There are essentially only three characters in Guy de Maupassant's short story "The Necklace." Of the three, only Mathilde Loisel is a dynamic character. The others, Matilde's husband and Madame Forestier, remain static characters during the story. Matilde is the middle class wife of a French ministerial clerk. She is apparently beautiful and also has a lively imagination, which tends to make her sad that she doesn't have all of the accoutrements of an upper class existence. The omniscient narrator describes her melancholy:
She grieved incessantly, feeling that she had been born for all the niceties and luxuries of living...She would dream of silent chambers, draped with Oriental tapestries and lighted by tall bronze floor lamps, and of two handsome butlers in knee breeches, who, drowsy from the heavy warmth cast by the central stove, dozed in large overstuffed armchairs.
In reality, Mathilde actually has a quite comfortable life with a loving husband and even a maid. It is, however, not enough for her, and when her husband brings home an invitation to an elite party, she complains that she has nothing to wear and is without jewelry. Her husband, an obviously well meaning man who loves his wife, gives up part of his savings to buy her a dress. Mathilde also secures a diamond necklace from her rich friend Madame Forestier, who is apparently in a social class above the Loisels. Adorned in a new dress and an expensive necklace, Mathilde is the belle of the ball and is tremendously popular, dancing into the early morning hours.
After the party, she loses the necklace in a vain attempt to avoid being seen in her shabby coat. The necklace is never found and the Loisels are plunged into poverty in order to pay off the debt caused by having to replace the necklace. Because of the debt, Mathilde changes. She goes from being petulant and spoiled to hard-working and thrifty. This change makes her a dynamic character because her fortitude in the face of hardship is quite heroic:
Mme. Loisel experienced the horrible life the needy live. She played her part, however, with sudden heroism. That frightful debt had to be paid. She would pay it. She dismissed her maid; they rented a garret under the eaves.
Ironically, this privation is terribly unfortunate, as Mathilde discovers at the end of the story when she happens to meet Madame Forestier by chance that the necklace was actually a fake and worth almost nothing.
The story is set in Paris, France at the end of the 19th century. The Seine River, which runs through the middle of the city, is mentioned, as is the famous boulevard, the Champs Elysées. The setting is primarily important because of the class structure in France at the time. Unlike America, where social classes tend to be somewhat fluid, French society was quite a bit more rigid and it was unlikely that Mathilde could have ever become upper class, no matter how much she dreamt of such an occurrence. It might also have also been difficult for the Loisels to admit to Madame Forestier that they had lost the necklace, which is why they spent 36,000 francs for a piece of costume jewelry. They were simply caught up in the realities of the social etiquette of the period.