The Little Match Girl By Hans Christian Andersen
A poor little girl, shivering, bareheaded and barefoot, tries to sell matches in the street on the bitterly cold New Year’s Eve. She huddles in the alley between two houses and lights matches, one by one, to warm herself, afraid of going home because her strict father would beat her for failing to sell any matches.
It was bitterly cold ….. New Year’s Eve.
The story is set on a terribly cold wintery evening. The snow was falling and darkness was growing. It was the last day of the year and thus the New Year’s Eve.
In the cold ….. children of his own.
On the last evening of the year, a poor little girl walked with no footwear and head cover. It was dark and extremely cold on that evening. Though she had worn slippers when she left home, those slippers were bigger than her foot size as they belonged to her mother. The irony is, even those were lost while she ran across the street to escape the two fast driven carriages. Pathos is being highlighted to the condition of the already pathetic poor girl when the author says she lost one slipper to escape from the two carriages that were being driven terribly fast.
The other slipper was carried away by a boy who was making fun of her big sized slippers. He called the slipper a handy cradle of children that he would one day have.
So the little girl ….. poor little thing.
As her footwear was lost, the poor little girl walked barefoot on the streets. Her feet also became blue and red because of the extreme cold. She was wearing an old apron in which she carried a lot of matches. She held one packet in her hand also. None of her matches were sold, thus she could not get a single penny from anyone. She moved along the streets shivering with cold and hunger. She portrayed a perfect picture of sorrow. The author emphasizes on the pathetic condition of the girl by describing her clothes, her feet and her hunger. In fact, the very presence of the girl in the street in that extreme weather, hungry and meagrely dressed, adds pathos to the story.
The snowflakes fell ….. anything else.
The author has already told us about the snowfall that evening. The snowflakes fell on her long golden hair which was curled beautifully on her neck. But because the cold, darkness and hunger were so immense the little girl could not think of her appearance. The light shining in every window and the wonderful smell of roast goose in the street marked the approaching New Year. The irony portrayed by the author is where on one hand the little girl strolled hungry wearing insufficient clothes in the dark streets, people all around were enjoying the evening by lighting their homes and cooking delicious food.
She huddled down ….. warm her fingers.
When the hunger and cold became unbearable, the girl chose a corner formed by two houses and sat there in a huddled position. She sat in that position to keep herself warm, but she felt colder and colder. She was scared to go home as none of her matches were sold and thus not a single penny was earned. She knew she would be beaten by her father. Moreover, her house was very cold as there was just a roof and no walls. Because of this, the winds would enter through the dilapidated house.
The author personifies the wind in the phrase “the wind whistled through that”.
The hands of the girl were almost numb due to the extreme cold. She wanted to pull out just one matchstick from the packet and light it to warm her numb fingers.
Irony expressed by the author where the girl, who has a number of matchboxes with matchsticks that can produce fire to bring warmth, was shivering with cold.
She pulled one ….. match in her hand.
When she could no more bear the cold, she pulled out one matchstick from a box and lit it. Its flame was brighter than the flame produced by a tiny candle. It emitted a strange warmth. Before we further understand the story, let us understand that the matchsticks lit by this girl produced strange light in that dark night. The light of each matchstick was symbolic to hope, comfort and achievement. In the light of each lit matchstick, she had a vision. These visions reflected her unfulfilled wishes and dreams.
When she lit the first matchstick, it seemed to her as if she were sitting right in front of a great iron stove which had polished brass knobs and ornaments. The fire that the matchstick produced burnt beautifully and gave great warmth. The warmth was so wonderful that the girl spread her feet to warm them, but this was short-lived. The flame went out. And with it, the stove disappeared too. The girl had nothing but the burnt matchstick in her hand.
She struck another ….. thick cold wall.
