“The Necklace”

Question and story below. Any questions or concerns regarding assignment please ask.

One of the issues explored in this greed. What, specifically, do you think is being said about greed?

Find at least one quotation from the story that helps to support your answer and use proper MLA to cite it.


The Necklace

Short story


Guy de Maupassant

French Writer ( 1850 – 1893 )

Other Names Used:

Maupassant, Henri Rene Albert Guy de;


Little Masterpieces of Fiction

. Ed. Hamilton Wright Mabie and Lionel Strachey. Vol. 5. New York:

Doubleday, Page & Company, 1904. p20.

Document Type:

Short story

Full Text:

Original Language:


Text :

SHE was one of those pretty, charming girls

who are sometimes, as if through the irony of

fate, born into a family of clerks. S

he was

without dowry or expectations, and had no means of becoming known, appreciated, loved, wedded, by any rich or influential man;


she allowed herself to be married to a sma

ll clerk belonging to the Ministry of Publ

ic Instruction. She dressed plainly because


could not afford to dress well, and was unhappy because she felt

she had dropped from her proper station, which for women is a

matter of attractiveness, b

eauty, and grace, rather than of fami

ly descent. Good manners, an in

tuitive knowledge of what is ele


nimbleness of wit, are the only

requirements necessary to place a woman of the pe

ople on an equality with

one of the aristocrac


She fretted constantly, feeling all things

delicate and luxurious to be her birthright

. She suffered on account of the meagrene

ss of her

surroundings, the bareness of the walls, the tarnished furniture, the ugly curtains; deficiencies which would have left any oth

er woman

of her class untouched, irritated and tormented her. The sight of the little Breton peasant who did her humble housework engend


hopeless regrets followed by fantastic dreams. She thought of a no

iseless, hallowed ante-room, w

ith Oriental carpets, lighted w

ith tall

branching candlesticks of bronze

and of two big, kneebreeched foot

men, drowsy from the stoveheated

air, dozing in great arm-cha


She thought of a long drawing-room hung with ancient brocade,

of a beautiful cabinet holding pr

iceless curios, of an alluring,


boudoir intended for five-o’clock chats with intimates, with men

famous and courted, and whose acquaintance is longed for by al



When she sat down to dinner, at the round table spread with a cloth three days old, opposite her husband who uncovered the ture


and exclaimed with ecstasy, “Ah, I like a good stew! I know nothing to beat this!” she thought of dainty dinners, of shining pl

ate, of

tapestry which peopled the walls with human shapes, and with strange birds flying among fairy trees. And then she thought of

delicious viands served in costly dishes, and of murmured gallantries which you listen to with a comfortable smile while you ar


eating the rose-tinted flesh of a trout or the wing of a quail.

She had no handsome gowns, no jewels—nothing, though these were he

r whole life; it was these that

meant existence to her. She

would so have liked to please, to be thought fascinating, to be

envied, to be sought out. She had a friend, a former schoolmate

at the

convent, who was rich, but whom she did

not like to go to see any more because

she would come home jealous, covetous.

But one evening her husband returned home jubilant, holding a large envelope in his hand.

“Here is something for you,” he said.

She tore open the cover sharply, and drew

out a printed card bearing these words: “The Minister of Public Instruction and Mme.

Georges Ramponneau request the honour of M.

and Mme. Loisel’s company at the palace of

the Ministry on Mond

ay evening, January


Instead of being delighted as her husband expected, she threw the invitation on the table with disgust, muttering, “What do you

think I

can do with that?”

“But, my dear, I thought you would be pleased. You never go anywhere, and this is such a rare opportunity. I had hard work to g

et it.

Every one is wild to go: it is very select, and invitations to

clerks are scarce. The whole of

ficial world will be there.”

She looked at him with a scornful eye, as she said petulantly, “And what have I to put on my back?” He had not thought of that.


stammered, “Why, the dress you wear to

the theatre; it looks all right to me.”

He stopped in despair, seeing his wife was crying. Two big tears

rolled down from the corners of

her eyes to the corners of her


“What’s the matter? What’s the matter?” he faltered.

With great effort, she controlled herself, an

d replied coldly, while she dried her wet cheeks:

“Nothing, except that I have no dress, and, for that reason, cannot go to the ball. Give your invitation to some fellow-clerk w

hose wife

is better provided than I am.”

He was dumfounded, but replied:

“Come, Mathilde, let us see now—how much

would a suitable dress cost; one you co

uld wear at other times—something quite


She pondered several moments, calculating, and guessing too, how

much she could safely ask for without an instant refusal or

bringing down upon her head a volley of objections from her frugal husband.

At length she said hesitatingly, “I can’t say exactly, but I think I could do with four hundred francs.”

He changed colour because he was laying aside just that sum to buy a gun and treat himself to a little shooting next summer on


plain of Nanterre, with several friends, who went down there on

Sundays to shoot larks. Nevertheless, he said: “Very well, I wi

ll give

you four hundred francs. Get a pretty dress.”

