The Little Match Girl

by

Hans Christian Andersen

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Themes and Colors
The Cruelty of Poverty Theme Icon
Christianity and the Afterlife Theme Icon
Fairy Tales vs. Reality Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Little Match Girl, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

The Cruelty of Poverty

In his stories, Hans Christian Andersen often highlights the plight of the poor during the Industrial Revolution, with a particular interest in how this tumultuous period impacted the lives of children. In “The Little Match Girl,” he focuses on the titular little girl as she struggles for warmth while out selling matches in the bitter cold of New Year’s Eve. The story’s morbid ending (the girl dies from exposure after she uses all of her…

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Christianity and the Afterlife

Christianity was central to the culture of 19th century Denmark (Andersen’s native country), and “The Little Match Girl” reflects this in its depiction of death as being beneficial and good: a means of transcending earthly life, reuniting with deceased loved ones, and connecting with God. By portraying death as a more positive outcome than continuing to live in poverty, Andersen suggests that dying isn’t something to be feared, since it is only through death that…

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Fairy Tales vs. Reality

Though an author of fairy tales, Hans Christian Andersen typically did not write rosy stories of royalty and magic, or triumphant feats with happily-ever-after endings. Instead, his works often dealt with more realistic (and often morbid) themes of betrayal, sin, violence, and—as in the case of “The Little Match Girl”—death. By using the conventions of the fairy tale genre as a framework (namely the story’s choices of character, structure, and tone) alongside the morbid realism…

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