"The Necklace" (French: "La Parure"; also published in English as "The Diamond Necklace") is a short story with a twist ending by the French author Guy de Maupassant. It first appeared in print in the February 17, 1884 edition of the Parisian newspaper Le Gaulois.
The story's protagonist is a young married woman named Mathilde Loisel. Mathilde is unhappy with her lower middle class status and dreams of living a life of wealth and luxury. When Mathilde receives an invitation to a party that many wealthy and important people will attend, she is unhappy because she does not have any jewelry to wear. Mathilde's husband advises her to borrow some jewelry from her much wealthier friend Jeanne Forestier. Jeanne lends Mathilde an expensive-looking necklace. When Mathilde returns from the party, she finds that she has lost the necklace. Rather than tell Jeanne the truth about the loss of her necklace, Mathilde and her husband decide to buy an identical-looking necklace as a replacement. As a result, they find themselves deep in debt.
Guy de Maupassant's "The Necklace" has been adapted for the stage, radio, film and television.
In spite of her beauty and charm, Mathilde has no chance of marrying an important or wealthy man. This is because she was born into a lower-middle-class family and has no dowry. Instead, she marries Monsieur Loisel, a minor civil servant who works at the Ministry of Public Instruction. Mathilde and her husband live in the Rue des Martyrs in Paris. They have one maid. Mathilde's husband has simple tastes and enjoys nothing better than having beef stew for dinner. Mathilde longs to eat more sophisticated food. She finds her home and all of its furniture ugly. She longs to live in an exquisitely furnished mansion and to be waited on by uniformed valets. Mathilde regrets the fact that she has no fine dresses or jewelry.
One evening, Monsieur Loisel hands Mathilde an envelope. It contains an invitation to the Ministry of Public Information's ball to be held on Monday January 18. Many important people will attend the ball and invitations are not easy to obtain. Monsieur Loisel expects Mathilde to be delighted. Instead, she says that she will not be able to go to the ball because she does not have a suitable dress to wear. Monsieur Loisel asks how much a suitable dress, which Mathilde could wear again in the future, would cost. Taking some time to think of a price that her husband would not reject out of hand, Mathilde replies that one would cost 400 francs. Monsieur Loisel has saved exactly 400 francs. He intended to spend it on a rifle so that he could go on a hunting trip with his friends that weekend. He decides to give the money to Mathilde instead.
Although she has her new dress, Mathilde still seems to be unhappy as the date of the ball approaches. She tells her husband that it is because she has no jewelry to wear. After his suggestion that she could wear some flowers instead of jewelry is rejected, Monsieur Loisel advises Mathilde to borrow some jewelry from her old friend Madame Jeanne Forestier. Mathilde and Jeanne had attended the same convent school. Although she had stopped visiting Jeanne because seeing how wealthy Jeanne was made her feel unhappy, Mathilde thinks this is an excellent idea.
Jeanne Forestier is happy to allow Mathilde to borrow anything she likes from her extensive jewelry collection. Mathilde finds a necklace which looks to her like a river of diamonds. She asks to borrow only that and nothing else. Jeanne is glad to agree to that.
Mathilde has a great time at the ball. She is the most beautiful woman there. All of the men look at her, ask who she is and want to be introduced to her, including the Minister himself. Although her husband goes off to a small room to have a nap at midnight, Mathilde keeps on dancing until about four o'clock in the morning. She wakes up her husband when she decides it is time to leave. Mathilde's husband puts her coat on her. She is aware that it is a cheap-looking coat and does not want any of the rich female party-goers in their furs to see her wearing it. She hurries out of the building. Mathilde and her husband have some difficulty finding a cab. They eventually return home in a very old and ugly looking cab of the kind that are only seen in Paris at night.
When she returns home, Mathilde wants to have one more look at herself in the mirror wearing the necklace before she goes to bed. When she takes off her coat, however, she finds that the necklace has disappeared. Mathilde and her husband look for the necklace in the folds of her dress, the folds of her coat and her pockets. They cannot find it. Monsieur Loisel says that it probably fell off in the cab because they would have heard it if it fell off in the street. Unfortunately, neither Mathilde nor her husband can remember the number of the cab. Even though he has to be at work at ten o'clock that day, Monsieur Loisel goes out into the street to look for the necklace. He returns home empty handed at seven o'clock in the morning. Later that day, Monsieur Loisel reports the loss of the necklace to the police and has advertisements placed in the newspapers offering a reward for its return. When he gets home that evening, he tells Mathilde to write a letter to Jeanne. In the letter, which Monsieur Loisel dictates, instead of admitting to the loss of the necklace, Mathilde writes that the necklace's clasp has broken and that she will return it after she has had it repaired.
