The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Andersen
In The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Andersen we have the theme of hope, struggle, loneliness, resilience, control and longing. Narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator the reader realises after reading the story that Andersen may be exploring the theme of hope. The Little Match girl is forced to sell matches for her father regardless of the fact that it is the 31st December and it is cold. This may be significant as the Little Match girl on her journeys sees how other people live and it is in contrast to her own way of living. If anything the Little Match girl longs for the comforts that she sees other people have. Yet she knows due to her circumstances that this is not possible. The only woman who loved the little match girl is her grandmother and she herself has already passed away. Leaving the little match girl with a tyrant of a father. Who has forced the match girl to sell her bundle of matches on New Year’s Eve. What is also interesting about the story is the fact that the Little Match girl perseveres and never gives up. Despite how emotionally lonely she is.
It is also clear to the reader that the Little Match girl longs for a life that is different to hers. Something that becomes clear to the reader by way of the matches that the Little Match girl strikes. Which each strike of a match (and the bundle) she sees a world in whereby she would like to live. Each world is also in contrast to the world that the Little Match girl lives. Though some critics might suggest that comfort of the heat of the matches is what is comforting the Little Match girl. It is more likely the families she sees who are celebrating are the true trigger for the Little Match girl wanting a better life. Something compounded by the fact that when the Little Match girl strikes the entire bundle she sees her grandmother. A woman she loved dearly and who she knows will look after her. Unfortunately the action of striking the bundle of matches is the last action that the Little Match girl takes. For she dies and her imagination takes her into the hands of her grandmother. This too might be significant as it highlights the belief that the Little Match girl has in her faith. She knows that everything will be okay.
There is also some symbolism in the story which might be worth noting. The matches can be seen to symbolise hope. Each time the Little Match girl strikes a match (or bundle) her mood changes to one of hope, seeing how others live their lives and perhaps the Little Match girl hopes to live her life in a similar fashion. The hope that comes from striking a match takes the Little Match girl away from the cruelties of life she is living with her father. Who doesn’t really have a voice in the story. However he may not need to have one such is the fear the Little Match girl has of him. Similarly the grandmother acts as a symbol of hope for the Little Match girl. She (though dead) has the ability to take the Little Match girl away from the cruel world she is living in. The fact that it is a time of celebration might also be important as Andersen might be attempting to highlight that celebration is not necessarily something that is on everyone’s mind due to the circumstances they find themselves in.
What is also interesting about the story is that the Little Match girl never feels sorry for herself. She knows that she has a job to do and regardless of the weather she will do it. This may be significant as it suggests that the Little Match girl is resilient and that she won’t be defeated. However unfortunately the elements do get the better of the Little Match girl. Though the reader suspects that she is in a better place now with her grandmother. No longer is she under the control of her father and is protected by her grandmother. A woman who the Little Match girl greatly respects and admires. She may not have led a peaceful life while alive but in death there is no doubting that the Little Match girl will be happy. No longer within her father’s reach and away from his bullying. The real loser in the story is not necessarily the Little Match girl but her father. For profit he sent the Little Match girl out to work in bad weather when everyone else was celebrating New Year’s Eve.