Describe the little match girl’s hallucinations and their significance in Hans Christian Andersen’s short story “The Little Match Girl”.
Or, Explain how the girl’s visions are symbolic of her underlying hope.
In the short story “The Little Match Girl”, Hans Christian Andersen explores the theme of human wishes and aspiration through the transportation into the realm of dreams and hallucinations. Such momentary journey into the dream world is far away from the little girl’s ordinary life full of hardships.
Unsuccessful in selling her match sticks, the poor little girl was sure to be beaten by her father. So, she decided not to go home and sat down on the ground on a corner created by two houses. While sitting there she lit a match to warm herself. To her surprise, she saw a great iron stove with bright brass knob in the bright flame of the match. The stove vanished when the flame went out.
The girl lit three more matches one after another and saw the visions of a roasted goose on the table, a beautiful Christmas tree and her grandmother who loved her most.
By then the girl realized that she would lose the vision of her grandmother when the match would go out. But she wanted her grandmother to stay there so much that she quickly lit all the rest of the matches to make sure the light stayed on. In the bright light of the matches her granny looked more beautiful than ever before. She took her in her arms and flew high up the sky to the God.
Here, Andersen has used dream interpretation as a modernist literary technique of studying the psychological states of human character. The delicious roasted goose, the huge Christmas tree, and her heavenly union with her grandmother which the girl envisioned are merely what she wishes to have.
Her visions are symbolic of her underlying hope. But alas! In this pitiless society she got none. It has indeed artistically set in motion the plot till the denouement – the girl’s untimely death.
The fairy-tale motif is another perfect device that helps the writer’s attempt at translating into reality the innermost craving of the girl’s union with the soul of her dear departed grandmother. A beautiful fusion of hardcore reality of sheer poverty and the imaginative wish fulfilment is given a new dimension within the stipulated periphery of short story. The entire story is an ironic critique to the cruelty of society at large where the little girl is denied of her basic human rights. Herein lies the significance of hallucinations in the story.