The lovely Madame Mathilde Loisel "suffers incessantly" because she does not own expensive jewels. When her husband brings home an invitation to a ball, she becomes depressed even more so. She has nothing to wear to make her look beautiful.
Then, Madame Loisel remembers her friend Madame Forestier who owns jewels. Madame Loisel borrows what she believes to be an expensive necklace. She is radiant at the ball. She has a magnificent evening. All the gentlemen believe her to be the most beautiful woman there.
The irony in this short story is that Madame Loisel believes she is wearing an expensive necklace. In reality, the necklace is an imitation. It is a fake. Not knowing this, Madame Loisel feels she is elegant in her false necklace.
If only Madame Loisel had known that her beauty was exquisite because of her natural features, she could have saved herself ten years of hard work. As it turns out, she loses the borrowed necklace and works ten long years trying to pay off a debt she borrowed to replace the necklace.
Ironically, Madame Loisel works ten long years to pay for a genuine replacement necklace when the borrowed necklace was not real. The irony is in the fact that she wore an imitation necklace that made her feel pretty. The imitation necklace served its purpose although it did not cost a fortune.
When Madame Loisel learns that the borrowed necklace she lost was not real, she has already learned her lesson in humility. Her appearance is haggard from ten long years of domestic work. Yes, she has worked ten long years scrubbing floors to pay off the thirty-six thousand francs she borrowed to replace the lost necklace.
The irony is that Madame Loisel looked to be worth a fortune with the imitation necklace. Had she been contented with her natural beauty, she could have saved herself years of toil to pay for a genuine replacement necklace that substituted an imitation. Ironically, Madame Loisel learns a lesson on humility from a necklace that was not even real:
The story's greatest irony, however, is embodied in the necklace itself; while it appears to be a piece of jewelry of great value, it is really an imitation. The Loisels sacrifice their humble but sufficient home to buy an expensive replacement for a cheap original.