The second matchstick on being lit also burnt clearly. Its light fell upon the wall of the house she was sitting near to. The bricks seemed to be transparent in its light, as transparent as a transparent cloth. Due to the see-through the wall, she could see inside the room. The table was decorated with beautiful china and covered with a white cloth. There was a roasted goose in the middle which was stuffed with prunes and apples. It appeared to be hot and delicious. The best of it all was that the goose hopped down from the dish and walked slowly and came straight to the girl. Suddenly the light went off from the match and there was nothing except darkness and the thick cold wall.
She struck ….. with light.
The girl immediately struck another match. If we try to understand the girl’s psychology, she was trying to derive happiness which, though short-lived, brought contentment to her. The third matchstick when lit, gave her a vision where she was sitting under the most beautiful Christmas tree. It was bigger and more beautiful than the one she had seen last year in the rich merchant’s house through the glass doors. She could see a thousand candles lit up on the green branches and balls that had bright colours to bring happiness. They were like the ones that were there in the shop windows. The little girl tried to touch that tree, but the match went out. The numerous candles of the Christmas tree went higher and higher up through the air and she could see them changing into bright stars. Out of them, one fell, moving fast from the sky, emitting light.
Now someone ….. goes up to God.
The falling star was described as someone’s death by the little girl’s old grandmother who was no more alive. The old lady was the only one who had been good to her. She had told the girl that a falling star symbolises a soul going up to God.
She struck another match ….. Christmas tree.
The little girl immediately struck another match on the wall. There was light all around once again. In that glowing light, she saw her old grandmother standing. She looked bright and shining. Her face was gentle, kind and loving. She called out to her granny desperately and requested her to take her along with her. She knew that her granny would disappear when the match is burnt out like the warm stove, roast goose and the great beautiful Christmas tree.
Then she …… with her.
The author portrays the mental state of the little girl where her mind is filled with the fear of her granny’s disappearance and she being left alone in that cold and alone dark, lonely night. Due to the fear of losing her granny once again, she lit up all the matchsticks that she had in order to keep her granny with her for as long as she could.
The matches flared up ….. both with God.
The fire produced when she struck the matchsticks emitted a glaring light. This light was brighter than broad daylight. In the light of these matchsticks, her grandmother seemed as beautiful and as majestic as never before. She carried the little girl in her arms and flew high up with her. She flew where there was no sorrow, fear and hunger. There, high up in heaven there was just happiness and love. None of them could feel hungry or scared as they both were in the divine presence of God.
The paragraph explicitly brings out the feelings and condition of the little girl, her desperateness to be with her grandmother though she knew being with her meant death. In other words, she preferred death to the life she was living.
But in the cold dawn …… being burnt.
On the cold morning of the New Year, the girl was found dead due to the cold at night in the corner of the two houses with her rosy cheeks and smiling lips, in a huddled position. She still held the matches with half of them burnt.
She was evidently trying ……………. gladness of a new year.
When she was seen by the people in the morning, they saw the burnt matchsticks which proved that she was trying to keep herself warm and that she had died of the extreme cold. The people could see and comment only on what was closely visible. No one knew or could even think of the beautiful visions that the little girl had before her death. They also could not imagine how majestically she had been carried to the other world by her granny in her arms. In the world where her granny took her, God was her protector, and there was just peace and happiness. It was with this peace and happiness that she had entered into the New Year.
The story conveys a life-learning message that there is a very strong bond between parents and children. This association has the strength to survive every type of challenge. However, in order to prepare their little children for the hardships of adult life, parents should not use strict punishment and it is difficult for children to understand the true motive behind the stern actions of their parents.
1. gloom – partial or total darkness
2. cradle – baby’s bed or cot
3. huddled – crowd together
4. spluttered – soft sound while lighting a matchstick
5. stretched – spread
6. gauze- transparent cloth
7. waddled – walked in short steps
8. gaily – happily
9. streaking – moving fast
10. blaze – flame
Questions and Answers
Answer the questions that follow the extract:
1. She was evidently …… a New Year.
a) Who is ‘she’ in the given extract? What had happened to her?
Ans. She is Kezia, the poor little girl who was afraid of her father. She had lost her slippers while she ran across the street to escape the two fast driven carriages.
b) With what evidence could the people say that she was trying to warm herself?
