In the story "The Necklace," why does Madame Loisel choose the necklace rather than any of the other pieces of jewelry?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Madame Mathilde Loisel selects what she thinks is a diamond necklace because she believes it is "superb" and just the kind of dazzling jewelry that will enable her to attract the attention of the male guests and make her appear affluent.

Mathilde Loisel, who has been born into working class family, "grieves incessantly" because she feels that she was born for "all the little niceties and luxuries of living." She has long dreamed of being a guest at fashionable dinner parties in rooms decorated with tapestries that have images of historical characters and fairyland forests. There, also, are tables of gleaming silverware, and delicious dishes served on beautiful china.

One evening as Mme. Loisel dines with her husband, who is a minor clerk in the Ministry of Education. As they sit at a table that has been covered with the same cloth for three days, her husband hands her an invitation to an evening reception at the Ministerial Mansion. Rather than expressing delight, Mme. Loisel tosses the invitation onto the table, complaining in her self-pity, "What good is that to me?" Her husband, who does not understand why she has reacted in this manner, tells her that he has thought she would be thrilled, adding that he has had a difficult time procuring this invitation. But, the self-centered Mme. Loisel complains that she has no dress to wear. So, in his generosity, her husband sacrifices money he has saved for himself so that his wife can purchase a lovely dress for the reception.

But a pretty dress is not enough. Mme. Loisel feels that she needs some jewelry because 

"There's nothing more humiliating than to look poor among a lot of rich women."

After remarking upon his wife's silliness, her husband suggests that she visit an old school friend, Mme. Forestier, and ask her if she will lend her some jewelry. With a cry of joy, Mathilde Loisel exclaims, "Why, that's so! I hadn't thought of it." Later, at the home of Mme. Forestier, Madame Loisel discovers what she thinks is "a superb diamond necklace" in a black satin box; she holds it to her throat with trembling hands while she looks at her reflection "in ecstasy." With hesitation, Mme. Loisel asks if she may borrow the lovely necklace, and with delight she hears, "Why, of course." She thanks her friend as she hugs her.

At the party, Mme. Loisel, wearing the dazzling necklace, is the "prettiest one there, fashionable, gracious, smiling, and wild with joy." All the Cabinet officials ask her to waltz with them. Even the minister notices her. She is in ecstasy as she gains admiring glances and achieves "complete victory." Mme. Loisel's actions demonstrate her superficiality and her shallow emotions. Thus, her nature is much like the necklace she has chosen because it, too, is false, superficially lovely, and transitory in its beauty. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Mme. Loisel chooses the diamond necklace because it is the most impressive-looking and the most expensive-looking piece of jewelry in her friend's collection. This does not necessarily mean that Mme. Loisel wants to be taken for a wealthy woman. She does it because it is her once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make the kind of impression she has always wanted to make. When her husband first shows her the invitation to the ball, he immediately starts thinking about her personal appearance. When the problem of a dress is solved, she starts thinking that she ought to have jewelry to go with the fashionable new dress. She wants to be noticed and admired. She is visualizing herself through the eyes of the other guests--the women as well as the men. She actually does make the sort of impression she hoped for, and it is the one triumphant moment in her life. No doubt the elaborate "diamond" necklace helps in making that impression.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team