Maitre Hauchecorne is an old peasant and a bit of a scoundrel with a reputation for thriftiness and untrustworthiness. He has few true friends or family (no family is mentioned in the story). Hauchecorne's low self-esteem comes from both his hereditary status and his cheapness; and he is ashamed when an adversary, Malandain, sees him bending in the dirt to pick up what would be for most people a worthless piece of string. Although Hauchecorne has no connection with the missing purse, which is eventually found, the fact that he was seen picking up something from the street makes him a suspect. Hauchecorne is searched and cleared, and the purse is eventually found, but he has already spread the story of his innocence about town. Because of his past reputation, no one believes him--before or after the purse is recovered.
Hauchecorne also appears to be an outsider to the village, and he lives--probably alone--somewhere beyond the town proper. After his repeated tales of the string are spread throughout the village, he becomes even more of an outcast and, eventually, the butt of jokes. It is all too much for Hauchecorne, who, at one point, prided himself on his business practicality. In the end, he cannot walk about the town without feeling the stares and scornful laughter that he imagines coming from everyone he sees.
The string becomes the symbol of his downfall--a worthless, trivial thing that eventually becomes the defining moment of his later life. He dies miserable and alone, all because of "a little bit of string."