June 03, 2021

#08-092: The Necklace

pencil sketch of a woman in a period dress holding up a lamp to see herself better in a mirror, with a seated man putting on his shoes in the background
The Loisels at home

Note: Madame Loisel wants to look her best, so she borrows an expensive necklace from a rich friend--and loses it, ruining her family.

Get Ready: Have you ever lost or damaged something that you borrowed from a friend, or had a friend do the same thing to something of yours? How did you fix the problem?

I'm a big fan of the short story, and one of the masters of that genre was the French author Guy de Maupassant. One his best is called simply, "The Necklace." It tells of Mathilde Loisel, who, though born into a poor family, has always imagined herself an aristocrat. Unfortunately, she married a lowly clerk.

One day the husband brings home an invitation to a fancy dress ball, but Mathilde refuses to go because she doesn't have anything suitable to wear. At last Loisel gives her 400 francs he had saved for a hunting excursion with friends, and she buys a dress. Now, however, she lacks jewels to match the dress, so she borrows one exquisite necklace from her friend, Jeanne Forestier.

Mathilde is a hit at the ball, dancing with many an admirer. But when the Loisels get home, Mathilde--still riding high on the excitement--discovers that she has lost the necklace! Her husband spends hours retracing their steps and looking for it, but to no avail.

At last, they decide to buy a replacement. They find one costing 40,000 francs--a huge sum--and haggle the price down to 36,000. Loisel covers half the cost from an inheritance from his father, and borrows the rest at exorbitant interest. Mathilde "returns" the (replacement) necklace; Jeanne does not notice the switch, saying only: "You should have returned it sooner, I might have needed it."

Now the Loisels must pay back the loan. They move to a smaller, cheaper apartment. Loisel takes on night work to earn extra money, and Mathilde does all the housework herself, as they had released the maid.

After ten years of grinding poverty they pay off the usurers, but by then Mathilde has lost her looks.

One Sunday, as Mathilde walks down the Champs Elysees, she runs into Jeanne, and speaks to her. But Jeanne doesn't recognize her, saying she must have made a mistake. At last, realizing this is Mathilde, she asks what happened to her.

Mathilde replies that she has had hard times, "and all because of you!" Jeanne asks how that can be, and Mathilde tells her the whole story of the necklace, the loss, and the years of toil to replace it.

Stunned, Jeanne tells her, "Oh, my poor Mathilde! Mine was an imitation! It was worth five hundred francs at most!"


Read more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Necklace

Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. admirer
  2. aristocrat
  3. clerk
  4. excursion
  5. exorbitant
  6. exquisite
  7. grinding
  8. haggle
  9. retracing
  10. usurers

  1. one who highly approves
  2. going back over
  3. wearing; harsh
  4. a member of the upper class
  5. gorgeous; especially beautiful
  6. bargain; negotiate
  7. extremely high
  8. lenders who charge high interest
  9. a trip; an outing
  10. an office worker

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for June 3, 2021

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. a; 2. d; 3. j; 4. i; 5. g; 6. e; 7. c; 8. f; 9. b; 10. h