More than a century ago, Frenchman Guy de Maupassant wrote a short story called “The Necklace” about a young French woman named Matilda who felt bitter about her mundane existence. Then one day, her clerk husband came home with an invitation to an elegant ball. After great expense in getting her a new dress, and borrowing a fancy necklace from a friend, the clerk and his wife attended the ball.
“Mme. Loisel was a great success. She was the prettiest of all, elegant, gracious, smiling, and full of joy. All the men noticed her, asked her name, and wanted to be presented. All the members of the Cabinet wished to waltz with her. The Minister of Education paid her some attention.”
Not long after leaving, they discovered that she had lost the borrowed necklace. What could they do? After stalling the return as long as possible, the clerk finally found an exact copy of the necklace for 36,000 francs, an amount that would surely destroy them financially.
For a decade, every cent paid against the debt drained something out of them until all that remained was a bleached dry woman and a man so thin that he barely held a shadow. “At the end of ten years, they had restored all, all, with interest of the usurer, and accumulated interest besides.”
Then one Sunday, on the Champs-Elysées, Matilda saw Mrs. Forestier (the one from whom she borrowed the necklace) still young, still pretty, still attractive,” walking with a child. Mrs. Forestier didn’t recognize the haggard woman who stopped her on the street, and only after Matilda explained who she was did Mrs. Forestier ask what had happened to her. Matilda looked so sad because she and her husband, a lowly clerk, had ruined their lives in order replace the lost necklace. After hearing the story, Mrs. Forestier looked at Matilda and said, incredulously, "You say that you bought a diamond necklace to replace mine?”
"Yes. You did not perceive it then? They were just alike.”
And she smiled with a proud and simple joy. Madame Forestier was touched and took both her hands as she replied:
"Oh! my poor Matilda! Mine were false. They were not worth over five hundred francs!"