Mathilde Loisel is miserable as the wife of a middle-class Parisian clerk. She suffers constantly from what she views as a life of poverty. Although her husband’s income from his position as a clerk at the Ministry of Public Instructions sufficiently meets the couple’s needs, Mathilde dreams of attending the local salons, which host intimate gatherings of the upper class. She assumes airs at the dinner table, fantasizing that she is eating a higher quality of food and imagining herself dining with the wealthy. Mathilde focuses on her lack of jewels and fine clothing rather than on enjoying her life. She is jealous of one acquaintance in particular with whom she attended convent school, Madame Forestier, who has made a good marriage to a wealthy man.
Thinking Mathilde will be pleased, Monsieur Loisel brings her an invitation to a ball at the Palace of the Ministry. Mathilde surprises him by throwing down the invitation. Because Mathilde lacks a beautiful gown and jewels, she does not feel she can attend the ball. Monsieur Loisel reluctantly agrees to finance the purchase of a four-hundred-franc gown, understanding that he must sacrifice a planned hunting vacation with friends to do so. Mathilde buys the dress but complains that she has no jewels. Monsieur Loisel suggests that she visit her friend Madame Forestier and ask to borrow some jewelry. For once, Mathilde is pleased by a suggestion made by her husband.
Madame Forestier offers Mathilde the choice of her jewels. Mathilde selects a superb diamond necklace from a black satin box. She feels euphoric when she tries it on. When Madame Forestier immediately agrees to let her borrow the necklace, Mathilde kisses her in gratitude.
At the ball, Mathilde’s beauty attracts much attention. She is ecstatic when many men ask her name. She dances with all of the attachés from the cabinet and is even noticed by the minister. Intoxicated with pleasure and passion, Mathilde exists for a time in a fantasy haze. She believes she has at last succeeded in her quest to excel in high society.
Monsieur Loisel finds a room in which to sleep while Mathilde enjoys dancing and socializing. At 4:00 a.m., she is ready to leave. As Monsieur Loisel places her everyday wrap over his wife’s shoulders, it contrasts so much with her...
(The entire section is 955 words.)