In "The Necklace," what was Mme. Loisel's life like before and after she lost the necklace?

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Lorraine Caplan | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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"The Necklace" tells us that Mme. Loisel's life before she lost the necklace was by no means a terrible life.  For example, she had a maid, a "little Breton girl" (1), who did the work around the house. She had a house, she had a husband who worked, and she had food on the table.  We are told that she had worn out furniture and curtains that were "ugly" (1), but we are also told,

All these things, of which other women of her class would not even have been aware, tormented and insulted her (1).

What was terrible was Mme. Loisel's perception of her life. Because she was "pretty and charming" (1), she felt that she deserved more in life, a wealthy husband, a fancy home, and 

...vast saloons hung with antique silks, exquisite pieces of furniture supporting priceless ornaments, and small, charming, perfumed rooms, created just for little parties of intimate friends, men who were famous and sought after, whose homage roused every other woman's envious longings (1).

We can see from this and the other vivid descriptions of what she longed for that Mme. Loisel had a sense of entitlement that her life could not satisfy. 

When Mme. Loisel's husband gets them an invitation to a fancy event, her first response is not to be happy, but to rebuke her husband because he has not provided her with the fancy clothes and jewelry she would need to be seen in.  When she is able to borrow the necklace from her friend, though, she feels she is able to make the best of things, and indeed, she is a huge success at this dance.   

After the necklace is lost and she cannot bring herself to tell her friend the truth, her life becomes far more miserable than it had been before.  She and her husband have to borrow a large sum of money to replace the lost necklace and give it to her friend.  This puts them in debt, and to pay back the debt, they lose what little they had. They take a small apartment in an attic and get rid of the maid. Mme. Loisel now has to do all the laundry, housework, and cooking herself, and the couple scrimp and save on everything possible, bargaining at the market to save a little here and there, so they could pay off the indebtedness.  Her husband takes a second job at night, as well.This ages both of them. It is a very hard life. And it takes them ten long years to pay off the debt completely. Mme. Loisel is no longer so pretty or so charming, and she has paid dearly for her discontent, her fantasies of wealth, and her sense of entitlement. 

It is not so dreadful to yearn for a better life, and I do not think that is the moral of this story. What is dreadful is to think that beauty and charm should entitle a person to a better life, rather than being thankful for what one has and being willing to use one's intelligence and skills to get more.

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