Emilia The Victorian era stressed the importance
Emilia SicurelloProfessor Ronjaunee Chatterjee 18th and 19th Century Women Writers:Constructing “Woman” 7 December 2017 GoblinMarket Analysis TheVictorian era stressed the importance of femininity and domesticity. A lady wasmeant to possess elegance, to be chaste until marriage, to be able to performhousehold chores, and be able to please their husband. If a woman strayed fromthese values, society would reject her from their social circle. Her reputationas a woman would be ruined by this act of exclusion, hence the term “The FallenWoman”.
Rossetti’s poem, “The Goblin Market”, acknowledges thedangers of transgressing sexually away from the Victorian ideals of women.Moreover, by giving into these temptations, women take on the role of fallenwomen who are impure and knowledgeable. In order to spite these ideals,Rossetti challenges the role of a fallen woman by integrating her back intosociety. When structuring her poem, Rossetti translates this idea through theincorporation of characteristics taken from children’s fairytales.Comparatively, her poem illustrates themes of quests, happily ever after, and amoral message.
Fromthe very beginning of the poem, the goblins act symbolize the temptation togive in to sexual desires. In the third line, the goblins state, “Come buy ourorchard fruits,/Come buy, come buy” (Rossetti). “Come buy” is a saying oftenused in markets to urge people to buy their goods; however, in this context,their goods represent their bodies. The goblins are a representation of awoman’s secret desires. Instead of buying consumer goods, the women are buyinginto their carnal lust by selling their bodies to the goblins. The purpose forthese goblins is to illustrate the path a woman must avoid in order to upholdher status in society. The act of sex is not necessarily a negative act.
Thereason why it must be saved for marriage is because it ensures that both loversare connected physically and mentally. Rossetti made these goblins show how ifboth mind and body are not harmonious with one another, then the act of sex isregarded as a sin. The reason whyvirgins heed their cries is due to the distortion they present when offeringtheir fruit as quoted, “Taste them and try: Currants and gooseberries, /Bright-fire-likebarberries, /Figs to fill your mouth” (line 25-28). They distort the act of committing a crimethrough appealing words like “try” to justify their actions which entrancesmost virgins.
In the poem, there are two different reactions towards the temptationsshown through both sisters, Laura and Lizzie. Lauraand Lizzie are first introduced to the readers as virgins as it states, “Maidsheard the goblins cry” (line 2). ‘Maid’ is a common Victorian term used todescribe a woman who has not yet been wed. Therefore, maids are unlikely topartake in any form of sexual pleasure until they are to be married. Since thesisters have no prior knowledge of sexual conduct, they remain pure which iswhy they are likely to hear the goblin’s cry. Despite the fact that they areboth sisters, they illustrate qualities that differentiate themselves from eachother. Lizzieis the perfect representation of a Victorian woman.
She is a woman who upholdsthe values of femininity and the responsibilities that come with holding such astatus. As a lady, keeping up with domestic chores is necessary to become agood housewife and mother. As it states in the poem, “Fetch’d in honey, milk’d thecows/Air’d and set to rights the house, /…Talk’d as modest maidensshould:/Lizzie with an open heart,/Laura in an absent dream” (lines 203-211).In this passage, Lizzie does not hesitate to dive into her responsibilities asa woman. Lizzie willingly carries out her duties whereas Laura pursues them outof expectation.
Rossetti chooses to describe Lizzie with words such as “wiseupbraidings” and “modest” qualities to be admired in a Victorian woman (Lines142-209). When she is faced with temptation from the goblins, she decides to”cover up her eyes, /Cover’d close lest they should look” (lines 50-51). A womanshould not take part in any sexual activity because society demands for maidensto remain pure or else they will be ostracized. Since Lizzie chooses to coverher eyes, she is aware of her place in society and acts accordingly. Rossettiportrays Lizzie as the ideal woman, however she also illustrates the other sideof womanhood through Laura. Laura is arepresentation of a fallen woman. When it comes to her household chores, she”is in an absent dream” (line 211).
Rather than learning the duties to become aproper housewife, she distances herself from these Victorian ideals as shelongs for lust proving her to be a fallen woman. In the poem, Laura is seen as”a leaping flame” (line 218). Comparing Laura to a flame directly links her tothe devil thus furthering her actions as sinful. Her strong and emotionalpassions lead her to her close call with death.
She rejects society when shedecides to pursue the goblins and ignore her duties as a woman. She is known asthe weaker sister compared to Lizzie because she gives in to her desires as thepoem states, “Laura stretch’d her gleaming neck/Like a rush-imbeddedswan…
/Like a vessel at the launch/When its last restraint is gone” (lines81-86). The portrayal of Laura as a swan demonstrates her elegance as a womanhowever by adding the term, “rush-imbedded” it implies her rejection of herfemininity to become a lustful animal. In doing so, she is objectifying her ownbody. Another way of rejecting her femininity is seen when the goblins say,”You have much gold upon your head,” …/Buy from us with a golden curl” (lines123-125). When the goblins convince her to clip her hair as a form of paymentrather than use actual coins, it reinforces the idea that to be a part of suchvile acts, one must let go of part of their femininity which is why she sellsher body.
