Freud in the Goblin’s Glen

January 30, 2019 by Essay Writer

Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market beautifully illustrates sin and sacrifice in the lives of twin sisters Lizzie and Laura. These sisters are so alike and separate they can be likened to the ying and yang. It has been argued that they are one person split in two. Because of certain personality traits it can also be argued that these two women represent the subconscious alter egos – the superego and the id. However, while Laura is the id she is also a more fully developed person. Lizzie, being the moral superego, seems little more than Laura’s conscience. Lizzie’s voice of reason runs through the poem warning the id-like Laura about the goblin men. Laura however must succumb to desire. It is experience of desire and consequence that finally pushes Laura away from the choices of the id, making her a well-rounded person governed not by the pleasure principle, but the reality principle. Sigmund Freud was the first to identify conscious and unconscious parts of the mind. The mind consists of three parts: the Ego, the Superego, and the Id. The ego is the conscious part of the mind that acts as a balance between the id and the superego. In Sharon Heller’s Freud A to Z, she writes the id is “completely submerged in the unconscious … the id houses the instinctual impulses of sex and aggression and their primal wishes” (90). Furthermore the id is “irrational, timeless, immoral, instinct-driven thought that fails to distinguish fantasy from reality, wish from action” (91). The id personality is hedonistic, and without any regards for others. Guided solely by the pleasure principle, the id seeks instant gratification in all things. The id will do all it can to maximize pleasure and minimize pain. Laura she is imbued with several of these id-like qualities. She is irrational; without thinking about the consequences “she [clips] a precious golden lock/ [and drops] a tear more rare then a pearl” (127-28), giving a part of herself over to desire. Since the goblins are described as “sly”, (96) “leering at each other/…/signaling each other” (93 – 95), the fruits seem like “evil gifts” (66). However, they are described as “luscious” (61) and “fair” (60), “fresh from the vine/…full and fine” (20 -21). They represent sin and desire, making “sweet-[toothed] Laura” (116) immoral when she “[sucks] and [sucks] and [sucks] the more/…/ [Sucks] until her lips [are] sore” (135 – 37). The gluttonous action of eating until it is painful is also sinful, speaking to her desire for gratification and maximum pleasure. She seeks instant gratification; she starts to “[suck] their fruit globes fair or red” (129) as soon as her tear hits the plate. That she is willing to “buy [fruit] from [the goblin men] with a golden curl” (126) shows a lack of acknowledgement of Lizzie’s “wise upbraidings” (144). They “must not look at goblin men/…/ [or] their evil gifts [will] harm” (42…67) them. Like the id, Laura has very little care or concern for those around her. When Laura is looking for the goblin men Lizzie implores, “come Laura, not another maiden lags (224), “let us get home before the night grows dark” (248). She worries “if [they] lost [their] way” (252) they would not know what to do. But without giving care to her sister’s fearsLaura [loiters] still among the rushesAnd [says] the bank [is] steep.And … [that] the hour was early still,The dew not fall’n, the wind not chill (227-230) The very act of eating the fruit without caring that “[Lizzie’s] light like [Laura’s may] be hidden/[Lizzie’s] young life like [Laura’s may] be wasted” (480-81), is a sign of id-like selfishness. Not that Lizzie would partake, but Laura even forgets to bring back fruit for her, patronizing Lizzy’s concerns saying, “have done with sorrow/I’ll bring you plumbs tomorrow” (170-71). She does not bring back any fruit for her sister, does not think of her at the time, and is solely interested in her own pleasure and satisfaction. Yet another way Laura personifies the id is in her dissatisfaction with daily chores. She is always “longing for the night” (215), given the lack of gratification involved. When Laura starts to fade away She no more [sweeps] the house,[Tends] the fowls or cows,[Fetches] honey, [kneads] cakes of wheat,[Or brings] water from the brook. (293-96) She leaves everything to Lizzie. Laura only cares that she will “buy no more such dainty fruit/…/ [and find] no more such succous pasture” (257-58). Lizzie’s personality is the polar opposite of Laura’s. The superego is our conscience. It “judges, condemns, rewards, and punishes” (92). The superego is also the center of our morality. The ego and the id judge right and wrong based on reward and punishment. The superego internalizes and identifies good and bad, right and wrong, moral and immoral. It maintains social norms, taboos, and cultural values. Where Laura only thinks of herself, Lizzie only thinks of Laura. Laura’s goal is instant and self-gratification, Lizzie’s is saving her sister. Lizzie is representative of the superego. While the id is instinct, the superego is “a part of the personality that is built up form one’s actual experiences” (Heller, 92). Lizzie …[remembers] Jeanie,How she met them in the moonlight…[and then] pined and pined away;Sought them by night and day,Found them no more, but dwindled and grew gray. (148-157)She learns lessons from what happened to the unfortunate fabled character of Jeanie. As the superego, Lizzie is the embodiment of morality in this poem, “like a lily… [or] a royal virgin” (409-418). She fears and ignores the goblin men, “[thrusting] a dimpled finger/in each ear, [she shuts her] eyes and [runs]” (67-68) from them. She waits until “Laura, dwindling, / [Seems] knocking at Death’s door” (320-21). “Lizzie [weighs] no more/better or worse/ [and puts] a penny in her purse” (322-224) and goes to save her sister regardless of her fears. Like the conscience voice of the superego, Lizzie warns her sister constantly that “[the goblin men’s] offers should not charm [them]/ their evil gifts [will] harm [them]” (65-66). She tries to uphold social taboos such as “twilight not [being] good for maidens” (145). Lizzie