The story is about a little girl’s dream and hope. On a cold New Year’s Eve, a poor, young girl tries to sell matches in the street. She is already shivering from cold and starvation, and she is walking barefoot having lost her two large slippers. She is too afraid to go home, because her father will beat her for not selling any matches, and also as the many cracks in their shack can’t keep out the cold wind. The girl takes shelter in an alley. The girl lights the matches to warm herself. In their glow she sees several lovely visions, starting with a warm stove, then a luxurious holiday feast where the goose almost jumps out at her, and then a magnificent Christmas tree and thereafter she happened to see her deceased grandmother.
“It was bitterly cold, snow was … but what good were they?”
Question (i): What was special about the particular evening in the story? What kind of weather was there in the evening?
Answer (i): It was New Year’s Eve, the last evening of the year.
The weather in the evening was bitterly cold and snow was falling.
Question (ii): The girl had the slippers on, but they were of no use. Why?
Answer (ii): The girl was wearing her mother’s slippers when she stepped out of her home. The slippers were of no use to her as they were too big for her tiny feet.
Question (iii): How can you conclude from the story that the girl was poor and dejected?
Answer (iii): The girl belonged to poor family and is evident from the fact that she was walking in snowy winter weather bareheaded and she had been wearing her mother’s slippers which was too big for her feet. Her scanty clothes were not enough to keep her warm. Her house is described to be cold and having nothing but a roof with cracks on the walls allowing cold wind to whistle through them. The girl’s longings for love and affection from her family got reflected in the imaginary visions she experienced, whereas in real life she was afraid of her father who treated her badly. Because of that she felt dejected and in the final vision she pleaded with her late grandmother to take her to heaven.
Question (iv): Why was the girl out in the cold? What prevented her from going back home?
Answer (iv): The girl was sent out in the cold by her father to earn money from selling matches.
All day had passed but she was unable to sell any matches. She was afraid to go home as her father was very strict and had warned her that if she returned home without money he would give her a beating.
Question (v): How appropriate is the title of the story?
Answer (v): The title of the story “The Little Match Girl” is appropriate as it revolves around a little girl who sells matches. The little girl in the story was sent out by her father in cold and snowy weather to sell matches. She did not have proper clothes to wear; she had to walk bareheaded and barefoot and was trembling with cold and hunger. She was afraid to go home because she could not sell any matches, and therefore, would get a beating from her father. She huddled herself in a corner formed between walls and tried to keep herself warm by lighting the matches, but it was of no avail and she died in the freezing cold.
“So the little girl walked … packet of them in her hand as well”.
Question (i): Who is referred to as little girl in the extract above? How did she lose her shoes?
Answer (i): In the above extract a poor match seller is referred to as little girl.
The girl was wearing her mother’s slippers when she stepped out of her home. The slippers were of no use to her as they were too big for her tiny feet. She could not manage to keep them strapped on her feet when she ran across the street so as to escape from two carriages that were being driven terribly fast. While she was running they slipped off from her feet. She could not find one of the slippers and a boy ran off with the other saying he could use it as a cradle when he had children of his own.
Question (ii): Why was the girl carrying matches with her?
Answer (ii): The girl was sent out by her father in the cold and snowy weather to sell matches.
Question (iii): Why does the author describe the girl as “the picture of misery”?
Answer (iii): The poor little girl was moving bareheaded and barefoot in the snowy winter of New Year’s Eve. Her feet had turned red and blue due to extreme cold. Her old apron was stuffed with matches and she was holding a packet of matches in her hand as well. She was hungry and shivering in cold and was walking slowly. The description of the girl as “picture of misery” creates vivid impressions of the little girl, in the mind of the reader, who is suffering intense mental and physical agony.
Question (iv): What tells you that the girl was not only trembling with cold but also with hunger?
Answer (iv): The fact that the girl was walking about the streets on her naked feet which had turned red and blue with frostbite tells us that she was trembling with cold. Moreover, she was also trembling with hunger as she did not have money to buy food. This can be said from the fact that all day had passed but her apron and hand were still stuffed with matches suggesting that nobody had bought any of her matches. Also, nobody took pity on her and gave her a single penny to help her buy some food.
Question (v): Explain how the story is interspersed with didactic elements.
Answer (v): The story attempts to teach people to show empathy towards people who are poor, especially innocent children. The poor looking girl was almost run over twice by recklessly driven carriages. It was New Year’s Eve and every household was feasting with delicious roasted geese but nobody was kind to offer the little girl food, warm clothes, shelter or buy her matches. The poor little girl was moving on the street trembling with cold and starvation all day but people seemed to have overlooked her. The miserable condition of the girl evokes feelings of compassion strong enough to motivate wealthy people to work towards alleviating the sufferings of the poor.
“She tucked her little legs … with straw and rags”
Question (i): Where was the girl sitting? How did she try to warm her fingers?
Answer (i): She was sitting huddled down in a heap in a corner formed by two houses.
She burned a match by striking it on the wall to warm her fingers.
Question (ii): When did the girl feel as if she were sitting before a large iron stove? Why did she feel this way?
Answer (ii): When she burnt the first match by scratching it on the brick wall to warm her fingers, she felt as if she was sitting before a large iron stove which gave her lovely warmth.
The girl was trying to keep herself warm in the small fire produced by the matches. She hoped that the fire would help fight freezing cold by imagining that she was sitting before a large iron stove.
Question (iii): Explain what kind of relationship the girl shared with her father.
