1. She danced madly, ecstatically, drunk with pleasure, with no thought for anything, in the triumph of her beauty, in the pride of her success, in a cloud of happiness made up of this universal homage and admiration, of the desires she had aroused, of the completeness of a victory so dear to her feminine heart.
This quotation appears near the middle of the story, during the party, when Mathilde is happier than she had ever been or ever would be again. Mathilde has schemed and strived to get to this moment: she wheedled money from Monsieur Loisel so that she could buy a new dress and borrowed jewels from Madame Forestier so that she would not look poor among the other women. And her angling has been successful—she is greatly admired at the party, and all the men want to dance with her. This is the moment for which she has been born. In this passage, her happiness is absolute. There is no thought of the past, nor any thought of the party’s end, when she will return to her ordinary life. In the days that follow, she and Monsieur Loisel will be plunged into deeper poverty than they have ever known; but for now, she has immersed herself completely in the illusion of wealth. In her expensive dress for which her husband had to sacrifice, and in the necklace that does not even belong to her, she is filling the role she believes she deserves. In this moment, nothing else matters.
2. [F]rightened by the pains yet to come, by the black misery which was about to fall upon him, by the prospect of all the physical privation and of all the moral tortures which he was to suffer, he went to get the new necklace, putting down upon the merchant’s counter thirty-six thousand francs.
This quotation, which appears close to the end of the story, marks the beginning of the Loisels plunge into poverty. Doomed to work for years to pay off his many loans, Monsieur Loisel nonetheless buys the replacement necklace so that Mathilde does not have to admit to her wealthy friend that she lost the original. Without complaining and with only this sick feeling in his gut, Monsieur Loisel faces the bleak future and moves forward. Unlike Mathilde, who cannot see the consequences of her actions and is oblivious to the sacrifices that her husband has made on her behalf, Monsieur Loisel can see clearly what is in store. This passage reveals the extent of his love for Mathilde—he knows he is giving up everything for her, and it has all been for a goal he never understood. Where Mathilde is selfish, Monsieur Loisel is selfless, and this purchase is his ultimate sacrifice.
3. What would have happened if she had never lost those jewels? Who knows? Who knows? How strange life is, how fickle! How little is needed to ruin or to save!
This quotation appears near the end of the story, when Mathilde daydreams during her housecleaning. When Mathilde imagines the night of the party, she idealizes it, even though this event led to her downfall. She seems to regret nothing about the night except losing the necklace, and she fails to realize that it was her desire to appear to be someone other than herself that ultimately ruined her. Despite her hardships, Mathilde has failed to learn from her mistakes. Instead of asking herself what would have happened if she hadn’t lost the jewels, she should be asking herself what would have happened if she hadn’t borrowed them in the first place. Mathilde believes that life is fickle, but it is she herself who has acted capriciously and brought about her own dire fate. Shortly after her reverie, she meets Madame Forestier again and learns that the necklace had been worthless. Had she simply told Madame Forestier she lost the necklace, she would have learned right away that it was costume jewelry and would not have sacrificed everything to buy a replacement. Truly, little would have been needed to save Mathilde.