With close reference to the story “The Little Match Girl” by Hans Christian Andersen, examine the statement that despite facing cold and hunger and apathy of the people around her, the little match girl did not lose her faith and hope.
Hans Christian Andersen’s short story The Little Match Girl is an inspiring tale of an impoverished match girl who retains her stubborn spirit of struggle for existence even amid the oppression and utter neglect of society. Utter callousness of the so called gentle and rich folk of her community turn a deaf year to her unspeakable misery. It is her constant effort to carve out a precarious living for herself against the heavy odds of life.
In the cold and gloom a poor girl walked, bareheaded and barefoot, through the streets.
This is how the girl is introduced in the story. Her purpose remains unfulfilled as she could not sell her matchsticks. Furthermore, she can hardly avoid her father’s anger for being unable to sell her matchsticks:
Nobody had bought any from her, and no one had given her a single penny all day.
She finds no one to sympathize with her plight; the biting cold comes over her and makes her tremble. Still, she creeps along in the hope of selling her matchsticks. Still, she shows her indomitable spirit not to yield to hunger and poverty:
She crept along, shivering and hungry, the picture of misery, poor little thing!
The author shows how a little girl is made an object of helplessness. Most remarkable aspect of her character is retention of hope and faith. Apathy and cold indifference of the people around her does not touch her. She carries about her tremendous staying power and unflagging spirit of mind.
There is no one to care for her as everyone is busy enjoying the eve of Christmas celebration. But the girl does not complain. She rather chooses to sit on a corner on the street and warm herself up with the help of her match sticks.
She tries a great deal to ward off the stings of cold by flashing the matchstick one after another. With each flashing all her dreams become so vividly real. She envisions the visions of her unfulfilled dreams and aspirations in the form of a great iron stove, a roast goose, a beautifully lit Christmas tree and her dead old grandmother who was the only one to care for her when she was alive. These visions are the biggest proof of her undiminished hopes and faith in life. She never lost hope of getting those things in her real life someday.
Her feeble attempt to escape the cold wintry night goes in vain though. She freezes to death that night with all her hope undiminished. Mortal existence does not give her any pleasure of life but death is found to be her liberator from trammels of mundane life. It is truly a tale of a lonely soul with her abundant hopeful vigour and spirit of struggle.
Despite the cold, hunger and apathy of the society, she never loses her hope with steadfast believe in the gospel of Christian faith. And her death proves to be her rewarding emancipator from the bondage of cruel fate. In her vision, she wanted her grandmother to take her with her to the God and so she did. Her unification with the departed soul of her grandmother in the world of dead is the great outcome of her hope and aspiration. That is why the narrator comments —
But no one knew what beautiful visions she had seen and in what a blaze of glory she had entered with her dear old grandmother into the heavenly joy and gladness of a new year.
A poor small girl suffering from cold, hunger and apathy of people around her was capable of imagining certain things, which she must have longed for and which made her feel better, including an iron stove, a huge Christmas tree and a table laden with delicious food. The girl imagines her deceased grandmother’s face, just because she had faith and hope.
The girl’s faith and hope is shown when she begins visualizing the things she always longed for in her entire life: Warmth, good food and love. During her entire struggle to live she doesn’t complain but does what she can. She is cold and hungry but going home is not an option. Her father would beat her and then the condition of her house is so poor that even stuffing the holes in the roofs didn’t prevent the cold winds from entering. A picture of misery she crept along trembling. Sitting in a nook she wondered if lighting a few matches would be fine.
Unable to bear the chill any longer she lit a match and with it she started visualizing a big iron stove giving out great warmth and light. She stretched out but at that instant the match burns out and the cold returns. This vision depicts her desire for warmth and shelter from the horrible cold outside. Lighting the second match she sees the walls of a nearby house becoming transparent and laid inside is a delicious feast. Her second vision tells us that she has never probably eaten a good food and that is dying of hunger. Even If she survives the bitter cold she’ll die of hunger. When she lights the third match, she sees a beautifully decorated Christmas tree and reached out to touch it when the match is burnt out and it disappears.
Before the last vision she looks up to see a shooting star and exclaims ‘someone is dying’. The last vision is of her dead grandmother who was the only one to love her truly. The girl cannot take this world’s cruelty any more and begs her grandma to take her along. These visions showed that she never gave up her hope of a better living and she holds on to it till her death.
In fact, the last vision was the ultimate proof of her hope to escape the worries and cruelty of this world and go somewhere where she is cared for. The happiness she could not get when alive she got in the visions and her death. She had never been accepted in the society and thrived to live but still her dreams and hopes never faded. When she is found dead with smiling lips, people are confused but then, of course, they have no idea of the beautiful visions she saw and the fact that her death was a blessing for her. This story is a reminder to us to be kind to the less fortunate.