The day of the ball drew near, and Mme. Lo

isel seemed despondent, nervous, upset, though her dress was all ready. One evening h


husband observed: “I say, what is the matt

er, Mathilde? You have been very queer lately

.” And she replied, “It exasperates me n

ot to

have a single ornament of any kind to put on. I shall look like a fright—I would almost rather stay at home.” He answered: “Why


wear flowers? They are very fashionable

at this time of the year. You can get

a handful of fine roses for ten francs.”

But she was not persuaded. “No, it’s so mortifying

to look poverty-stricken among women who are rich.”

Then her husband exclaimed: “How slow you are! Go and see your fr

iend, Mme. Forestier, and ask her to lend you some jewels. You

know her well enough to do that.”

She gave an exclamation of delight: “True! I never thought of that!”

Next day she went to her friend and poured out her woes. Mme. Forestier went to a closet with a glass door, took out a large

jewel-box, brought it back, opened it, and said to

Mme. Loisel, “Here, take

your choice, my dear.”

She looked at some bracelets, th

en at a pearl necklace, and then

at a Venetian cross curiously

wrought of gold and precious sto

nes. She

tried on the ornaments before the mirror, hesitated, was loath to

take them off and return them. She kept inquiring, “Have you



“Certainly, look for yourself. I don’t know what you want.”

Suddenly Mathilde discovered, in a black sa

tin box, a magnificent necklace of diamonds

, and her heart began

to beat with excite


With trembling hands she took the necklace

and fastened it round her neck outside her dress, becoming lost in admiration of her

self as

she looked in the glass. Tremulous w

ith fear lest she be refused, she asked, “Will you lend me this—only this?”

“Yes, of course I will.”

Mathilde fell upon her friend’s neck, kissed her passionately, and rushed off with her treasure.

The day of the ball arrived.

Mme. Loisel was a great success.

She was prettier than them all, lovely, gracious,

smiling, and wild with delight. All the men


at her, inquired her name, tried to be introduced; all the offici

als of the Ministry wanted a wa

ltz—even the minister himself n


her. She danced with abandon, with ecstasy,

intoxicated with joy, forget

ting everything in the triumph of her beauty, in the ra

diance of

her success, in a kind of mirage of bliss made up of all this wo

rship, this adulation, of all

these stirring impulses, and of t

hat realisation

of perfect surrender, so sweet to the sould of woman.

She left about four in the morning.

Since midnight her husband had been sleeping in a little deserted anteroom with three other men whose wives were enjoying

themselves. He threw over her shoulders the wraps he had brought,

ordinary, everyday garments, contrasting sorrily with her ele


ball dress. She felt this, and wanted to ge

t away so as not to be seen by the other women, who were putting on costly furs.

Loisel detained her: “Wait a little; you will catch cold outside; I will go and call a cab.”

But she would not listen to him, and hurried down-stairs. When

they reached the street they c

ould not find a car

riage, and they


to look for one, shouting to the cabmen who were passing by. They went down toward the river in desperation, shivering with col

d. At

last they found on the quays one of those antiquated, all-night

broughams, which, in Paris, wait till after dark before venturi

ng to

display their dilapidation. It took them to their door in the

Rue des Martyrs, and once more, w

earily, they climbed the stairs.

Now all was over for her; as for him, he remembered that he must

be at his office at ten o’clock. She threw off her cloak befor

e the

glass, that she might behold herself once more in all her magni

ficence. Suddenly she uttered a cr

y of dismay—the necklace was g


Her husband, already half-undressed, called out, “Anything wrong?”

She turned wildly toward him: “I have—I

have—I’ve lost Mme. Forestier’s necklace!”

He stood aghast: “Where? When? You haven’t!”

They looked in the folds of her dress, in the folds of her cloak, in her pocket, everywhere. They could not find it.

“Are you sure,” he said, “that you had it on when you left the ball?”

“Yes; I felt it in the corridor of the palace.”

“But if you had lost it in the street, we should have heard it fall. It must be in the cab.”

“No doubt. Did you take his number?”

“No. And didn’t you notice it either?”


They looked at each other, terror-stricke

n. At last Loisel put on his clothes.

“I shall go back on foot,” he said, “over the wh

ole route we came by, to

see if I can’t find it.”

He went out, and she sat waiting in her ball dr

ess, too dazed to go to bed, cold, crushe

d, lifeless, unable

to think. Her husba

nd came

back at seven o’clock. He had found nothing. He went to Police

Headquarters, to the newspaper office—where he advertised a rewa


He went to the cab companies—to every pl

ace, in fact, that seemed at all hopeful.

She waited all day in the same awful state of mind at this terrible misfortune.

Loisel returned at nigh

t with a wan, white face.

He had found nothing.

