“The Necklace” is a tale of a woman who has all she needs, but is not satisfied. It is the story of a young French woman named Mathilde Loisel who was born beautiful, but not born rich.
Mathilde is very materialistic.
Mathilde suffered ceaselessly, feeling herself born to enjoy all delicacies and all luxuries. She was distressed at the poverty of her dwelling, at the bareness of the walls, at the shabby chairs, the ugliness of the curtains. (p. 1)
One day, her husband (who is not named) comes home with an invitation to a fancy ball. He thought she would be thrilled, because it is a very important social event and it is hard to get tickets, especially for a clerk. He is surprised by her reaction. She is angry, and then sad. She tells him she has nothing to wear, and he offers to give her the money he has saved for a hunting trip. Then she says she was no jewels, and he again offers a suggestion.
"Go look up your friend, Madame Forestier, and ask her to lend you some jewels. You're intimate enough with her to do that." (p. 3)
They go to the ball, and Mathilde is wonderful. She looks stunning, and she is very happy. As they are leaving, she realizes that she lost the necklace she borrowed from her rich friend.
Her husband once again swoops in to save the day. He tells her to write that the clasp is broken, and takes out a loan to replace the necklace. Then he and Mathilde labor on for ten years to repay the debt.
Thereafter Madame Loisel knew the horrible existence of the needy. She bore her part, however, with sudden heroism. That dreadful debt must be paid. She would pay it. (p. 6)
In the end, Mathilde runs into her friend Madame Forestier. She does not recognize how old and ragged Mathilde looks. Mathilde tells her only then that she had to replace the necklace, and it took her ten years. Madame Forestier is surprised, and tells her the necklace was a fake.
The great irony of the story is that Mathilde’s pride literally was her downfall. She refused to tell Madame Forestier that she lost the necklace, and so she lost her beauty and what little comfort she had to replace it. She spent ten years destroying herself to replace a fake necklace with a real one.