The Necklace – Guy de Maupassant
The Necklace is one such story with an intriguing twist.
Mathilde has always dreamed of having a good life that comes with money and wealth. Sadly her husband, Charles, is not able to provide these, being a Government Clerk. He, however, adores his wife and tries his best to please her. One day he comes home with an invitation to a party.
Mathilde complains that she has nothing to wear and even after Charles sacrifices money (he was saving to buy a rifle with) for a new dress, she is distressed that she has no fine jewels to complement the outfit.
Charles suggests that she borrow something from her rich friend, Madame Jeanne Forestier. Mathilde does and picks the fanciest diamond necklace that she can find.
On returning from the party, Mathilde, flushed at all the attention and Charles, bored, Mathilde discovers that the necklace is missing!
Now here is where it gets interesting, neither Mathilde nor Charles have the courage or lack of pride to convey the truth to Madame Forestier and instead embark on a ten year burden to repay the money for a necklace that they have substituted for the original one.
Mathilde whose seemingly vacuous life now becomes obsessed with paying the money back. They take out loans and she works her fingers to the bone in an effort to pay the 36, 000 francs necessary for the diamond necklace. Charles too, takes on extra work and both live out a ‘decade nightmare’ of the bleakest life.
The sting in the story comes when the debt has been paid and Mathilde bumps into Madame Forestier, the latter who is looking fresh and pretty as the years have been kind to her. Mathilde in contrast looks older than her years and Madame Forestier does not recognize her at first.
Mathilde is so pleased to meet her and feels that it is time to come ‘clean’ and own up about the diamond necklace replacement. Madame Forestier is surprised at the news and replies that the original necklace was a ‘fake’ and was only worth 500 francs at the most!
This is a wonderful tale of human failure, greed and all consuming pride.