Mathilde Loisel is an unappreciative, materialistic, vain woman who lives life depressed about the simplicity of her surroundings, so she spends much of her time daydreaming about the glamorous life she was born for. "She suffered constantly, feeling herself destined for all delicacies and luxuries." Mathilde's husband, Mr. Loisel, is a respectable man who prefers a simple life. He loves his wife very much; her happiness is his primary concern. In her desperate attempt to appear anything but simple, Mathilde borrows a diamond necklace from her wealthy friend to wear to a formal banquet. When the necklace turns up missing, Mathilde replaces it and dooms herself as well as her husband into ten years of misfortune. In the end, Mathilde finds that the hardships of her and her husband were all in vain.
The conflict in the story occurs when the Loisel's return home from the banquet, only to find that the borrowed necklace is missing. Resolution isn't presented until the end of the story when Mathilde awkwardly realizes that the unnecessary suffering her and her husband have done over the past ten years was caused by her materialism and vanity. The main conflict is important to understand in this story because had Mathilde been content with the simple life she leads, her and her husband would not have had to go through the suffering that they had been dealt for so long in order to pay off the debt she created by losing the necklace. Finally, Mathilde realizes the internal conflict lives within her dreamscape lifestyle and the simplistic reality she occupies.
The story takes place in Paris, France. The time is unknown, however, social rank is of great importance. In the beginning of the story, the couple resides in a simple apartment with simple belongings, however, by the end of the story, the life they were living seemed luxurious compared to the life they live now. Their grim apartment with drab walls, threadbare furniture and ugly curtains now seem lavish compared to the maidless, attic flat they currently reside in. Mathilde had to learn to do the heavy housework and dirty kitchen jobs since they could no longer afford to keep the maid. Instead of daydreaming of the luxuries she desired at the beginning of the story, Mathilde now wishes back the simple life she once lived.
Two language devices that Guy De Maupassant used to convey the central idea are repetition and situational irony. Repetition is conveyed throughout the story when the author refers to how unhappy Mathilde is and how often she fantasizes for the luxurious life. In the beginning of the story, Mathilde is unhappy about her current living situation, and fantasizes about a more luxurious life. Ten years later, after the debt has been paid, Mathilde is, again, unhappy about her current living situation, and fantasizes about her previous living situation. Mathilde's situation will continue to worsen until she becomes content with her surroundings and belongings.
Situational irony occurs when the necklace is lost. Mathilde originally intends to return the necklace and continue to live life, however, when the necklace turns up missing, her entire life changes for the worse. Her " grim apartment with its drab walls, threadbare furniture, ugly curtains" and maid have been replaced with an attic flat being tended to by Mathilde, herself. In the end, she wishes she could return to the simple life she once considered drab.