Answer (iii): In the terrible cold and snowy weather the girl was sent by her father to sell matches. The girl was unable to sell matches and was afraid of going home because of the fear of being beaten by her father. It shows that her father was not concerned about her welfare and used to ill-treat her.
Question (iv): With reference to the story, bring out the theme of class differentiation.
Answer (iv): The girl’s clothes and her house as having only the roof, through which wind whistled and large cracks were stuffed with straw and rags, indicate that she belonged to the poor class of the society. She was being used as child labour and was looked down upon by others. She imagined beautiful things in the glow of matches she longed for which only rich upper class people enjoyed. She walked in the street in snowy winter trembling with cold and hunger but nobody was kind to her and showed only pity when her frozen dead body was found the next morning. All the experience the girl had, both in reality and imagination, highlights class differentiation in the Victorian society.
Question (v): The children in Victorian society were not only orphaned but also deserted, neglected and abused. Give evidence from the story to prove this statement.
Answer (v): The girl’s father did not have affection for her and abused her. She was not given proper warm clothes and shoes to wear. The little girl was used as a child labour and was sent out in snowy winter to sell matches. She was trembling with cold and hunger but nobody in the street took notice of her. She was not yet home in the evening but it seems that her father was least concerned about her. The condition of the girl shows that children in Victorian society were not only orphaned but also deserted, neglected and abused.
“She struck another … she could see into the room”.
Question (i): What happened when the girl lit the first match?
Answer (i): When the girl lit the first match it gave a warm, bright flame like a candle. The light of flame was strange and it seemed to the girl that she was sitting before a large iron stove with polished brass knobs and brass ornaments. The fire burnt beautifully and gave out lovely warmth to her hands. She stretched her feet to warm them too.
Question (ii): What did the girl see in the window when she lit the second match?
Answer (ii): When the light of the second match fell upon the wall, the bricks become transparent like gauze and she could see right into the room. She saw a shining white cloth was spread on the table. It was covered with beautiful china and in the centre of it stood a roast goose, stuffed with prunes, and apples, steaming deliciously. The girl was struck with wonder when she saw the goose hop down from the dish and waddle towards her with carving knife and fork in its back.
Question (iii): Explain how the girl’s visions are symbolic of her undying hope.
Answer (iii): The girl’s was living a life full of misery but she always kept her hope alive. She believed that she would pull through the difficulties and lighted the matches to keep her warm. In the glow of the light she imagined things which made her feel comfortable. The girl’s visions are symbolic of her undying hope because they helped her reinforce her desires of enjoying a life full of affection, love, fun and delicious food.
Question (iv): What does the light from the matches symbolise in the story?
Answer (iv): The light from the matches is symbolic of warmth and hope. The girl burned her matches hoping the light would keep her warm and comfortable in the cold snowy weather. All her longings for warmth in chilling winter, for enjoying delicious meal, for celebrating Christmas, for loving presence of her old grandmother got reinforced in brief episodes of visions she saw in the light from the matches.
Question (v): Explain why the girl lighted the whole bundle of matches at the end?
Answer (v): At the end when the girl lighted the fourth match she saw lovely vision of her late grandmother. She got worried that when the match would burn out her grandmother would go away just like the warm stove, delicious roasted goose and magnificent Christmas tree had disappeared before. In order to prolong the vision of her grandmother, the girl lighted the whole bundle of matches at once.
“But in the cold dawn … heavenly joys and gladness of a new year”.
Question (i): Which girl is referred to in the extract above? Why does she have “rosy cheeks” and “smiling lips”?
Answer (i): The little match girl who was lying dead in the corner made by walls of two house is referred to in the extract.
The girl had seen lovely visions in the light of the matches and was happy to see her loving late grandmother in one of the visions. She wished to enjoy delicious food, to sit under a beautiful Christmas tree, and to have the company of her dear old grandmother. She has rosy cheeks and smiling lips because she is happy that her miserable life has ended. In heaven she was going to have a new life filled with joy where there is no cold, no hunger and no fear.
Question (ii): What is referred to as “beautiful visions” in the extract above? How does the girl encounter these “beautiful visions”?
Answer (ii): The beautiful visions which the girl saw were, a large iron stove with brass knobs and brass ornaments which gave out lovely warmth, a roasted goose steaming deliciously standing close to her, a magnificent Christmas tree decorated beautifully like she had never seen before and finally she saw her loving late grandmother.
These beautiful visions appeared when the girl lighted her matches one after another.
Question (iii): What kind of relationship existed between the girl and her deceased grandmother?
Answer (iii): As she lighted the fourth match, she saw a vision of her deceased grandmother, the only person to have treated her with love and kindness all through her life. The vision of her grandmother gave her hope and to keep the vision alive for as long as she could, the girl lighted the entire bundle of matches at once. The girl loved her so much that she pleaded with her grandmother to take her with her to heaven.
Question (iv): How does the extract bring out the hope for a better life after death?
Answer (iv): Throughout her life the girl had suffered in poverty and abuse in the hands of her father. She longed for a better life and was happy to see her deceased grandmother in her vision. She found hope for better life after death and died with a smile on her face. The smile of her face suggests that the girl finally got relief from her pain after her death.
Question (v): Give the brief character sketch of the match girl.
Answer (v): The girl walked bareheaded and barefoot trembling with cold and hunger in the streets all day to sell the matches because she was afraid of her father who ill-treated her. She was brave and despite all the sufferings kept her hope and faith alive. She attempted to fight bitter cold by lighting the matches. In the glow of the light she imagined beautiful things which gave her comfort. She found hope for better life in the image of her late grandmother and died with a smile on her face.