The theme of “The Jewelry” by Guy de Maupassant is that life can be full of irony. I think that the author actually went a little overboard on this theme. Though I enjoyed no less for his overindulgence. Each of the ironies shown in “The Jewelry reveal how people keep secrets from one another or themselves, and/or reveals how people ignore a situation that upsets them if they are compensated enough. That compensation in this story is money.
The plot moved from one irony to the next to reveal either of these characteristics in M. Lantin and/or his first wife. The first couple of paragraphs reveal how respectable M. Lantin’s wife is suppose to be. But even this early in the story, the author states that “The young girl seemed to be the very ideal of that pure good woman to whom every young man dreams of entrusting his future.” That “…seemed to be…” lets the reader know that the young girl was not the pure woman everyone took her for. This shows that the girl was hiding something, though what that something was we didn’t find out until later in the story.
The second irony we come across in this story, is the fact that they “…seemed to live in luxury”, which in fact they did. Unbeknown to M. Lantin, his paychecks were being supplemented by his wife’s lovers. That they were paying for his good food and fine wine. I believe if he had opened his eyes, and looked over the household finances; he would have known the money was coming from somewhere other than his paycheck. In this respect M. Lantin was being fooled by his own self as well as by his wife. But why not, he was happy!
And that takes us to our third irony. If M. Lantin hadn’t stopped going to the theatre with his wife, then another man wouldn’t have had the opportunity to flirt with her, and become her lover. In every other way, other than the theatre, and later the jewelry, M. Lantin’s wife devoted herself to him. In paragraph five, it says that “It would be impossible to conceive of any attention, tenderness, playful caress which she did not lavish upon her husband…” She was in love as well as loving her husband. She devoted herself to him, except for her time at the theatre. So, if M. Lantin had been at the theatre with his wife, then his very presence would have stopped any affairs, if only because his wife’s attention would have been on him or on the theatre, not another man. (Intermission would have been long enough for anybody to get it on! Not to mention while M. Lantin was at work.)
And then of course, there is the jewelry itself. The fact that the jewelry is real, while she had been acting like it was fake. Even so far as to let the light catch the crystal, and say, “Now, look at them – see how well the work was done. You would swear it was real jewelry.”, when he would scold her for wearing the jewelry instead of being “adorned with one’s natural beauty and grace.” I”m sure she had fun dressing her husband in the jewelry and laughing at him wearing her lover’s gifts.
Then when she died, and M. Lantin found out that the jewelry was real. The jewelry that the wife’s lovers gave her paid for M. Lantin debauchery. After he realized he was rich, M. Lantin forgot all about his wife’s affairs, and deluded himself that all was okay as long as he was rich. So much so, that six months after his wife died, he remarried to a good upstanding woman that made his life miserable.
That is the ultimate irony of this story and in life. That we are happiest having fun and not worrying about what we do or who we are doing it with. That we laugh, play, and enjoy life to the fullest whenever and wherever we find ourselves. And when we confine ourselves to a certain moral standard with no room for change, understanding, or at least the ability to agree to disagree; we end up making our lives and the lives of everyone around us miserable. This is the ultimate irony of life!