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The Little Match Girl: Characters & Analysis

The Little Match Girl: Characters & Analysis
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  • 0:05 Story Background
  • 0:29 Little Match Girl
  • 1:14 Her Grandmother
  • 1:58 Her Parents
  • 2:45 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

In this lesson, we will analyze the characters from 'The Little Match Girl' by Hans Christian Andersen. This story is about a little girl who freezes to death while trying to sell matches to make money for her abusive family.

Story Background

When you were a child, what did you hope to become? In Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Match Girl, the girl is in such a terrible position marked by poverty and abuse that she welcomes death as she freezes out on the street. The story marks her separation from a cold, cruel world as she ascends to heaven where she is loved and comforted. Let's discuss and analyze the characters from this fairytale.

Little Match Girl

The little match girl is the only character that is present in the story. The other characters appear in memories and visions. The girl is young, poor, and neglected. It is hard to imagine a more pathetic character as she is sent off into the elements alone to earn money for the family. When it doesn't happen, she freezes to death rather than returning home to an abusive and fearful situation.

The narrator describes how the girl 'crept along trembling with cold and hunger - a very picture of sorrow, the poor little thing!' Despite her terrible conditions, the girl remains imaginative and dreams of warmth and a great feast. When she freezes to death, her thoughts and visions remain happy ones as she ascends to a better place with a smile on her face.

Her Grandmother

The girl's grandmother, though deceased, is 'the only person who had loved her.' When the girl begins to freeze to death, she is not afraid. She remembers things that her grandmother has taught her like 'when a star falls, a soul ascends to God.'

When the girl sees her grandmother in the fourth vision, it is better than warmth, food, or even Christmas. To keep from losing her, the girl strikes all of her matches at once. The grandmother takes her arm and 'both flew in brightness and in joy so high, so very high, and then above was neither cold, nor hunger, nor anxiety - they were with God.'

The grandmother represents the love, joy, and security that the girl will never find at home with her parents. When her grandmother comes for her, the girl dies happy.

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