Hans Christian Andersen

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Compare the cold within and the cold without by referring to the story "The Little Match Girl" and the poem "The Cold Within."

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Both Han Christian Anderson's short story "The Little Match Girl" and James Kinney's poem "The Cold Within" show how people freeze to death not from lack of the resources to get warm, which are abundantly available, but from human cold-heartedness about sharing those resources.

In the "The Little Match Girl," an impoverished little girl freezes to death on New Year's Eve in the snow. She has not been able to sell any matches, so she has no money. She curls up barefoot in a corner between two houses, where she dies.

She freezes more from human indifference than anything else. She knows, for example, that

From all the windows the candles were gleaming, and it smelt so deliciously of roast goose . . .

Many people all around her are warm, comfortable, and well fed, with food and a place by the fire to spare, but nobody notices the existence of the little match girl. She is also afraid to go home. Home is also physically cold, but presumably marginally warmer than the streets. However, she is afraid to go there because she has earned no money and

from her father she would certainly get blows.

Even her family values her only for what she can earn.

In Kinney's poem, six men each have a piece of wood they could contribute to building up a dying fire on a bitterly cold day. Each one refuses to donate their piece of wood, however, because of hatred and stereotyping of the others. Therefore, they all freeze to death. For example, the poor man in tattered clothes wonders.

Why should his log be put to use
To warm the idle rich?

The rich man, in turn, ponders:

how to keep what he had earned
From the lazy shiftless poor.

In both works, if people had worked for the common good instead of retreating behind their own walls or into their own preconceived notion of others' lack of worth, nobody would have had to freeze. Both works illustrate that working together for the good of all benefits everybody. This is more apparent in the poem, because we know it is hate and suspicion that divide the people in question. In the poem, the benefit of working together—survival—is clear.

In "The Little Match Girl," the benefits of working for the common good are implied. It is the lack of a wider social structure, the lack of a compassionate social safety net, that leads to an innocent little girl dying. This is not stated openly in the story, but we know it to be true. In a society that was less inwardly and emotionally cold about other people, the little girl's family would have access to food, warmth, and decent housing, so she wouldn't freeze to death on the streets. Her father also wouldn't be so stressed about money that he beat her. People would understand that the little girl's life had value. We also have to imagine that the people who find the frozen corpse of the little girl will be haunted by it.

Overcoming all our reasons for not working together and helping each other would make the world a better place, both authors argue.

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