What would have happened if Mathilde Loisel had not lost the necklace in "The Necklace"?  

If Mathilde Loisel had not lost the necklace in "The Necklace," she would have continued to think of herself as a victim of fate, and the "heroism" elicited from her character by the need to pay for the replacement necklace would never have developed. It is losing the necklace which prompts this change in her character and allows her to feel "proud" and "glad" rather than obsessed with luxury, wealth, and status.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles
After Mathilde Loisel loses Madame Forestier's "diamond necklace," she and her husband acquire an outstanding amount of debt in order to purchase an authentic replacement and struggle for ten years to pay off their debts. Over the course of ten years, Mathilde dramatically transforms into a strong, resolute woman, who understands the difficulty of hard labor and is no longer consumed with dreams of becoming a member of the upper class.

Mathilde is too busy working to daydream about a luxurious life or complain about her current situation. In addition to her new perspective and impressive work habits, Mathilde's appearance also changes, and she is no longer the attractive, youthful woman she once was. After Mathilde and her husband manage to pay off their debts, she runs into Madame Forestier and discovers that the lost necklace was simply a cheap imitation.

One could make the argument that Mathilde would have never developed a strong work ethic and transformed into a resolute, tough woman if she had never lost Madame Forestier's necklace. However, Mathilde would have continued to suffer and complain about her situation and social status. Before losing the necklace, Mathilde was an entitled, selfish woman who resented marrying a lowly clerk and continually dreamt of becoming a member of the social elite.

Mathilde's ungrateful personality would have remained the same, and she would have continued to lament her living situation. She would have also maintained her attractive appearance, and her friendship with Madame Forestier would have been significantly healthier.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on August 11, 2020
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

If Mathilde Loisel would not have lost the necklace, I believe she would have continued to be unhappy for the rest of her life. As a result of her losing the necklace and the need to replace it, the Loisels incur a terrifyingly large debt, a debt it will take a decade of reduced circumstances and hard work to pay. As the narrator says,

Mme. Loisel now knew the horrible existence of the needy. She took her part, moreover, all of a sudden, with heroism. That dreadful debt must be paid. She would pay it.

This evident "heroism"—this fortitude and resolve—would never have been created within her were it not for the circumstances created by the loss of the necklace. Without that event, Mme. Loisel would likely have gone back to her normal, unsatisfying life with the "little Breton peasant" and "ugly" curtains and three-day-old tablecloths and continued to feel that she is the victim of misfortune.

However, there seems to be something about losing the necklace that calls up her agency, that makes her stop obsessing over what she doesn't have. She stops dreaming about "delicious dishes served on marvellous plates" and "long salons fitted up with ancient silk." For once, she stops thinking of herself as a victim of destiny, and she accepts her responsibility and role. In the end, when she confronts Mme. Forestier, the friend who had loaned her the necklace, Mme. Loisel seems almost proud of what she has accomplished. She tells her friend that they've spent ten years paying for the necklace she returned, saying, "At last it is ended, and I am very glad." She even "smiled with a joy which was proud and naive." Such a development of her character would not have been possible without her losing the necklace.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on August 12, 2020
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Mathilde Loisel would not have had many opportunities to play Cinderella at the ball. She was not the promiscuous type, like the wife of Monsieur Lantin in Maupassant's story titled "The Jewels," or "The False Gems." Mathilde is obviously a dreamer. She would go back to her normal humdrum existence and continue to fantasize about 

...silent antechambers, heavy with Oriental tapestries, lit by torches in lofty bronze sockets, with two tall footmen in knee-breeches sleeping in large arm-chairs, overcome by the heavy warmth of the stove. She imagined 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.

Feminine beauty and charm has evolved for the purpose of reproduction. Women have to attract men in order to have babies, and they reproduce successfully if they can hold men while their offspring are growing to adulthood. Mathilde would undoubtedly have gotten pregnant. That's generally what happens when women get married. Then her interests would probably have centered on her children, and the "silent antechambers, heavy with Oriental tapestries" and the rest of it would have vanished like dreams. Her misfortune was that she had not been able to marry a man who would have been able to provide more of the luxuries she had read about in novels. But marriage was a more binding commitment in Maupassant's day. Mathilde was stuck with the nice little man she married. She wouldn't have started having "affairs" with other men, and she wouldn't have thought of getting a divorce. Her fate was practically settled when 

...she let herself be married off to a little clerk in the Ministry of Education.

There must be many women who regret being married to the men they end up with. They must dream about how their lives would have been more comfortable and more interesting if only they had married this or that other man. The invitation to the Minister's ball in "The Necklace" only provides a brief opportunity for Mathilde Loisel to revel in the attention of men who are superior to her husband--

...men who were famous and sought after, whose homage roused every other woman's envious longings.

The ball is only like a continuation of the dreams she has when she is alone at home. It is not the ball that makes the big difference in the story, but the loss of the borrowed necklace. If she hadn't lost it, her life would have been the same as before. She would have become a mother and a lower-middle-class housewife. She might have learned to accept her lot in life. She might have even become happy.

 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial