The Victorian period marked the first traces of progress in the feminist movement, and poet Christina Rossetti embraced the advancement as her own long-established principles slowly became publicly acceptable. Her poem "Goblin Market" comments on the institutions in Victorian society that she and her feminist contemporaries wished to see altered, creating modern female heroines to carry out its messages. The goblins serve as malicious male figures to tempt the innocent heroines, sisters Laura and Lizzie, to corruption.
According to the Victorian definition, a gentleman "never takes unfair advantage . . . or insinuates evil which he dare not say out," and possesses, among other qualities, the ability to avoid all suspicion and resentment (Landow 4). The goblins in Rossetti's poem succeed in contradicting every Victorian definition of a gentleman throughout the poem; the only male figures present, they represent the deleterious nature of men on the lives of women. In "Goblin Market," the mens' only beneficial purpose is "impregnation. Once both sisters have gone to the goblins and acquired the juices of their fruits, they have no further need of them" (Mermin 291).
The poem begins with the goblins calling the sisters' attention to their delicious, exotic fruits, which represent the proverbial forbidden fruit--one taste leads to destruction. But the goblins depict their fruits as enticing. Rossetti uses rich imagery such as "Currants and gooseberries,/ Bright-fire-like barberries,/ Figs to fill your mouth,/ Citrons from the South,/ Sweet to tongue and sound to eye" (1) to stimulate the reader's senses, just as the goblins' calls provoke Laura and Lizzie. The goblins at...
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Plowman, Melanie. "As A Poet Speaking from Within Female Limitations." The VictorianWeb.1990.URL:
Rossetti, Christina. "Goblin Market." Goblin Market and Other Poems. Ed. Candace Ward. New York: Dover Publications, 1994. 1-16.
Weathers, Winston. "Christina Rossetti: The Sisterhood of Self." Victorian Poetry. Vol. 111, No. 2, 1965.
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