Rossetti - Goblin Market (Themes)

Rossetti - Goblin Market (Themes)

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Goblin Market ­ Christina Rossetti (Themes)
Women and Femininity
The world of "Goblin Market" is a woman's world. We never meet any male characters, and the only sign
that men exist at all comes at the very end, when we're told that Lizzie and Laura have become "wives"
(line 544). Even then, though, there's no sign of their husbands. This is surprising, given Christina
Rossetti's close attachment not only to her mother and sister, but also to her brothers, Dante Gabriel and
William Michael Rossetti. Although they encouraged her writing, Christina's brothers never allowed her
to become an official member of their artistic movement, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. (Check out
the "In a Nutshell" section for more.) Maybe the exclusively women's world of "Goblin Market" is
Christina Rossetti's answer to her brothers' exclusively male artistic movement. The critics Sandra Gilbert
and Susan Gubar argue that "Goblin Market" is partly about the exclusion of women from the
male-dominated artistic world during the Victorian period.
Only "maids" are able to hear the "goblins cry" to reflect Rossetti's perception that women faced challenges and
temptations of which men weren't aware. The exclusively feminine world of "Goblin Market" is Christina Rossetti's
answer to her brothers' exclusive "Brotherhood" in the Pre-Raphaelite movement.
Although Christina Rossetti always insisted that "Goblin Market" was a poem for children, it's hard for
readers to miss the erotic imagery and sensual language that pervade the poem. Critics and readers
have read Laura's temptation to eat the goblin fruit as a metaphor for sex. But if eating the fruit is a
metaphor for losing her virginity, how is it that drinking the fruit juice off of her sister's bruised face
restores it? The theme of sex is obviously complicated in "Goblin Market," and the poem resists a
straightforward allegorical reading.
Although Rossetti always staunchly denied it, the loss of sexual purity is central to "Goblin Market"; Rossetti's denial
only demonstrates her skillful manipulation of the literary market. The fruit and garden imagery of "Goblin Market"
suggests that Laura is a second Eve; unlike Eve, though, Laura is redeemed, which highlights Christina Rossetti's faith
in the potentially redemptive power of female friendship.
Drugs and Alcohol
Some critics, like Laura J. Hartman, think that Laura's experience at the "Goblin Market" is similar to drug
addiction. This reading makes some sense. After eating the fruit, Laura can't think about anything but her
next fix (that is, her next taste of goblin fruit). Her final recovery can only occur after eating some of the
goblin juice her sister brought back for her. This might be akin to how the withdrawal symptoms of heroin
addiction are sometimes treated with methadone, a chemical similar to heroin but less harmful.
Although most modern critics read Laura's over-indulgence in the goblin fruit as a metaphor for a sexual fall, her
symptoms are more analogous to drug addiction. The parallels between Laura's condition and the physical effects of
addiction can be traced to Rossetti's biography: depression ran in her family, and her sister-in-law, Elizabeth Siddell
Rossetti, eventually died of an overdose of laudanum.

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Whether you read Laura's binge on the goblin fruit as a sexual escapade or as the beginning of a descent
into chemical addiction and withdrawal, the poem certainly seems to want us to read it as some kind of a
sin or transgression. Lizzie is able to resist temptation, but Laura and Jeanie (the girl who died) give in to
their curiosity and desire for that tasty, tasty fruit.…read more


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