At a Glance

  • Mathilde Loisel, a beautiful woman unsatisfied by her marriage. She dreams of being rich and is self-conscious about her plain clothes. She borrows and loses Madame Forestier's necklace and spends the next ten years paying for a replacement.
  • Monsieur Loisel, Mathilde's husband, who works as a clerk in the Ministry of Public Instruction. Unlike Mathilde, he's happy with his life and doesn't want to change it. He uses his entire inheritance to help pay for the necklace.
  • Madame Jeanne Forestier, Mathilde's school friend, who lends her the necklace. Years later, after learning of Mathilde's sacrifices, she admits that the diamond necklace was a fake.

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(Short Stories for Students)

Madame Jeanne Forestier
Madame Forestier is a school friend of Mathilde Loisel, and she lends her the necklace that Madame Loisel wears to the ball. Madame Forestier's wealth has intimidated Madame Loisel, preventing her from keeping in touch with her old friend. When Madame Loisel does visit, Madame Forestier is as friendly as ever, generously offering to lend her friend a piece of her jewelry for the ball. When the diamond necklace is returned more than a week late, however, Madame Forestier is cold and reproachful. She does not know that the borrowed necklace was lost and that the Loisels have pledged themselves to years of debt to buy a costly replacement. Years later, the two meet on the street. Madame Loisel has aged prematurely by toil and hardship, while Madame Forestier is "still young, still beautiful, still attractive.'' She does not recognize her old friend when they meet and is ‘‘deeply moved’’ when she learns that the Loisels had spent the last decade in debt to replace her necklace.

Madame Mathilde Loisel
It is Madame Loisel's desire to be part of the upper class which sets the story's events in motion. She is a beautiful woman who feels herself "born for every delicacy and luxury." Her belief that she is meant for better things than middle-class drudgery forms the core of her personality. She believes that superficial things—a ball gown, better furniture, a large house—will make her happy, and an invitation to a ball makes her miserable because it reminds her of her dowdy wardrobe and lack of jewels. After securing these trappings of luxury, she has the time of her life at the ball, for one evening living the lifestyle she believes herself entitled to. After losing a borrowed necklace, she is not able to admit the error to the friend who lent it. While spending many years in poverty, toiling to repay the debt of replacing the necklace, Madame Loisel prematurely loses her physical beauty.

Monsieur Loisel
Monsieur Loisel's complacency and contentment with his social situation contrasts markedly with his wife's desire to experience life among the social elite. Whereas Madame Loisel dreams of magnificent multi-course meals, her husband is satisfied with simple fare: ‘‘Scotch broth! What could be better?’’ He is attentive to his wife's desires, however, procuring tickets to a ball so that she can see "all the really big people.'' He gives his wife the four hundred francs that he had set aside for a gun so that she can buy a dress, and spends several early morning hours searching the streets for the lost necklace even though he must go to work that day. Seeking to protect his wife's honor, he suggests that they tell Madame Forestier that the necklace is being fixed rather than that it has been lost.

Themes and Characters

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

It is a fallacy to assume that a story must contain only action, particularly if it is written by Maupassant. In this, as in many of his stories, there is little or no "action" and very little actually "happens" from the viewpoint of many readers. Yet in "The Necklace," mood and atmosphere are brilliantly created; in this and in many other stories by Maupassant, the sense of life is not diminished when no earth-shattering events happen.


(The entire section is 2,034 words.)