After a week, Monsieur Loisel decides that they will have to buy a replacement necklace. Mathilde and her husband go to the jeweler whose name is on the box that contained the necklace. He says that he did not sell a diamond necklace to Madame Forestier and that she must simply have used one of his boxes. Mathilde and her husband go to several other jewelry stores and eventually find a diamond necklace which looks just like the one that Mathilde lost. The jeweler tells them that the necklace is worth 40,000 francs but he will sell it to them for 36,000 francs. All the money that Monsieur Loisel has in the world is 18,000 francs. The jeweler promises not to sell the necklace for three days, giving Monsieur Loisel time to borrow the rest of the money. He also agrees to buy the necklace back from Mathilde and her husband for 34,000 francs if the original lost necklace is returned to them before the end of February.
Monsieur Loisel goes to several different moneylenders and gets the cash to pay for the necklace. When Mathilde hands over the necklace to Jeanne Forestier, she says nothing but, "You should have returned it sooner. I might have needed it", and does not even open the box.
The enormous debt that they have taken on forces Mathilde and her husband to radically change their lifestyle. As well as working at the Ministry, Monsieur Loisel also works in the evening as a shopkeeper's accountant and works at night copying manuscripts for five centimes a page. Mathilde and her husband move out of their home and into an attic room. They dismiss their maid. Mathilde then does all the household chores that she never did before. For the first time in her life, Mathilde also goes grocery shopping and has to haggle with the shopkeepers over prices. She has to dress simply and make her clothes last. It takes ten years for the Loisels to pay off their debts and all of the interest on them. By that time, Mathilde looks like a typical working class housewife. She is badly dressed, her hair is unkempt and her hands are red from doing the dishes, doing the laundry and scrubbing the floor. She also looks considerably older than her years.
One Sunday, while out walking on the Champs-Élysées, Mathilde sees Jeanne Forestier. Jeanne still looks young and beautiful. Mathilde calls out to her. Jeanne does not recognize the impoverished-looking old woman and Mathilde has to tell her who she is. Jeanne is shocked by how much her old friend has changed. Mathilde says that she has suffered a lot and that is all Jeanne's fault. She tells her about the loss of the necklace and how it took ten years to pay for its replacement. Jeanne holds Mathilde's hands before telling her the shocking news. The diamonds on the necklace that Mathilde borrowed were fake. The necklace was worth 500 francs at most.
The first screen adaptation of Guy de Maupassant's "The Necklace" was the 1909 American silent movie The Necklace, directed by D.W. Griffith and starring Mary Pickford. Other film versions of the story include Le Collier de perles (France 1915), The Necklace of Pearls (USA 1915), The Diamond Necklace (UK 1921) and Yichuan Zhenshu (China 1925). Segments based on "The Necklace" are included in the 1952 French anthology film Three Women (Trois femmes) and the 1967 Swedish anthology film Stimulantia.
"The Necklace" was adapted as the first episode of the American drama anthology TV series Your Show Time. The episode was first shown on NBC on January 21, 1949. It won the Emmy Award for Best Film Made for Television, the first prize to be awarded at the first ever Emmy Awards ceremony on January 25, 1949.
TV movies based on "The Necklace" were made for French television in 1957 and 1961. The story was adapted as the second episode of the first season of the French TV series Chez Maupassant. The episode, starring Cecile de France as Mathilde, first aired on the channel France 2 on March 6, 2007.
Christopher Eccleston reads an abridged version of "The Necklace" in the second episode of the four-part British radio anthology mini-series The Devil's Christmas. The episode was first broadcast on BBC Radio 2 on December 18, 2007.
Mathilde, a musical based on "The Necklace" by the Northern Irish composer and playwright Connor Mitchell, was first performed at the Musical Theatre in Edinburgh, Scotland on August 21, 2008.
- Sound files of public domain audiobooks of the story from LibriVox
- ↑ The other episodes of The Devil's Christmas are based on "The Signalman" by Charles Dickens, "Thurlow's Christmas Story" by John Kendrick Bangs and "The She-Wolf" by Saki.
- Versions of Guy de Maupassant's "The Necklace" in French and English on Wikisource.
- Fan-made audiobook of "The Necklace" in French on YouTube.