What is the significance of the visions of the little match girl in the story with the same name?
The first vision is that of a stove with a fire burning in it. This vision symbolises the little match girl’s want for a safe and complete form of shelter and in a sense “home”.
The next vision is of a animated roast goose walking toward her. This symbolises her desire to have her basic necessities fulfilled with at least some amount of luxury in her life.
The third vision is of a Christmas tree. The tree is related to Christian holiday which symbolises the girl’s want for a loving family and generally love.
The last vision is of her grandmother. The vision embodies the girl’s last desire : to be reunited with her grandmother and release from her current reality of pain, poverty, misery, jealousy. It also softens the death of the little match girl.
The Little Match Girl is thematically engrossed with the unnamed match girl’s tendency of making mental images or projecting her inner perception in the form of vision. The whole fabric of the story is a great deal externalization of such visions of the girl’s deep perception. It is worth mentioning that the subtle mental fabric of her psyche is an illuminating revelation by which Anderson depicts her character with barely any dialogue of her own.
It is the recurrent flashing of match stick that produces an illusory dream in which the girl experiences the pleasure of those hopes and aspirations that she hardly enjoys in her real life. Thus. her inner agony of mind gets an outlet to self-expression as if it is a stream of thought process. One after another it unfolds itself proportionately with every scratch of match stick. This is the irony of her wretched existence that what she is utterly incapable to enjoy in reality can be vigorously enjoyed in her vision:
She pulled one out – Scr-r-ratch! How it spluttered and burnt! It had a warm, bright flame like a tiny candle when she held her hand over it – what a strange light!
This is an excerpt of her inner self where the little match girl feels transported to a realm of warmth that gives her a shield of protection from the biting cold. She stretches her feet to warm. But it is a transitory feeling of vision that fades into nothingness. Ultimately, she finds herself with the burnt match in her hand. The imaginary stove is gone. The solid ground of reality turns back upon her.
With the strike of another match stick another vision appears to her; in which she finds, to her utter surprise, a shining white cloth spread on the table. In the centre is placed a roast goose, stuffed with prunes and apples. The girl feels elated finding the goose hopping down from the dish. This magic fantasy softens her agony of long starvation. A roast goose is a far cry from her real existence. It momentarily exults her spirit. She finds a wonderful sight of a carving knife and fork goes in clumsy swaying motion across the floor. All these are manifestations of her inner desire and aspiration.
The many candles on the Christmas tree rose higher and higher through the air and she saw that that had now turned into bright stars.
Bright stars are those departed souls as her childish imagination conceives. Such belief was inculcated into her curious mind by her grandmother. “Higher and Higher” symbolizes the gradual elevation of her pleasure:
She struck another match on the wall. Once more there was light, and in the glow stood her grandmother.
It is an imaginary arrival of her grandmother whom she meets and finds so kind and gentle. Such visionary encounter is the manifestation of her inner craving for the loving care of her grandmother. She wishes to be carried away with her because she finds no one there to care for her. She is no longer able to withstand the utter callousness and apathy of the society. She exclaims in utter delight and requests her to take to the realm of dead. Her unflagging spirit wants death as the way of getting relief from this cruel world. She strikes the rest of the matches so that the light doesn’t go off this time. She doesn’t want to lose her grandmother. Finally, she sees that her grandmother takes her in her arms. Thus begins a new journey of her life after death. Such visions reflect her wish fulfillment. She has now been far away from the world of hunger, cold and apathy of the society.
The writer has applied a methodical approach to depth psychology in order to narrate a lonesome girl’s fantasies in a trance-like atmosphere far away from the wretchedness of bleak reality of her mundane existence. A vivid contrast is projected between excruciating pain of real harshness and unreal world of mere vision. It is somewhat akin to the fleeting sensation of romantic imagination. No doubt, the grim exposure of the naked truth of reality of the little girl’s life is depicted through such fairy tale motif.