Guy de Maupassant and Katherine Mansfield explore the connection between possessions and identity through the characteristics of Mathilde Loisel in The Necklace and Miss Brill in the short story Miss Brill. Mathilde Loisel is a very charming, rather young wife, “dressed plainly because she could not dress well, but she was as unhappy as though she had really fallen from her proper station”.
Maupassant best describes the character of Mathilde through her “desire to please, to be envied, to be attractive and sough after”. Essentially, she is blessed with the physical beauty but not the affluent lifestyle she seeks. The sensual noun “desire” reflects her strong feeling of wanting to have the life and luxury she never did although her middle-class status would suggest otherwise. However, despite her husband’s endless tries to please her demands she seems to always want more and this is expressed directly through the possessions she later acquires, the diamond necklace being her most important accessory.
Mathilde pursues the attention of strangers through those possessions which make her feel more feminine and glorious but later cost her and her husband’s chance for a happy future. The powerful words “envied” and “attractive” represent the radiance she strives for which signifies her dependence on her possessions determining her happiness. Similarly, Miss Brill is also characterised by her desire for others to perceive her in a certain way but instead of her crave to be seen as attractive and feminine, she just wants to be noticed by strangers. She is an elderly, self-contained and settled but not pessimistic woman which differentiates her from Mathilde Loisel.
Mansfield says “Miss Brill always looked forward to the conversation” making her seem as a rather approachable character. However, that quality of hers makes her feel superior to the others in the park and she thinks that there is a “special seat” saved for her which is in reality free to everyone circulating the park. She feels like she is the centre of attention and if she would not attend the park one Sunday, everyone would notice her absence. Nevertheless, this confidence of hers occurs due to her possessions being her ermine coat and other accessories that make her believe life is a fantasy.
As happy and content as she seems, she is constantly in denial about her lack of human contact and the only factor that makes her a positive character are her possessions. Both, Mathilde Loisel and Miss Brill similarly depend on their possessions for their happiness which essentially affects their identity and so each character experiences a negative change towards the end of their story.