aylmer chases greatness in trying to reverse nature to achieve perfection by removing the birthmark little does he knows the mark was the symbol of life in his wife. When he dreams that as he tries to cut the birthmark he keeps cutting into her heart, it is symbolic that the birthmark is actually the source of her life. When they finally make a remedy and she drinks it, the birthmark fades away and so does her life.

The elixir is also symbolic of the story. It shows how science can create the perception that one can hold God-like power. It shows that knowledge can be a dangerous thing if it is in the wrong hands. The elixir is symbolic of life-threatening power that comes with knowledge and scientific skills, it also symbolizes the lines that should be drawn between science and Godly powers; that line should not be broken lest we self-destruct.

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