The Jewelry is a story that takes place in Paris and talks about two main characters, M. Lantin, who is the chief clerk at the office of Minister of Interior, and his wife, who remains nameless throughout the story. The story begins by telling us how M. Lantin meet his wife at the house of the office-superintendent, and how he immediately fell in love with this young innocent girl who "seemed to be the very ideal of that pure good woman to whom every young man dreams of entrusting his future" (634).
The story's plot is very interesting and can be thought of as two different stories combined into one. The writer first walks us through the six years of happiness they lived together and clearly notes Mr. Lantin's wife's passion for theaters and fake jewelry. She was a good housewife who maintained her household very well and provided her husband with a luxurious life style.
On one cold winter night, his wife went to the opera and came back home freezing, she had a "bad cough and died eight days later from pneumonia" (635). Mr. Lantin was heart broken and spent endless nights remembering his good wife. He wouldn't touch or change any of her belongings as they reminded him of her. The story could have ended here and would have made a sad ending; however the writer goes on describing the change in Mr. Lantin's life.
The author explains to us that Mr. Lantin was unable to continue living comfortably on his income. I found this very odd since his wife was able to manage the household for both of them and that they lived a very luxurious life. This was the first warning sign that struck me as a reader and got me to think more about Mr. Lantin's wife. The part that interests me the most was the "one morning that he happened to find himself without a cent in his pocket and [that he had to wait] a whole week before he could draw his monthly salary" (635). This clearly shows the reader that the wife had some kind of income coming in besides the income from Mr. Lantin's.
Broke and in debt, Mr. Lantin finds no other alternative but to sell his deceased wife's fake jewelry. After going through her belongings he decides to take her favorite piece of jewelry, the big pearl necklace that she use to tease him with and tries to sell it. He goes shamefully into a jewelry store to sell what he believes is an exquisitely well made fake pearl necklace. To his surprise the jeweler tells him that the necklace is worth between twelve and fifteen thousand francs. This came as a huge shock to Mr. Lantin has he thought that the jeweler's estimate was inept, and moved on to the next store. This is another clue since the author clearly tells us that Mr. Lantin's yearly salary was only three thousand and five hundred francs; a typical midlevel bureaucratic wage.
As Mr. Lantin goes into the next store the jeweler confirms that the necklace is real by telling him that it was sold from his store for twenty five thousand francs and would buy it from him for eighteen thousand francs. The jeweler looks up his register and affirms it by telling him that it was "sent to the address of Madame Lantin, 16 Rue des Martyrs, on July 20th, 1876." (636). The jeweler asks that he keep the necklace for a day for inspection.
It becomes clear that Madam Lantin was a courtesan; even though the writer does not clarify that, but he begins to describe Mr. Lantin's feelings as being betrayed by his love of his life and the suffering he went through.
On the next day, Mr. Lantin wanders around the streets in grief and the thought of becoming rich begins to fiddle his mind. Being broke and realizing he had not eaten since his shock at the jeweler's, his feet carries him back to the jeweler's to sell the necklace and collect the money. The jeweler welcomes him with a smile and offers him the money. On his way out he turns back and tells the jeweler that he has some other jewelry to sell, right when the jeweler acknowledges and accepts the offer "one of the clerks rushed out to laugh at his ease while another kept blowing his nose as hard as he could" (638) as in a way of hiding a laugh.
That part struck me as a reader and showed that the jeweler and his clerks were either on to his wife through research, or they knew all along about his wife's secret life. The story clearly makes the reader believe that Mr. Lantin was oblivious to how his wife could acquire such expensive jewels and that his concern was basically on the money. We see Mr. Lantin returning back to the jewelry shop with all the jewelry the next day. Mr. Lantin receives a hundred and ninety six thousand francs for all his wife's jewelry. He was extremely pleased with the financial security this fortune brought him and concordantly resigned from his job.
The story ends by telling us that Mr. Lantin remarried and that "his second wife was the most upright of spouses and had a terrible temper. [That] she had made his life very miserable." (639) This is the complete opposite of his first wife. We can say that the direct moral of the story is that looks can be deceiving. We read that Mr. Lantin's wife whom everybody praised turned out to be unfaithful and obviously had done anything for precious jewelry. We can say that Mr. Lantin, by enjoying the wealth that his wife accumulated through dishonest means made him as fortune-blinded as she was. We saw Mr. Lantin turn from this upright man who was ashamed to sell a fake piece of jewelry, to a man who sold his deceased wife's jewelry ignoring the fact that it could have been received by filthy means.
The closing also makes one wonder what the author meant; was he questioning morals versus happiness by saying that his presumably unfaithful first wife made him happy and his second upright wife made him miserable?
In conclusion, the story emphasized that looks can be deceiving and that sometimes we are blind to what really is going on. We can question if being happy by dishonest values is worth the financial gains or if the unhappiness from honest values is worth the pain.