It’s a Goblin’s Goblin’s Goblin’s Market
As so often seen in the Victorian Age, the idea of the world being a “man’s world” does not come as a surprise when thinking of Victorian literature. However, Christina Rossetti puts forth the idea for women to break the rigorous notion that the world is a man’s world. Unsurprisingly, Rossetti uses this concept of rejecting the cliche idea of a man’s world to create a fairytale-like poem that does just that, except this time, it’s a goblin’s market.
Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti, is an enticing poem written in 1859 during an ongoing period of women’s suppression. This poem explicitly tells a story that gravitates toward the concepts of sexuality and spirituality. The allegorical poem uses fantasy language with a fairytale essence to develop a feminist-like and female empowered account of the tale of two sisters in search of redemption. Throughout many trying experiences, including: addiction, mental captivity, rape, and becoming a savior, the two sisters, Lizzie and Laura, find a completely new sisterly connection in which liberates them both. Furthermore, analyzed below will be aspects of sexuality and spirituality found within Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market.
Sexuality is perhaps the most important theme found within the Goblin Market. The first account of sexuality begins with the luring figures of goblins at the market in which Laura visits to buy fruit. The goblins call to Laura, taunting “Come buy (Rossetti, 1652)” as Lizzie warns Laura to “not peep at goblin men (Rossetti, 1652)”. It is seemingly obvious here that the goblin men prey upon the innocent women, asking them to buy their fruit. This idea is then proven when Laura must sell a piece of her body to buy the fruit, even if it be a precious lock of hair, in which she “dropped a tear more rare than pearl, / Then sucked their fruit fruit globes fair or red: / Sweeter than honey from the rock. (Rossetti, 1653)”. This is the very moment in which an innocent girls virginity is bought from here, and Laura is from here on out treated as an object without willpower. However, there are numerous accounts of sexual relations within the poem. Including the scene at the end where Lizzie runs to Laura in hopes to save her from her addiction, in which she craves the fruit the goblins have to offer. It is important to note that this scene is not like any other sexual scene found within the poem, and its true meaning is up for interpretation. Nonetheless, it is still considered a sexual encounter and therefore it will now be analyzed as such. Here is the exact interaction between the Lizzie and Laura, and the scene of their shared intimacy and Laura’s cure for her addiction to the goblins fruit, inevitably freeing her from their mental and physical captivity.
She cried “Laura,” up the garden,
“Did you miss me?
Come and kiss me
Never Mind my bruises,
Hug me, kiss me, suck my juices
Squeezed from goblin fruit for you,
Goblin pulp and goblin dew.
Eat me, drink me, love me;
Laura make much of me:
(Rossetti, 1661) [Lines 464-472]
During this opening dialogue to their sexual seen, Lizzie calls to her sister Laura and expresses with joy all of the things she desires. The poem goes on to dive deeper into the intimate moment between the sisters, arousing even more explicit details of passion and desire.
She kissed and kissed her with a hungry mouth.
Her lips began to scorch,
That juice was wormwood to her tongue,
She loathed the feast:
Writhing as one possessed she leaped and sung,
Rent all her robe and wrung
Her hands in lamentable haste,
And beast her breast.
(Rossetti, 1661) [Lines 492-499]
Not only is this scene an extremely detailed sexual encounter between the two sisters, it can also lead one to believe that this is the moment when Laura finds redemption in her sister Lizzie. This moment also signifies the turning point of the poem, in which the rest of the Goblin Market remains just as fairytale-like as the beginning, in which both sister end up married by the finishing lines of the poem, presumably living happily ever after.
Spirituality is more of an afterthought of something that lies a little further into the direction of the eye of the beholder. In order to recognize the similarities and ties between the Goblin Market and spirituality, one must first look past the overwhelming sexual indications. Once the path has been cleared, it is easy to recognize and understand these spiritual interpretations and perhaps encoded messages. Spirituality is perhaps something to be picked up while rereading the poem for a second time, and it is unclear of whether Christina Rossetti intended for this connection between the Goblin Market and the Bible to be made. However it is not far fetched, as Rossetti spent a lot of time working with churches and temporarily ruined women who needed help. If interpreted in a spiritual way, there are many aspects of spirituality found throughout the poem. The most important spiritual theme that should be taken away from this poem is the idea of Laura as a fallen woman. The first thought that may come to mind while reading the poem and thinking of a fallen woman is the idea of the forbidden fruit, as referenced earlier. When Laura is first lured in by the goblins, she must give a piece of herself in order to eat the fruit. This, in a way, signifies the innocence lost when Eve (and Adam) took a bite from the forbidden fruit, an apple, in the book of the Bible, Genesis (Genesis 2: 16-17). Laura has now lost her innocence and finds herself falling for temptations and desires. She must return to eat the fruit again and again, growing only more hungry for the forbidden fruit every time. In addition, Lizzie acts as the savior of Laura. Lizzie puts herself through pain and abuse, much like Christ’s crucifiction, to bring redemption to the sinner Laura.
Lashing their tails
They trod and hustled her.
Elbowed and jostled her,
Clawed with their nails,
Barking, mewing, hissing, mocking..
(Rossetti, 1659) [Lines 398-402]
The idea of Lizzie as a savior to Laura is the exemplified toward the of the poem, when Lizzie returns to Laura with the forbidden fruit on her face. However, the form of redemption that then takes place in the Goblin Market is much different from that of the redemption found threw Christ in the Bible. Nevertheless, Lizzie brings redemption to Laura through a form of liberation and sisterly connection.
In conclusion, a prominent idea that circulates throughout Christina Rossetti’s poem the Goblin Market is the concept of women as an empowered force during a time of suppression. A an area of conflict found within the Victorian age is the difficulty for a woman to find a job, and the abundance of widespread sexual ignorance. In this poem, it seems as though Rossetti is calling to light the many trials innocent women face because of the social limitations thrown upon them by society, mainly men. Rossetti made it a point for Lizzie, a female, to be Laura’s savior, and not for some christ-like man to swoop in and save the day. The significance of this resides in the notion that what a fallen woman needs is a strong community of women to uplift, and not put down, other women. At the end of the day, it seems as though Rossetti calls for this: in a man’s world, especially in a goblin’s market, women need to unify themselves and stand up for one another.
- Rossetti, Christina. “Goblin Market”. The Longman Anthology of British Literature: 4th ed, vol. 2B, edited by David Damrosch and Kevin J. H. Dettmar et. al., Pearson Education, Inc. 2010, pp. 1650-1663.
- ESV Study Bible. English Standard Version, Crossway, 2011