“The Necklace” takes place in Paris during the late 19th century, a period of time known as La Belle Époque (the “beautiful era”). This period fell between 1871 and the beginning of the First World War (1914), a period of peace and economic prosperity in Europe in which Paris became the cultural, technological, and economic capital of the region. The nation was greatly enriched by the Industrial Revolution, which also exacerbated existing class divisions and inequality.
During the 1870s, a new government called the Third Republic was declared in France. By 1884, the year this story was written and in which it takes place, French society had entered a period of genuine stability in the domestic sphere, and a period of growth and successful conquest abroad. M. Loisel’s job as a government clerk would have been an extremely secure—and in some ways enviable—position. The French government was stable, growing, and in need of workers.
Paris, where the Loisels and Madame Forestier live and work, was undergoing rapid urbanization during this period, as workers moved to the city in search of factory jobs. Many of the urban poor and middle class workers struggled with poor working conditions, small apartments, and relatively low wages. While the Loisels are not physical laborers, like many during this era, they are pointedly excluded from the benefits of the Industrial Revolution, which were largely seized by the upper classes.