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Mathilde comes from a bourgeouis family. That means she is middle class; however, unlike today's middle class in our country, the French bourgeoisie were comfortable enough to be able to have maids. Because Mathilde is a great beauty, however, she believes that she deserves even more than the comfortable bourgeous lifestyle; she believes she has the right to live like the wealthy upper classes. When her husband sacrifices the hunting gun he has saved for in order to buy Mathilde a dress for the fancy ball, she is not satisfied because she doesn't have jewels. That unhappiness--the sense that nothing is good enough for her--is what leads to the fateful borrowing of her friend's necklace. Ultimately, it leads to Mathilde's falling from the bourgeous class to the lower classes as she struggles to pay for the replacement necklace and prematurely loses her beauty. The character analysis paragraphs in e-notes can help you better understand Mathilde and other characters in Maupassant's story.
Madame Loisel comes from the type of family that Guy de Maupassant loved to satirize: one of the petty bureaucrats of the French civil service. She is born, "as if by an accident of fate into a family of clerks." This family of clerks can afford no dowry and no social contacts, so the petty way of life is perpetuated as Mathilde Loisel herself marry a civil servant. Trapped in this mediocre life, Madame Loisel "grieved incessantly," as she feels that with her beauty, she is meant for a better life since her beauty, charm, and grace can "take the place of birth and breeding."
The irony is that even though she has such beauty and feels herself meant for more, Mme. Loisel has yet the petty mentality of her bureaucratic background and is, thus, neither able to appreciate what she does possess in her loving husband, nor is she able to discriminate what is false from what is real in her shortsightedness. Thus, she fails to realize that the necklace that she has lost is mere "paste."
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