Simply put, Mathilde Loisel thinks much too highly of herself. She was born into "a family of clerks," and she married "a little clerk"; yet, she daydreams constantly of riches that she believes she deserves but cannot afford. She "suffered ceaselessly" about her home and her life. She is "distressed" by the furnishings of her house; it "tortured" her to think of the many things she was missing: fancy dinners, colorful tapestries and "priceless curiosities."
She had no gowns, no jewels, nothing. And she loved nothing but that. She felt made for that. She would have liked so much to please, to be envied, to be charming, to be sought after.
Even the prized invitation to the Ministry of Public Instruction ball did not excite her; she had no appropriate gown to wear to such a dream gala. In Mathilde's mind, if she could not be the belle of the ball, she would not go at all. Even when her husband agrees to give her 400 francs--and give up his dreams of a new hunting rifle for which he was saving--she wasn't happy. She had no fancy jewelry to go with her new gown. Mathilde does become the belle of the ball for a few happy hours, but she soon afterward discovers that the cost was not worth the years of pain and hardship that followed.