Why was Mme Loisel anxious to hurry away from the ball?

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Mathilde Loisel is anxious to hurry away from the minister's ball because of what Maupassant calls her "wraps." She has a nice new gown and a diamond necklace, but she only has cheap, old outer garments to wrap around her shoulders before venturing out into the cold early-morning air. She is afraid of being seen by the other women who are still present. They would all enjoy seeing the tell-tale signs of poverty because they hate her for being the center of all the men's attention.

He {her husband] threw over her shoulders the garments he had brought for them to go home in, modest everyday clothes, whose poverty clashed with the beauty of the ball-dress. She was conscious of this and was anxious to hurry away, so that she should not be noticed by the other women putting on their costly furs.

It must have been during this flurry of activity that the clasp of the necklace came open. It might not have fallen at that precise time, but it would have slipped down underneath Mathilde's heavy outer clothing and finally fallen anywhere along their route home. Her husband was probably a bit rough when he "threw" the garments over her shoulders. He has been waiting for her for hours and could naturally feel peevish. It is four o'clock in the morning and he has to be at work at the Ministry of Education at ten o'clock that same morning. He wants her to wait inside the building while he goes in search of a cab. 

But she did not listen to him and rapidly descended the staircase. When they were out in the street they could not find a cab; they began to look for one, shouting at the drivers whom they saw passing in the distance.

It seems likely that it was while she was rapidly descending the staircase that the necklace, already unfastened, was jolted out of her outer wraps. She would not have noticed because she was fleeing from the building like Cinderella fleeing from the ball. Somebody must have found the necklace, but the chances of its being found by a man or woman honest enough to seek out the owner of an apparently valuable diamond necklace were minimal. The person who did find the necklace might not have discovered that it was made of fake jewels for a long time. He or she might have discreetly put it away and waited a long time before feeling it was safe to try to sell it. We see in another Maupassant story, "The False Gems," that it was not a simple matter to sell a piece of expensive jewelry. In that story when Monsieur Lantin takes one of his deceased wife's necklaces to a jeweler, he is astonished:

Monsieur Lantin, annoyed at all these ceremonies, was on the point of saying: “Oh! I know well enough it is not worth anything,” when the jeweler said: “Sir, that necklace is worth from twelve to fifteen thousand francs; but I could not buy it, unless you can tell me exactly where it came from.”

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