Literature: The Necklace

"The Necklace" is an 1884 short story by Guy de Maupassant.

A young, lower middle class couple borrows some nice clothes and jewelry from an upper class friend to wear to a party. During the course of the party, the lady, named Mathilde, loses the stunning necklace that she borrowed from her friend. Hiding the truth, the couple sell their house and take out an exceedingly harsh loan to buy a diamond necklace to replace it, and work for the next ten years to pay back the debt...only to be told at the end of the story by the lady's friend that the original necklace was costume jewelry, worth only a couple of dollars at the most.

Tropes used by the story:

  • An Aesop: Admit to your mistakes up front, trying to run away from them will make it worse.
  • Broken Treasure: Deconstructed.
  • Break the Haughty: Matilde's desire for finer things than what she and her husband can afford are partly what gets them into the mess in the first place. By the end of the story, she's had to go through a lot to pay for that one moment of indulgence.
  • Karmic Twist Ending
  • I Was Quite a Looker: After paying off the necklace, Mathilde and her husband are poor and must work to survive. Mathilde starts losing her looks as a result and by the time she meets her friend, she's unrecognizable.
  • Mock Millionaire
  • Never Lend to a Friend: Mathilde borrows a diamond necklace from her friend, loses it, and pays her and her husband's life savings for that necklace.
  • No Antagonist: It's arguable that Pride is the worst enemy of Mathilde and her husband.
  • No Doubt The Years Have Changed Me: When Mathilde meets her friend again at the end of the story, the friend doesn't recognise her at first because of all she's gone through to pay off the second necklace.
  • No Name Given: Of the young couple, only Mathilde's name is given, her husband and friend's are not.
  • Poor Communication Kills
  • Shaggy Dog Story: This story's version of the trope is so strong, it nearly crosses over to Shoot the Shaggy Dog territory (if the reader wasn't laughing from the story's cruel irony). What saves it from that extreme is that the situation could have been very easily avoided, had the couple simply admitted that they lost the necklace in the first place.
    • It also could have been avoided if the friend had simply told her the necklace was an imitation right from the start
  • Storm In A Teacup: Played for drama.