Mathilde and her husband lived the simple existence that one would expect from the salary that came with being a "little clerk of the Ministry of Public Instruction." It was a middle-class lifestyle, but Mathilde was never happy with it. She
... suffered ceaselessly, feeling herself born to enjoy all delicacies and all luxuries. She was distressed at the poverty of her dwelling, at the bareness of the walls, at the shabby chairs, the ugliness of the curtains. All those things, of which another woman of her rank would never even have been conscious, tortured her and made her angry.
While her husband seemed perfectly satisfied with his job and home, his wife looked forward to bigger and better things, dreaming of the fine possessions that riches could bring. He was easy to please, overjoyed when presented with a simple soup for dinner. He believed his wife would be ecstatic when presented with tickets for the ball, but Mathilde believed that her own appearance would be an embarrassment without a new gown and expensive jewelry. Mathilde would soon find out after the loss of the necklace that her life could be far worse. The couple faced debt and real poverty after the dance, being forced to borrow money at high interest rates in order to pay for the lost necklace. The couple was forced to move, renting a simple "garret under the roof." They fired their "servant," and Mathilde did all of the housework she once believed to be beneath her. She dressed simply, as a common peasant, and her husband worked two jobs and "often copied manuscript" late at night. After a decade, their debts were paid at last, but by then "Madame Loisel looked old now," and she only had the memory of the ball to sustain her.