is the image of the happy homemaker, getting up “when the first cock [crows] his warning” (201), and keeps “like bees … sweet and busy” (202) holding up that cultural icon as well. In an extreme display of morality “for [Laura’s] sake, [Lizzie braves] the glen/and [has] to do with goblin merchant men” (473-74).However, because she is guided by morality Lizzie seems incapable of becoming an independent well-rounded human being with wants and needs and experience. Desire is seen as negative, thusly Lizzie never acknowledges it. She is the superego, but given her complete lack of experience only seems to be that conscience voice. In the beginning of the narrative, Laura has a similar apprehension of the fruit merchants that Lizzie does. Laura becomes a more developed person then Lizzie does because she gains experience with it. When the girls are “crouching close together” (36) “among the brook side rushes” (33) Laura, “pricking up her golden head” (41), says:We must not look at goblin men,We must not buy their fruits:Who knows upon what soil they fedTheir hungry thirsty roots. (41-44)However, Laura does not see the goblin men as “evil people” (437) as Lizzie does. While they are “sly” (96) and seem to seduce Laura with “tones as smooth as honey” (108) she experiences their gifts, for better or worse, not content with the blind innocence, as Lizzie is. Laura does maintain her innocence in a way; she is still likened to Lizzie as they both remain “like two flakes of new-fall’n snow/[or] like two wands of ivory” (189-90). Laura, like Lizzie, is still white and innocent even though she succumbs to desire. It is only when Laura goes “deaf and blind” (259) to desire that she starts to “[dwindle] … to swift decay” (278-79). The source of desire is taken away from her and she is left with the consequences. Given that she made the choice to succumb to temptation Laura must live with the consequences. However, this experience and the consequences therein make her a more complete person, pushing her away from the pleasure principle by the end of the narrative. When she has children her “mother-heart [is] beset with fears” (546) showing she cares more for her children than herself. She becomes concerned that Lizzie’s life will be “undone in [her] undoing” (482). She accepts blame and seems to accept the consequences. In this, Rossetti might be suggesting that women need to experience desire in some form in order to learn of consequences. Consequences thrust Laura into a more mature place, away from strictly id-based choices, and when she is saved she is able to “[laugh] in the old innocent way” (538). By embracing her sister “twice or thrice” (539) Laura is also embracing her conscience. Women can succumb to desire. They can partly maintain their innocence while gaining valuable experience. So long as their conscience is strong, women can learn from experience, regain their innocence and be better for the experience. Laura chooses to succumb to desire, and through the strength of her conscience sister she stays “like … flakes of new-fall’n snow” (189) and retains her innocence afterwards. While Lizzie has internalized the lessons from Jeanie, she cannot hope to be a voice of experience or power when warnings Laura. When she speaks of desire she has no experience with it, only fear of it. Lizzie is “most placid in her look” (217), she is “content … / [and warbles] for the mere bright day’s delight” (212-13) of cooking and cleaning and kneading cakes. She never feels desire throughout the poem because she fears she will “pay too dear” (311). Her constant “wise upbraidings” (142) run through the poem, supporting the idea that she is like the conscience voice that runs through all minds. After she does save her sister Lizzie seems to fade out of the poem all together. In the last stanza Laura is the only sister named. Lizzie becomes almost obsolete as Laura settles into married life and is no longer driven by the pleasure principle. She has experienced desire and the consequences making her a strong voice of reason. There is a sense that only Laura exists; Laura speaks “about the haunted glen/ [and] the wicked, quaint fruit-merchant men” (552-52) like they are old legends, a fable to scare children away from the choices of the id. Lizzie seems like the brave fabled sister belonging only to the moral of the story:For there is no friend like a sisterIn calm or stormy weather…To fetch if one goes astray…To strengthen whilst one stands. (561-67)Laura in effect becomes a real person when previously she was a facet of a personality. Like morality, Lizzie is internalized; the choice between id and superego has been made. Rossetti could be suggesting that women need not fear the choices of the id. Experience is a powerful tool and a way to become well rounded human beings. Laura survives and prospers. Becoming a wife, she has “children of [her] own” (545) and teaches them through story. She has the strength of her conscience, and experience making her a much better voice to “call the little ones/and tell them all of her early prime” (548-49) when she gained her experience. Because of this experience, her “mother-heart beset with fears” (546), and the internalization of Lizzie’s morality, Laura lets go of the pleasure principle and becomes a fully developed woman. Lizzie becomes the fabled sister. If Laura remained inexperienced to the consequences of desire she would still be ruled by the pleasure principle as the id. Laura internalizes Lizzie, the end leaves only one. Laura, the would-be the id eventually turns into the ego, making a complete journey through experience. Lizzie is the superego and the internalized morality. In this poem, as in life, desire has consequences. To fully understand the world, becoming well rounded human beings in it, people must be aloud to understand desire and consequence, either first hand or from a voice of reason. Works CitedHeller, Sharon. Freud A to Z. Hoboken, New Jersey. John Wiley & Sons Inc. 2005. Rossetti, Christina. “Goblin Market”. The Longman Anthology of British Literature. 2nd ed. David Damrosch Ed. New York, New York. Pearson Education Inc. 2004. 759 -71.

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