Lengthwise, The Little Match Girl is short enough to be a romantic fairy tale. It’s not. In fact, it may be Hans Christian Andersen’s masterpiece, a shockingly realistic portrayal of cruelty and neglect.
Although the story happens to be set around Christmas, this doesn’t affect the cries of pain and hurt that reverberate throughout the narrative. The Little Match Girl is naturally about its title heroine, an orphan girl forced to sell matches to survive. However, even though it’s Christmas, no one wants to buy them even out of charity. This abandoned and homeless little girl loses her shoes and is forced to walk barefoot in the snow; she later dies of hypothermia because no one cares about her welfare. Andersen’s understanding of how indifferent and uncompassionate people are to the suffering happening around them is clearly pictured in The Little Match Girl.
A reader would never be able to find a gentler and more powerful story about an innocent child driven to death by an inhumane society. The author’s recollection of a rewarding Christian afterlife and the joys of paradise seem to be mocking the world’s hypocritical stance on charity. The unnamed little match girl dreams of Christmas and the happiness of love. Ironically, the world around her, which made Christmas such an important holiday, pointedly ignores her misfortune and lets her die during this time.
Christmas is supposed to be a “season of giving,” but despite all the publicity surrounding it, people still notice themselves first. The Little Match Girl is an excellent example of how selfishness can destroy someone else; it is testimony to the truth of what humans really are. People will never change their attitudes or their behavior or their self-centered vision. The Little Match Girl is so poignant and intense because Andersen has drawn a simple sketch of reality in his story, reflecting the core of its message on the readers themselves. He tried to provoke compassion from at least one human soul through the power of words and written thoughts. In The Little Match Girl, he created images that should move any reader’s heart, just like the little match girl earned a place in heaven.
Original review: Part 2: ‘Tis the season to read Christmas classics, Examiner.com