“Write immediately to your friend,” said

he, “that you have broken the clasp of her

necklace, and that you have taken it to be


That will give us time to turn about.”

She wrote as he told her.

By the end of the week th

ey had given up all hope. Loisel,

who looked five years older, said

, “We must plan how we can replace



The next day they took the black satin box to the jeweller whose name was found inside. He referred to his books.

“You did not buy that

necklace of me, Madame. I can

only have supplied the case.”

They went from jeweller to jeweller, hunting for a necklace like

the lost one, trying to remember

its appearance, heartsick wit

h shame

and misery. Finally, in a shop at the Palais Royal, they found a st

ring of diamonds which looked to them just like the other. T

he price

was forty thousand francs, but they could have it for thirty-six

thousand. They begged the jeweller

to keep it three days for t

hem, and

made an agreement with him that

he should buy it back for thirty

-four thousand francs if they

found the lost necklace before th

e last of


Loisel had inherited eighteen thousand francs from his father. He

could borrow the remainder. And he did borrow right and left,


a thousand francs of one, five hundred of another, five louis

here, three louis there. He gave notes, assumed heavy obligations


trafficked with money-lenders at usurious rates, and, putting

the rest of his life in pawn, pledged his signature over and over

again. Not

knowing how he was to make it all good, and terrified by the

penalty yet to come, by the dark destruction which hung over him,

by the

certainty of incalculable deprivations of body and tortures of sould, he went to get the new bauble, throwing down upon the jew


counter the thirty-six thousand francs.

When Mme. Loisel returned the necklace, Mm

e. Forestier said to her coldly: “Why did

you not bring it back sooner? I might have

wanted it.”

She did not open the case—to the great relief of her friend.

Supposing she had! Would she have discov

ered the substitution, and wh

at would she have said? Would she not have accused Mme.

Loisel of theft?

Mme. Loisel now knew what it wa

s to be in want, but she showed sudden and remark

able courage. That awful debt must be paid, and

she would pay it.

They sent away their servant, and moved up into a garret under the roof. She began to find out what heavy housework and the

fatiguing drudgery of the kitchen meant. She washed the dishes,

scraping the greasy pots and pans with her rosy rails. She wash

ed the

dirty linen, the shirts and dish-towels, which dried upon the line. She lugged slops and refuse down to the street every mornin


bringing back fresh water, stopping on every landing, panting for breath. With her basket on her arm, and dressed like a woman

of the

people, she haggled with the fruiterer, the

grocer, and the butcher, often insulted, but getting every sou’s worth that belonge

d to her.

Each month notes had to be met, others renewed, extensions of

time procured. Her husband worked in the evenings, straightening


tradesmen’s accounts; he sat up late at night,

copying manuscripts at five sous a page.

And this they did for ten years.

At the end of that time they had paid up everything, everything—

with all the principal and the

accumulated compound interest.

Mme. Loisel looked old now. She had become a domestic drudge, si

newy, rough-skinned, coarse. With towsled hair, tucked-up skirt


and red hands, she would talk loudly while mopping the floor with

great splashes of water. But sometimes, when alone, she sat n


the window, and she thought of that gay evening long ago, of the ball where she had been so beautiful, so much admired. Supposi


she had not lost the necklace—what then? Who

knows? Who knows? Life is so

strange and shifting. How easy it is to be ruined or


But one Sunday, going for a walk in the Ch

amps elysées to refresh herself after her

hard week’s work, she accidentally came upo

n a

familiar-looking woman with a child. It was Mme.

Forestier, still young, still lovely, still charming.

Mme. Loisel became agitated. Shou

ld she speak to her? Of course. Now that she

had paid, she would tell her all about it. Why no


She went up to her.

“How do you do, Jeanne?”

The other, astonished at the easy manner toward her assumed by a plain housewife whom she did not recognise, said:

“But, Madame, you have made a mistake; I do not know you.”

“Why, I am Mathilde Loisel!”

Her friend gave a start.

“Oh, my poor Mathilde,” she cried, “how you have changed!”

“Yes; I have seen hard days since last I sa

w you; hard enough—and

all because of you.”

“Of me? And why?”

“You remember the diamond n

ecklace you loaned me to w

ear at the Ministry ball?”

“Yes, I do. What of it?”

“Well, I lost it!”

“But you brought it back—explain yourself.”

“I bought one just like it, and it took us ten years to pay fo

r it. It was not easy for us who had nothing, but it is all over

now, and I am


Mme. Forestier stared.

“And you bought a necklace of

diamonds to replace mine?”

“Yes; and you never knew the difference,

they were so alike.” And

she smiled with joyful pr

ide at the success of it all.

Mme. Forestier, deeply moved, took both her hands.

“Oh, my poor Mathilde! My neck

lace was paste. It was worth on

ly about five

hundred francs!”



Guy de Maupassant

Explanation of:

“The Necklace” by Guy de Maupassant

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