Ans. When she was seen by the people in the morning, they saw the burnt matchsticks which proved that she was trying to keep herself warm and that she had died of the extreme cold. The people could see and comment only on what was closely visible.
c) How and when did she get the beautiful visions? List any three of her visions.
Ans. In her first vision, the girl saw a great iron stove with brass knobs and brass ornaments. She spread her feet to take the warmth from the beautiful flame of the stove.
In her third vision, the girl came across a beautiful Christmas tree which was larger and lovelier she had seen last year.
In another vision was when she struck another match on the wall. There was light all around once again. In that glowing light, she saw her old grandmother standing. She looked bright and shining. Her face was gentle, kind and loving. She called out to her granny desperately and requested her to take her along with her. She knew that her granny would disappear when the match is burnt out like the warm stove, roast goose and the great beautiful Christmas tree.
d) Why did the little girl not want to go home? Describe her outer appearance in brief.
Ans. The little girl afraid of going home because her strict father would beat her for failing to sell any matches.
She was hungry and meagrely dressed. She was bareheaded and barefoot. She had rosy cheeks and smiling lips and long golden hair which was curled beautifully on her neck. But because the cold, darkness and hunger were so immense the little girl could not think of her appearance. She had even lost her slippers.
e) Bring out the irony of the story as narrated by the author and discuss in brief how this adds pathos in the story.
Though the poor little had worn slippers when she had left home, those slippers were bigger than her foot size as they belonged to her mother. The irony is, even those were lost while she ran across the street to escape the two fast driven carriages. Pathos is being highlighted to the condition of the already pathetic poor girl when the author says she lost one slipper to escape from the two carriages that were being driven terribly fast.
Answer the following questions:
Q. 1. Discuss in brief how apt according to you is the title ‘The Little Match Girl’ for its story?
Ans. The title of the story is appropriate especially considering that the story focuses on the life and suffering of the little girl who sells matches the matches being mentioned in the title also fits well because those matches are the only things that will girl depends on to earn money and they also become the reason she dies peacefully. By lighting those matches the girl found happiness and joy in the happy visions that she had.
Q. 2. How does the author show that dreams are important to remain happy even if for a short while? Discuss in light of the visions that the little girl had each time she lit a matchstick.
The little match girl didn’t have any desire to go home since it was a cold attic where her violent father would hit her often. The wind that was blowing from all sides of that attic didn’t leave any room for a happy family. She thought about how to get warm so he decided to light up one match. After she lit up another match she dreamt. And in her dream saw a beautiful set table with a lot of food. The turkey on the table started moving and went towards her but she never came to the girl because the match burned out. She decided to light up another one and she saw a decorated Christmas tree and many candles around it. When she reached her hands to touch it the light went out.
All of the candles started to rise towards the sky and one star fell down, leaving behind a mark. The girl thought that it meant somebody died and that it was their soul. In that moment she saw her grandma and in order to keep her near she lit up all of the matches. Her grandma took her with her to a place where hunger and coldness were gone.
The next morning she was found frozen with a smile on her face. Everybody commented on her attempts to keep herself warm but nobody knew she waited for New Year with the prettiest pictures and dreams in her mind. Her dreams made her happy and she could no longer feel the cold or the harshness of the world around her. She was at peace.
Q 3. ‘The little girl with rosy cheeks and smiling lips’ was found dead on the morning of the New Year. Keeping her living conditions in mind, do you think it was a happy or a sad ending?
Ans. Her rosy cheeks and smiling lips indicate to the eternal happiness she found in the company of her dear old grandmother. Though people of society at large could only see her as dead, they had no eyes to see that it was the beginning of a whole new life for the girl. So we say it was a happy ending.
Q. What is the theme of The Little Match Girl?
Ans. “The Little Match Girl” presents a poignant critique of cultural attitudes to extreme poverty and inequality during the period of the industrial revolution. Using imagery and juxtaposition, Andersen contrasts the poverty of the little girl with the surrounding wealth.