Love and Betrayal in Christina Rossetti's Poems

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Two of Christina Rossetti's narrative poems, Goblin Market and The Prince's Progress, feature themes of women in love who appear betrayed — at a number of levels and with varying effects — by false ideals, false lovers, or what is in the background of betrayal by false ideals and false lovers: innocence; specifically, innocence as a deceptive ignorance to flexibility. The results of shortened expectations and heightened consciousness among Rossetti's victims of love vary greatly. Some become malicious. Others, like the bride in The Prince's Progress, die or are left confused by what amounts to the rape of their illusions. Yet some, like Laura in Goblin Market, ultimately benefit from their experiences and denial of illusions and earthly morals. They are led toward higher, more spiritual ideals of love and unconditional acceptance. By means of their suffering in love and their sacrifice to false ideals of love or pleasure, they are saved from the world.

The issue of betrayed expectations in love from is confronted in both The Prince’s Progress and Goblin Market. In both stories the topic of the power of temptation to entice man from the worthy and earnest work of life is common. In Goblin Market the temptations are both resisted and overcome; in The Prince’s Progress they succeed over the main characters. Also, in the case of Goblin Market the main temptations taking over Laura were sensory and in the end were equated with sexual pleasures. She allowed the goblin men to ravage and soil her with the juices of their fruits with the end objective as Lizzie breaking away from her spell. Only one of the two central temptations, lust, in The Prince's Progress prevents the understanding of the implied ideal that married bliss is not only...

... middle of paper ... for these characters was fated to be unattainable and deceiving. The attempt to seek out such represents a temptation that is pointless to pursue because the simple variable of change is unavoidable. This patriarchal society's denial to this truth is a cruel deception that, in both poems, victimizes women. The deception is maintained in the fairy-tale folklores of romantic poetry that Goblin Market and The Prince's Progress imitate, both literally and suggestively. Rossetti’s narratives illustrate a complex of immediate gratification, especially with the incorporation of romantic ideas, and they highlight that the fulfillment of these delights, however brief, leads to certain betrayal and disappointment. In this way, Rossetti oddly criticizes the romantic ideas in traditional literature while presenting a review of the beliefs fundamental to those ideas.
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