How does the reader know what social class Madame Loisel belongs to?

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In the first paragraph of the short story, Mathilde Loisel is described as an attractive, charming girl, who hails from a family of clerks and is considered middle class. The fact that Mathilde Loisel has no dowry but employs a peasant servant is significant and provides the reader insight into her social class. Mathilde is also forced to marry a man of her own social status, who works as a clerk at the Ministry of Public Instruction. Mathilde is definitely not a member of the upper-class and desperately wishes to live a luxurious life. She is upset that her husband is not a wealthy man and regrets not having an opportunity to marry above her social class. The fact that Mathilde has a peasant servant also indicates that she is middle-class. If Mathilde were lower-class and lived in poverty, she would not have the money to afford a servant or buy a new dress for the ball. Despite living comfortably and enjoying the opportunities to attend the theater and the Ministry's ball, Mathilde wants nothing less than a life of luxury. Unfortunately, she sacrifices what little money she has and her financial stability in order to pay for Madame Forestier's authentic necklace.

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There are a number of clues in the story. For one thing, we're told that Madame Loisel was born into a family of clerks. Despite her pretensions to aristocratic lineage, it would seem that Mathilde is, by birth and marriage, a member of the respectable lower-middle class. Further evidence of her middling social status is the revelation that she had no dowry and so also had no expectations of marrying a man of wealth and distinction. Instead, Mathilde ended up getting hitched to a minor official at the Ministry of Education. And so the social class into which Mathilde was born is the social class in which she appears destined to remain. Little wonder, then, that she craves a better life, full of fine clothes, elite social gatherings, and opulent jewelry.

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