Throughout “The Necklace,” Mathilde covets everything that other people have and she does not. Whereas Monsieur Loisel happily looks forward to having hot soup for dinner, Mathilde thinks only of the grandness of other homes and lavish table settings that she does not own. When Monsieur Loisel obtains an invitation for a party, she covets a new dress so that she can look as beautiful as the other wives as well as jewelry so that she does not look poor in comparison to them. She is so covetous of Madame Forestier’s wealth that she cannot bear to visit her, but she overcomes her angst when she needs to borrow jewelry for the party; there, her coveting is briefly sated because she gets to take one of the ornaments home with her. After the party, she covets the fur coats the other women are wearing, which highlight the shabbiness of her own wraps. This endless coveting ultimately leads to Mathilde’s downfall and, along the way, yields only fleeting happiness. It is so persistent, however, that it takes on a life of its own—Mathilde’s coveting is as much a part of her life as breathing.
The necklace, beautiful but worthless, represents the power of perception and the split between appearances and reality. Mathilde borrows the necklace because she wants to give the appearance of being wealthy; Madame Forestier does not tell her up front that the necklace is fake, perhaps because she, too, wants to give the illusion of being wealthier than she actually is. Because Mathilde is so envious of Madame Forestier and believes her to be wealthy, she never doubts the necklace’s authenticity—she expects diamonds, so diamonds are what she perceives. She enters willingly and unknowingly into this deception, and her complete belief in her borrowed wealth allows her to convey an appearance of wealth to others. Because she believes herself rich for one night, she becomes rich in others’ eyes. The fact that the necklace is at the...