The exchange between the two acts like a contract where Laura agreesto satisfy her desires rather than use rational thought. The loss of hervirginity is made clear when “hersister heard that cry alone” (line 253-254). As previously mentioned, onlyvirgins can hear the goblins cries so when Laura is made deaf to their cries,it heightens the idea that she lost her virginity to the goblins and is nolonger a pure woman.
In addition, because she gave in to her desires, it hasleft her “hair…thin and grey;/She dwindled, as the fair full moon dothturn/To swift decay and burn/Her fire away” (line 277-280). The knowledge thatshe gains from her sinful experience is what kills her metaphorically. Shebecomes a fallen woman in society because she longed for the forbiddenexperience. The difference between both sisters when it comes time to face thegoblins is that Lizzie’s motives are made clear when she pursues the hardshipsto save her sister from death while Laura just wants to experience theforbidden fruit.
AfterLaura partakes in the sinful acts of sexual activity, the poem tries to redeemher. The transgression is what leads her to become a fallen woman until her sisterLizzie saves her by becoming a sort of saintly martyr. To save her sister fromher untimely demise, Lizzie decides to visit the goblins in hopes of getting anantidote. When she gets there, the goblins use all their power to bring her tothe dark side through temptation. To get her to convert, the goblins “trod and hustled her,/…Tore hergown and soil’d her stocking,/.
..Held her hands and squeez’d theirfruits/Against her mouth to make her eat” (line 399-407). Her torture is in comparisonto Christ’s dying at the cross since she is suffering for the good of hersister. She endures the attempted rape and the excessive bullying in a self-sacrificialact for her sister; however, during this time, she does not give in to the sexualdesires forced upon her by the goblins. Bravery is one of her strongestattributes along with the power of will to which the poem states, “Lizzieutter’d not a word;/ Would not open lip from lip” (line 430-431).
She is againproving to be the stronger sibling, willing to go through horrible acts to saveher sister. To Lizzie, it is a smallsacrifice that she must accept to save her sister’s life. Lastly, as shesucceeds with her mission, she tells her sister to “Eat me, drink me, loveme;/Laura, make much of me” (line 471-472).
In this sense, she is like Christduring his last supper because she is she is offering her bread and wine or inthis case her fruit, to save her sister. They both use food as a way to salvagethemselves and make their loved ones pure again. It becomes a symbol of theirredemption. Rosetti structured her poem as a fairytale because it helped herdisguise the controversial subject matter it portrayed from the government whootherwise would not have allowed her to publish the poem because it was sosexually explicit. “The Goblin Market” does not only applyaspects of classic fairytales through the context but through the structure ofthe poem as well. Rosetti uses short and simple sentences to appeal to younger audiencessince her poem is considered a children’s fairytale. One example of this is”Come buy, come buy:/Our grapes fresh from the vine,/Pomegranates full andfine,/Dates and sharp bullaces” (lines 19-22).
Rossetti uses direct phrasing tomake it easier for children to follow her poem but uses underlying themes ofselling one’s body to make her message clear to adults. Due to the shortsentences, when reading the poem aloud it creates a rushed tone that leaves thereader out of breath because of the poem’s pacing. The rushed tone adds to theintensity of the poem since the message deals with the sinful crimes against Victorianvalues. Thepoem also displays forms of repetition. With the constant repeating of “Comebuy Come buy” it tempts the readers to partake in the act of sin as well. Repetitionis very common in fairytales because it helps the readers focus on the realmessage so they will not forget important aspects of the poem.
One instance ofthis act is shown when Laura decides to purchase the fruit but has no moneystating, “Good folk, I have no coin;/To take were to purloin:/I have no copperin my purse, /I have no silver either” (lines 116-119). The use of repetitionin this case is to demonstrate her longing for this forbidden fruit which shecannot possess unless she were to sell her soul. Observingthe poem as a whole, its rhyme scheme is irregular as it starts out with ABABbut breaks the formation throughout the poem. Moreover, with the use of ABAB,Rosetti structures the poem like a nursery rhyme by giving it a sing-songquality to it.
One example is near the beginning, “How fair the vine must grow/ Whosegrapes are so luscious;/How warm the wind must blow/Through those fruitbushes.” (lines 60-63). When reading a fairytale, the most common element isrhyme because it targets the interest of young readers giving them a warm andenjoyable feeling. Ironically, the subject matter of this poem is the completeopposite. The rhyming serves as a way to make the goblins’ actions seem appealingand fun when in fact they are rather sinful and can result in dire consequences.
