Idealism In Literature

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 12th grade October 2001

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Nineteenth century literature is full of allusions and examples of idealism and romantic subjectivism. Society at the time is quite preoccupied with the bourgeois lifestyle and seems to neglect reality. Stories like "The Necklace", "Barn Burning", and "Paul's Case" exemplify a Nietzschean rebellion against the constraints of social standards. Nietzsche wrote that "we [are] like shop windows in which we are continually arranging, concealing or illuminating the supposed qualities other ascribe to us - in order to deceive ourselves" (Curry). By this is meant that people in society portray a variety of false facades in order to fit in and feel a part of popular culture.

In Maupassant's, "The Necklace" readers find many examples of the nineteenth century culture's idealism clashing with nineteenth century materialistic obsessions and bourgeoisie expectations. The story's main character, Mathilde, becomes disgusted with her social status and poor living conditions. "She suffers ceaselessly, feeling herself born for all the delicacies and all the luxuries" (Maupassant 161).

The fact that she is pretty and charming, combined with her poverty creates somewhat of a Cinderella situation. Nietzsche would have been upset with her decision to borrow an expensive necklace merely to feel a part of bourgeois society. Nietzsche felt that, to admit a belief merely because it is custom was to be dishonest and cowardly (Curry). Following the grand evening, the necklace Mathilde had borrowed was lost. After lying about the whereabouts of the necklace to its owner, Mathilde and her husband searched the city until a close match was found. The couple finds themselves in great debt after purchasing the expensive matching necklace. Faced with this difficult situation, Mathilde and her husband display their character, integrity, and bourgeois backgrounds. They dismissed their servant, changed their lodgings, and rented a garret under the roof...