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A Sociological Perspective of Mathilde Loisel

In understanding Mathildes character using a sociological perspective, it is important


that we first have a certain degree of knowledge and understanding of the society she lived in,
especially in regards to the women of that time. The text is set in France in the nineteenth
century, an age marked and characterized by gender inequality.
It was a time when women enjoyed few of the legal, social, and political rights. They had
limited control over their finances and personal properties after marriage. They had to be
subservient to their fathers, husbands and other patriarchal figures of the society. In Mathildes
case, she was a woman born to a middle-class family of clerks and taking in account that in those
times, parents chose and approved a suitable partner for their daughter (with the final say on the
fathers part), we can infer that Mathildes marriage to Loisel was not something she wanted for
herself and that it was a loveless union, especially when the text shows no evidential ounce of
affection from Mathilde towards her husband, who treated her very kindly. She was simply
obeying what was expected of her in society, which was to abide by her parents (especially her
fathers) decisions and wishes. Also, while Mathilde has shown disregard and callousness
towards her husband, she knows when to draw the line because, when it comes right down to it,
he is still in charge of the household. We see this when she asks for money to procure a new
gown. She is careful with the amount she requests, for if he should decline, she would have no
say on the matter as he is the one who controls their finances.
In Sociology, a status is referred to a persons ranking or position in a social group or
system. A status can either be ascribed (fixed at birth) or achieved (acquired in time). Mathildes
status as a woman (ascribed) means her role is very limited and she has to comply with the social
norms of women during that time. Her status as a daughter (ascribed) means she has to obey the

wishes of her parents and her status as a wife (achieved) means yielding to her husband.
Mathilde performs her role performance as a daughter, which is the expected behavior to be
compliant, without a fault. But in terms of her status as a wife, we see a role strain on her part, as
she does not live up to the image of the ideal wife of her society, which was to be docile and
completely respectful towards their husbands.
Mathilde and her husband, who is a clerk, belong to the average or middle class in the
pecking order of their society or known as social stratification, which is the arrangement or
division of individuals within the society based on their wealth and power.
Throughout the text, Mathilde longs to belong and become part of the upper class of her
society and scorns her middle-class life. She has a trouble conforming to her status in life and is
not content with what she has. She thinks she deserves the best in life and spends a great deal of
time imagining these things. Out of her desire to become one with the in-crowd of high society,
she buys a new gown worth four hundred francs, which was a huge sum of money for them to
use on a dress given their social class, and even borrows a diamond necklace from her wealthy
friend (whom she envies), Madame Forestier. She does all this just to fit in and pass off as a
woman of beauty, grace and wealth in the very exclusive ball of the ministry her husband works
in. Her dress, borrowed diamond necklace and overall appearance is a symbol of the upper
class.
Sociologically, a symbol is an act or object that has come to be socially accepted as
standing for something else. It comes to represent and express the beliefs of a society or group,
implying certain values and norms. In this case, the appearance of being wealthy through fine
clothing and expensive jewelry means that you come from a family of affluence and prestige,
which are notable symbols of high society.
Considering that Mathilde is just an average middle-class woman, her act of being

pretentiously rich to fit in among the people of the ton suggests that she is a social climber,
seeking social prominence. She wanted their social acceptance and she achieved this by dressing
up and looking her best with a new dress and a borrowed necklace.
Everything changes though when she loses the necklace she borrowed. Out of her pride
and fear of public humiliation and rejection from society, she does not come clean with Madame
Forestier on the lost jewelry. Instead, her husband uses his inheritance and borrows money from
his friends in order to gain an amount of thirty-six thousand francs to buy a replacement, which
Mathilde presents to Madame Forestier. It takes them ten years to pay back their debt.
In those ten years, she and her husband had to sacrifice a lot of things. They had to fire
their servant and change their residence to somewhere less expensive. Her husband had to take
up more hours of work. Meanwhile, Mathilde had to do all the housework like cleaning and
going to and from the market. She had to learn to adjust and adapt to their changes, all at the
price of losing her proud beauty.
Her middle class life now seemed like a luxury in the poverty she had brought upon herself.
And at the end of the story where Mathilde meets up with Madame Forestier again, one
can only imagine what the woman must feel when she learns that all the years of hardship she
went through were nothing but a waste.
Ironically, Mathildes desire to be a step up closer in the social ladder instead only makes
her descend into the lower class of their society, dragging her kind husband to pay the price with
her. Her pride also contributed to the events, for if she had swallowed that pride and not kept the
truth from her friend, the story would have ended very differently.
Sandra Z. Bomediano