Guy de Maupassant was a French short story writer and novelist, who remains, by wide agreement, the French master of the short story genre. The protagonist of "The Necklace" is Mathilde Loisel, described by the narrator as possessing beauty, elegance and wit. Being married to a Ministry of Education clerk, she can only dream of elegant things, but when she receives an invitation to an important party held by the minister, Mathilde borrows a diamond necklace from a wealthy friend, Mme. Forester. The ball proves an event at which Mathilde is among the prettiest and most popular.
Mathilde and her husband arrive home from the ball to discover that the necklace is missing -- no longer on her neck, nowhere to be found. They are faced with a terrible moral dilemma. Their solution is to go into enormous, overwhelming debt to purchase a replacement, with Mme. Forester never knowing the difference. They struggle for 10 years to repay the debt, living a life of privation and working overtime. One day, with the debt repaid, Mathilde and Mme. Forester meet, and Mathilde tells the truth of what happened. The astonished Mme. Forester reveals that the necklace she had loaned to Mathilde had been made of fake diamonds. Although Mathilde has learned to sacrifice and work hard, she is faced with the irony that she should have trusted life and the truth enough to be honest with her friend the night of the loss. Mathilde's life, instead, has been based on keeping up appearances, an approach that has served her poorly.