Even with its short length, this is among Hans Christian Andersen's darkest works, and for good reason.
- The fact that the girl is impoverished and is selling matches but no one's buying them is every bit tragic as it is chilling.
- The girl isn't selling the matches because she wants to - it's because her father sent her to do so, or else he'd beat and leave her outside their house if she fails to make money from selling all or enough of them.
- The historical fact that matches in much of the 19th century contained white phosphorus, which was toxic and can leave nasty effects to the jaws under prolonged exposure; eating the head of the matchstick or lighting the entire box worth of matches would kill the person instantly. It would be more tragic if the girl died of white phosphorus poisoning before hypothermia did.