In this sense, the rhyming works to indicate the sole purpose of the goblins:to tempt young virgins to their demise. On the surface, eating the fruit mayseem like harmless fun. Disobedient women do not take into consideration theconsequences of abandoning their duties as a woman. The slow disintegration ofthe rhyming pattern symbolizes the lack of control Laura feels when confrontingher desires and giving into her lust resulting in her fall as a woman.
In amore contextual examination, “The Goblin Market” borrows recurring themes oftenpresented in fables. “TheGoblin Market” is considered a children’s fairytale as it entails the heroicjourney of the main character to save their loved ones. Lizzie has proved to bethe stronger sibling so therefore, she is considered the heroine of the storywhen it comes time to save Laura from the sins she commits, redeeming her sinceLaura cannot do so on her own.
As with every fable, to prove their strength andlove they are sent on a dangerous quest and if they succeed, their love isproven true. Lizzie loves her sister very much as proven through their closerelationship, “Golden head by golden head/ Like two pigeons in one nest/Foldedin each other’s wings” (lines 184-186). Their sibling bond is strong and it isthis bond that gets Lizzie through the harsh pressures of the goblins. Her ultimate goal is to save her sister fromdying which metaphorically means she is risking her own reputation toreintegrate her sister back into society by restoring her purity. Her questproves to be successful once she pushes through her temptations and collectsthe juice that will save Laura’s life as stated, “Her lips began to scorch, /Thatjuice was wormwood to her tongue,/She loath’d the feast:/Writhing as onepossess’d she leap’d and sung” (line 493-496).
As Lizzie begins to feed thejuice to her sister Laura, she has thus given her a second chance at improvingher reputation as a woman. From the moment Lizzie fed the juice to Laura, shesubtly implies that she’s helping her sister reintegrate back into society byteaching her the womanly duties necessary to become a housewife. Beforeany great quest, there are warnings that the heroes must adhere to beforeendangering their lives. In this case, rather than Lizzie adhering to thesewarnings, it is Laura who actually ignores all the signs that could haveprevented her undoing.
Since Lizzie is portrayed as the Victorian ideal, she isthe one who obeys every rule society offers. Upon hearing the goblin cries,Lizzie makes it a point to inform Laura, “We must not look at goblin men,/We must not buy theirfruits” (lines 42-43). Lizzie’s warning serves the poem its status as a cautionarytale like any written fable. The story of “Little Red Riding Hood” also servesas a cautionary tale when she was told by her mother not to pass through thewoods where she would encounter the Big Bad Wolf. Despite hearing the warning,she ignored her mother’s wishes and went through the forest.
Lizzie’s warningalso acts as foreshadowing to Laura’s demise. In addition, Jeannie is mentionedto further prove the danger of interacting with the goblins. In the poem,Jeannie “Sought them by night and day,/Found them no more, but dwindled andgrew grey;/Then fell with the first snow,/While to this day no grass will grow”(lines 155-158). Jeanie’s story acts as a cautionary tale that Lizzie tellsLaura to present the dangerous effects of getting involved in forbidden areasheavily advised against by society. She relied heavily on lustful acts andbecame too addicted that she metaphorically died when she strayed away from Victorianideals, valuing sexual pleasure over the sacrament of marriage. “The Goblin Market” would not be afable unless it had a morally driven message to convey to the audience. Themoral of the poem is that giving in to one’s own sinful desires can lead to thedownfall of a woman. Laura conveys this moral message when she mentions, “Theirfruits like honey to the throat.
/But poison in the blood” (lines 554-555). Sheacknowledges how immature and irresponsible she was as a woman by realizing shecould have died if not for her sister. For Laura to have understood thismessage, she needed to embark on her own quest to mature as a woman and get ridof that sinful part of herself. One theme that is necessary of agreat fairytale is the element of ‘Happily Ever After’.
If it did not have ahappy ending, the poem would unlikely remain on the bookshelves of manychildren. At the end of the poem, Lizzie and Laura become “wives/With childrenof their own” (lines 544-545). Lauragets her happy ending once her sister saves her life but the readers also gainclosure once they see Laura married. The fact that Laura settles down withsomeone gives the readers hope that even if they fall from their predestinedpath, they can regain what they lost and be given a second chance. In conclusion, Rosetti structures her poem as afairytale because it helps her disguise the controversial characteristics itportrays from the government who might not have allowed her to publish it.
Bydoing so, she can reach out to many women who experience the same situation asLaura. Although they may have done something regretful, life is not overbecause if they are willing to put in the effort, they can get a second chanceat life. WorkCitedRossetti, Christina. “Goblin Marketby Christina Rossetti.” Poetry Foundation, Poetry Foundation,www.poetryfoundation.