Madame Loisel, who begins the story as a selfish and ungrateful person, experiences a great deal of change beginning immediately after the ball. As she and her husband leave the festivities, she realizes that the diamond necklace that she borrowed from her friend, Mrs. Forestier, is missing. Desperate to replace the missing jewelry, Mr. Forestier finds a copy with a price tag of 36,000 francs and uses his inheritance, as well as 18,000 borrowed francs to purchase it.
Because of the enormous amount of debt facing the couple, Madame Loisel is forced to become a common housewife and live the "horrible life the needy live."
She learned to do the heavy housework, to perform the hateful duties of cooking. She washed dishes, wearing down her shell-pink nails scouring the grease from pots and pans; she scrubbeddirty linen, shirts, ande cleaning rags which she hung on a line to dry; she took the garbage down to the street each morning and brough up water, stopping on each landing to get her breath. And, clad like a peasant woman, basket on arm, guarding sou by sou her allowance, she bargained with the fruit dealers, the grocer, the butcher, and was insulted by them.
In short, Madame Loisel, who was vain and desperate to appear rich at the ball, lost her life of relative luxury and her looks; she became loud and coarse. Even her old friend Mrs. Forestier was shocked by her appearance when they met on the street. Madame Loisel's hunger for riches and beauty caused her to forfeit those things she prized most in order to pay the debt incurred by purchasing a replacement for a necklace that was actually a fake worth no more than 500 francs.