Mathilde Loisel’s character is introduced as having the belief that she should have been born into a higher class, which results in her profound desire to, at the least, appear to lead a life of luxury.
It is clear right away that Mathilde feels she deserves more than a “little clerk in the Ministry of Education” for a husband. Her desire to live a life of luxury consumes her and prevents her from finding satisfaction with any aspect of her life. Her husband goes through a great deal of trouble to obtain an invitation to a fancy party; however, when he tells her the news, she replies coldly, “What do you want me to do with this?”. He is brokenhearted, and makes every effort to convince her to go to the party and even sacrifices his savings for her to buy a new dress.
Mathilde is so concerned with her appearance at the beginning of the story that she is not satisfied with a new dress; she also needs jewels to feel socially acceptable. Madame Forestier, the one who lends her the necklace,treats her with kindness and lets her choose any piece of jewelry to borrow.After rummaging through Madame Forestier’s jewel collection, Mathilde chooses the one that she expects will draw the most attention. Mathilde only cares about other’s feelings when they are directed towards her.
Without realizing Mathilde loses the necklace at the party, and for the next ten years, she and her husband work very hard to pay off debts incurred for replacing it. Although the change is gradual, Mathilde does grow and change as a person over the years, making her a dynamic character. Not only does her appearance change, for she grows old during the painstaking decade, but she also changes as a person and finally learns the meaning of hard work. For once in her life, she takes responsibility for her mistake.
Even at the end, Mathilde continues to have a slightly self-centered attitude,which is exemplified best by her meeting with Madame Forrestier. After Madame Forrestier comments on the changes in her appearance, Mathilde’s response is, “Yes, I’ve had some hard times since I saw you last; and many sorrows….. and all on your account”. Her experience helps her learn that honesty is more important in the long run than her outward appearance.
In a way, Mathilde is both the protagonist and the antagonist. The events of the story revolve around and seem to be set in motion by her, making her the protagonist. She is also the antagonist because she is struggling with her own desire to have a life of luxury, which causes the whole conflict of the lost necklace. The end also shows that she is the protagonist because despite the fact that she causes the conflict, she is the one who works to resolve it as well by finally telling Madame Forrestier the truth.