Clearly Mathilde made her bed and now has to lie in it, so to speak. I'm always most devastated by what her selfish actions cost her husband and I'm pretty indifferent to her suffering. I suppose I do feel a bit of sympathy when she meets Madame Forrestier at the end of the story and she is barely recognizable. Though she has lost most of her vanity, that still has to hurt. Other than that, she has reaped what she sowed.
I think you have missed the point. I think there is a transition in both the story and Mathilde. First she is all those things as you've described, and we are not meant to empathize with her. But at the end of the story, we see the difference in her and we are meant to feel for her. She has pride in the fact that she set the goal of paying off the second necklace, and she accomplished that. She has grown and matured, and we, as readers, are supposed to realize that.
I agree with the previous posts--I don't think anyone really feels sympathy for Mme. Loisel. In essence, she's what some people might describe as an exceedingly spoiled whiner. Instead, it's my guess that most readers feel sympathy for Mme. Loisel's husband. From the beginning of the story, readers understand that though he isn't able to provide the kind of life his wife dreams of, he does everything he can to make her happy.
I agree that there is little sympathy created for Madame Loisel. She yearns for a life which she cannot have and shows no appreciation or contentment with what she does have. She is foolish, childish and ignorant. Her flaw of judging by appearances rather than depth brings about her downfall as she is blinded by what she believes to be diamonds but does not study them or percieve them to be fake. She is content for the evening with a necklace of glass: the treasure she has dreamed of is never real, but has a high price.
There is nothing in the story, beginning, middle or end, that elicits sympathy for me regarding Madame Loisel. She is unhappy because she is not rich like her friend. She wants to be a socialite, like Madame Forestier her old school friend, who has money. She is unhappy because she is beautiful, but does not have fancy clothes.
The author is trying to write a realistic story about what life was really like in this period in history. I'm sure there were plenty of beautiful women who dreamed of being rich, but married a simple men who could provide only the necessities of life.
Everything that makes her unhappy is shallow, materialistic, therefore, the reader actually feels that she gets what she deserves, because she has devoted her life to the pursuit of a false image, like the necklace that she wore that was fake. The world she wants to live in is dominated and ruled by appearances only, that is exactly what she gets.
Madame Loisel's life is not that bad, she has a simple existence, but she is not poor or starving in the street. Her husband gets two tickets to a ball, he manages to give his wife 400 francs to buy a dress.