In her desire for recognition and a place in society, Mathilde Loisel, a beautiful young woman who has had "no dowry, no prospects," perceives material wealth and possession as a measure of position. Thus, the lovely dress that her husband affords her and the "superb diamond necklace" which she borrows from a former school friend, Madame Forestier, represents the elegance that she has always wished to attain. After a gloriously successful evening in which she charms all the men in the room and dances "wildly, drunk with pleasure," Mme. Loisel returns home only to realize that the borrowed necklace has been lost. Futile attempts by her husband to find it end in despair. "[L]ooking five years older," he tells his wife, "We must take steps to replace that piece of jewelry."
It is at this point in the narrative that the characters' destiny becomes a matter of their decision. As William Jennings Bryan once stated,
Destiny is no matter of chance. It is a matter of choice....
In their false pride, the Loisels do not inform Mme. Forestier that Mathilde has lost it, and will replace it. Had they done so, Mathilde's gracious friend would have informed her immediately that the lost necklace is merely "paste" and not real. Instead, the Loisels assume that the necklace is composed of real gems and purchase one worth many times the price of the lost necklace, working slavishly to pay for it, sacrificing their health and happiness. Moreover, Mathilde loses her beauty and becomes petty; for, when she meets Mme. Forestier one day, she blames her for the deprived life she has led, scrubbing floors and bartering with the grocer.
"Yes, I've had a hard time since last seeing you. And plenty of misfortunes--and all on account of you!"
...."Oh, my poor Mathilde. But mine [necklace] was only paste. Why, at most it was worth only five hundred francs!"
Indeed, it is Mathilde's actions that has caused her fate.
Sorry; that last sentence should be "Indeed, it is Mathilde's action of not informing Mme. Forestier (not actions) that has caused her fate."