The Themes of Christina Rossetti’s Discussed Poem Goblin Market

June 7, 2022 by Essay Writer

The goblin market by Christina Rossetti has sparked debates among many critics in discussing what the main themes she, as an author, wanted to address.
Composed in 1862, Rossetti’s Goblin Market was the setting stone of women poets in a time where women were not given much freedom with literature, many went into domestic, unpaid roles in society and those who did work typically went into embroidery. It’s dark, mythical atmosphere recalls Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”, a story it helped inspire and explores themes of temptation, resistance, and sacrifice which encourage parallels with Christianity, more specifically the biblical story of Adam and Eve, while its endorsement of sisterhood and empowering women of the time is strengthened.

Using the relationship between two sisters to emphasise the power of love and support from other women whilst also addressing the idea of the power that men have over women, both on an emotional and physical level. In this essay I will be focusing on the consumerism of women and their bodies, relating it to modern day but more specifically discussing women’s oppression in the nineteenth century. During the Victorian era, women were seen as either angelic and virginal or promiscuous whores who were not able to resist their sexual desires. At first, the quote “Maids heard the goblins cry, ” does not seem to have much meaning however, upon closer analysis and a look at the context, one finds that Rossetti describing the women as maids was because she wanted them to be seen as virginal. Currently the definition of a ‘maid’ is a young, unmarried woman but in the Victorian era, a maid was a synonym for a virgin, women who abstained from sexual intercourse before marriage were valued in society and those who did not were considered to be ‘whores’.

Christina Rossetti was aware of this stark difference in the two labels women were given, however, used this as an advantage; bringing the two sisters, Lizzie and Laura, and together created a balance between, not only the sisters but the categories of the two types of women in the nineteenth century. Characterising Laura as a fallen woman because she gave into temptation and offered her body, more specifically “A lock of golden hair, ” whilst Lizzie is portrayed as principled as she was able to resist. Here, Rossetti has tried to shift the responsibility of Laura’s actions, which lead her to be seen as a tainted woman, to the goblin men. This shift in blame would have been unexpected at the time as the patriarchal society of the Victorian era only criticised the women if they rebelled against expectations. Immediately contrasting the maids by describing the salesmen as goblins emphasises the difference between them, the maids are pure whilst the goblins possess sexual instincts.

Symbols of sexual desire and sexual violence are prominent throughout the poem, the ownership the goblin men try to have over Laura’s body is emphasised when Rossetti creates an uncomfortable struggle with the consequence of perusing lust, in the Immediately the poem starts off with a prolonged list, describing the types of fruits that the mythical ‘goblins’ are offering; “Apples and quinces… apricots, strawberries, ” which lasts ten lines and is used to try and entice Laura to give in to her temptations and taste the products. This may seem normal to twentieth-century readers as we have become accustomed to different types of fruit being readily available to us all year round, however in nineteenth-century Britain, this would seem extremely surreal.

On one hand, this interaction between Laura and the goblin men could represent the power struggle between genders, Rossetti is describing the salesmen as mythical ‘goblins’, which emphasises the negative imagery of corruption and evilness. This, in turn, dehumanises the men and gives the reader an impression the men are animalistic, furthermore, supports the Victorian belief that most men possess sexual instincts that women should be wary of.

The fruit may represent the weaknesses and temptations of everyday life. In the Victorian era womenAn irregular rhyme scheme and a loose iambic pentameter help quicken the pace of the poem which allows the narrator’s spontaneous, rapid pace to lend a tone of urgency.


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