How does Madame Loisel in "The Necklace" change emotionally, physically and mentally?

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lusie0520 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Madame Loisel changes emotionally, physically, and mentally in the story “The Necklace.”   Emotionally, she is selfish and shallow.  Though she is married to a man who loves and provides for her, she sees only that he does not make enough money, and that she does not have the material possessions she wants. 

“She suffered endlessly, feeling herself born for every delicacy and luxury. She suffered from the poorness of her house, from its mean walls, worn chairs, and ugly curtains.” 

Physically, she is very attractive: “She was one of those pretty and charming girls…”  Mentally, she is living in a dream world where she ignores her own reality in favor of daydreaming about being someone else.

  “She imagined vast saloons hung with antique silks, exquisite pieces of furniture supporting priceless ornaments, and small, charming, perfumed rooms, created just for little parties of intimate friends, men who were famous and sought after, whose homage roused every other woman's envious longings.” 

In the end, these longings to be someone she is not will result in consequences she could not possibly have imagined.

After she loses her friend’s necklace, Madame Loisel is forced to change as she and her husband spend years paying off the debt for the necklace they purchased to give back to Madame Forestier.  Her servant is dismissed and she does all the work herself.

  “And, clad like a poor woman, she went to the fruiterer, to the grocer, to the butcher, a basket on her arm, haggling, insulted, fighting for every wretched halfpenny of her money.” 

She has changed mentally from a woman living in a dream world to a woman living in a very harsh reality.  Physically, she is no longer beautiful.

  “Madame Loisel looked old now. She had become like all the other strong, hard, coarse women of poor households. Her hair was badly done, her skirts were awry, her hands were red.” 

She has lost her beauty, but she has gained some pride in herself .  We see this emotional change when  she speaks to Madame Forestier one morning ten years after she had borrowed the necklace. 

"I brought you another one just like it. And for the last ten years we have been paying for it. You realise it wasn't easy for us; we had no money. . . . Well, it's paid for at last, and I'm glad indeed." 

Madame Loisel is proof that we should not covet what we do not have because everything is not as it seems.  For example, the necklace she lost was fake; her immature desire to look better than everyone else at the ball has cost her ten years of her life.