Andersen's Fairy Tales
Society and Class Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
But the poor boy looked down at his wooden shoes and pulled at the sleeves of his tunic to make them a little longer. His poverty made him shy, and he excused himself by saying that he feared he could not walk as fast as the prince. (The Bell.18)
Can't afford clothes that actually fit? Sucks to be you. The poor boy in this story is super self-conscious because standing next to a prince, it's obvious just how poor his family is. Like if you were to wear your ratty old sweatpants to a restaurant that serves hundred-dollar entrees. Ouch.
Now the little girl walked barefoot through the streets. Her feet were swollen and red from the cold. She was carrying a little bundle of matches in her hand and had more in her apron pocket. No one had bought any all day, or given her so much as a penny. (The Little Match Girl.2)
Walking barefoot through the snow on New Year's Eve trying to sell matches so your dad doesn't beat you? That sounds. Well. Less than ideal. But it's probably not too far from ordinary for some people. So we're glad that Andersen draws attention to how much poor people suffer under an unjust social system.
"I know it is the fashion of the day—and many a poet dances to that tune—to say that everything aristocratic is stupid and bad. They claim that only among the poor—and the lower you descend the better—does true gold glitter. But that is not my opinion; I think it is wrong, absolutely false reasoning. Among the highest classes one can often observe the most elevated traits." (Everything in Its Right Place.29)
Interesting. So, while a lot of writers are quick to portray poor people as more noble at heart—including Andersen, in some of his other tales—the speaker in this story (a parson's son) believes that the upper class actually displays the majority of awesome traits. We're guessing that Andersen liked to have some of his characters play Devil's Advocate to his class activism.