What does the couple learn about the necklace?

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Guy de Maupassant's short story "The Necklace" is about a Parisian middle class couple in the 19th century who come to grief over losing what they believe to be a very expensive diamond necklace.

Madame Loisel dreams of a different life. She envies the rich and dreams of what it would be like to live the life of a wealthy woman. When her husband brings home an invitation to a fancy ball, she needs, not only a new dress, but also a piece of jewelry. She borrows a beautiful necklace from her upper class friend Madame Forestier. For Madame Loisel the necklace is a symbol of the wealthy life she would like to live.

After having the time of her life at the ball, Madame Loisel discovers, upon arriving home, that she has lost the necklace. The couple searches everywhere but have no luck in locating the whereabouts of the necklace. Caught up in the reality of social norms at the time, the Loisels are unable to simply tell Madame Forestier that they have lost the necklace. Instead, they spend 40,000 francs (roughly $10,000) on a replacement necklace which is presented to Madame Forestier. 

In order to pay off the debt they accrue to buy the necklace, the Loisels live in poverty for ten years and, when Madame Loisel sees Madame Forestier one day she looks so different from the privations she has experienced that her friend does not recognize her.

Madame Loisel reveals that she gave Madame Forestier a different necklace because they lost the first one. She explains that buying the replacement threw the couple into debt and poverty. In the ultimate irony that closes the story, Forestier declares that the necklace was really a fake. It was basically worth nothing.

The moral of the story might be summed up simply: all that glitters is not gold. Or, the reader may surmise that the wealthy world Madame Loisel longed to be part of was really quite phony.  

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