In the narrative poem, Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti, we can see many themes such as abuse, virtue, temptation, sexuality, and sisterhood being portrayed in the text. The Goblin Market is about two sisters, Lizzie and Laura, and the goblins that they encounter while fetching water down by the river one evening. The two sisters are very close to one another, and when they encounter the goblins, Lizzie immediately tells Laura to not speak with the goblins. Laura, ignoring her sisters plea, decides to stay by the river and is drawn to the goblins cries to buy their forbidden fruit.
Lizzie, knowing better, then runs home, trying not to give into the same temptation her sister has. The main themes that stand out in this descriptive poem are the forbidden fruit(in other words, temptation), sexuality and exploitation, and finally sisterhood. These are all themes that we can relate to in our everyday life, such as being tempted by things that are not necessarily good for us, being so concerned for a family member that you would do anything to save them if they were in danger or harms way, and also being so blinded by your desire that you cannot see clearly to decipher if something is bad/good for you.
Rossetti displays all of these relatable terms, among others, in her writing and wraps them up in a fantasy themed poem with sexual undertones. To start off, one of the biggest and most obvious themes in the Goblin Market, is the theme of temptation, and being obvious to the dangers of what you seek because you are blinded by your desire for the object you seek.
The main theme of this story was the importance of tradition and family. There were also what I considered to be sub themes in each In "the First Kings of Mali" chapter who you came from was a strong theme . In this chapter it is explained who Sundiata comes from. In this chapter you read about the Mali in the beginning and how it was a province of the Bambara kings (Mandingo), to Lahilatol Kalabi ...
For example, in the poem after Lizzie runs away from Laura and the goblins with her hands over her ears, Laura stays and lingers there and wonders at the goblins, caught in their trap, “She heard a voice like voice of doves, cooing all together, they sounded kind and full of loves in the pleasant weather. ”(Rossetti lines 77-80) In this stanza we see Laura describing what the goblins sounds like to her, as they sound pleasant like the “voice of doves. Generally, when someone describes a goblin, they are not visually or vocally pleasing, and when Laura describes them, “One had a cat’s face, one whisk’d a tail, one tramp’d at a rat’s pace, one crawl’d like a snail, one like a wombat prowl’d obtuse and furry, one like a ratel tumbled hurry scurry. ”(Rossetti lines 71-76) She is describing them physically very different than they way she is describing them vocally, and the doves in the lines symbolize the how sweet and tempting and seemingly “innocent” something can appear to be, but is in fact the complete opposite.
In another stanza we see that after Laura has had her fill of fruit, she still desires to have more, she is still planning to give in to temptation again, ““Nay, hush,” said Laura: “Nay, hush, my sister: I ate and ate my fill, yet my mouth waters still; to-morrow night I will buy more;” and kiss’d her:”(Rossetti lines 165-170) This shows that while Laura may have given into temptation once, she is likely to do it again and again, as long as it appears to be tempting.
This is something a lot of people can relate to, as it is human nature to always want more than we have. Secondly, another popular theme concerning Goblin Market is the themes of sexuality and exploitation. The poem in general has a lot of sexual undertones, although it was supposedly a children narrative poem, it has incestuous undertones and lustful words and imagery.
To give a few examples, one excellent one is when Laura is attempting to buy the fruit that the goblins are selling, yet she does not have any money to give them, “But sweet-tooth Laura spoke in haste: “Good folk, I have no coin; to take were to purloin: I have no copper in my purse, I have no silver either, and all my gold is on the furze that shakes in windy weather, above the rusty heather. ” “You have much gold upon your head,” they answer’d all together: “Buy from us with a golden curl. ” She clipped a precious golden lock, She dropped a tear more rare than pearl, then suck’d their fruit globes fair or red:. (Rossetti lines 115-125) This is a fantastic example of symbolism in the poem, as Laura admits that she does not have any money to give the goblins, they offer her a deal that for a piece of her golden hair, she may have what she desires. During this process, she is essentially giving away a part of her body in order to have what she wants, and although it is just a piece of her hair, she is literally selling herself to her temptations, and using her body as a payment for the forbidden fruit. This in itself is extremely sexual, as Laura is exploiting her own body for her temptations.
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Another more obvious sexual excerpt from the poem is when Lizzie comes back from trying to get the fruit from the goblins in order to save Laura’s life as she is wasting away and aging prematurely, “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 fruits for you, goblin pulp and goblin dew. eat me, drink me, love me; Laura, make much of me; for your sake I have braved the glen and had to do with goblin merchant men. (Rossetti lines 465-475) This quotation is extremely explicit when showing the sexual themes in Goblin Market, besides the most obvious reasons, but also it shows incestuous relations between Laura and Lizzie with sexual words like “eat, suck, drink, love”. This type of relationship between two women, especially two sisters is extremely taboo and would be unheard of in real life in the era that Rossetti was writing in, thus making it seem unlikely that this story was intended for a younger audience.
The sexual nature is relatable to almost all people, at some point in a human life, they will experience sexual desire and lust, and may even experience taboo feelings depending on the person, and through Goblin Market, they can connect with have feelings of a sexual nature for someone you care about. Finally, to move onto the last theme of this poem, sisterhood. Laura and Lizzie are shown to be extremely close and care a great deal for each other, they live together, care for one another, do chores around the house together, and they even sleep with one another in the same bed.
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These are cases in which a sisterly bond, or a family bond, can be formed. Lizzie would do anything to be able to save Laura, and warns and fears for her safety by telling her not to talk to the goblin men. When Laura becomes ill from eating the goblins fruit and is very near death, Lizzie is worried that she will lose her sister forever, so she takes it upon herself to go and see the goblin men. They attack her for attempting to buy the fruit with a penny instead of her body and she is subjected to abuse and degradation at the cost of her devotion and love to her sister.
Even after all of this has been done and she comes back to her sister after the attack and still worried about her, “Life out of death. That night long Lizzie watch’d by her, counted her pulse’s flagging stir, felt for her breath, held water to her lips, and cool’d her face, with tears and fanning leaves. (Rossetti lines 525-530) Out of devotion and care for her sister, she sits by her side all night and brings water to her lips, and checks her pulse and breathe to make ure that she is alive, it is very obvious that Lizzie cares very much for her sister. This is probably one of the most relatable stanzas in the poem for me personally, because I believe everyone has someone that they care for so much that they would do anything for that person, and through this scene we see Lizzie’s’ devotion and love for her sister, and we are able to take that back into our own lives and relate.
In conclusion, The Goblin Market has many scenes that we can take back into our own lives and relate to in great detail, and it certainly has its controversial yet interesting themes implanted into its text that anyone reading would be able to reminisce on their own life and relate on the themes of temptation, sexuality, and sisterhood/family. Worked Cited “Goblin Market” Christina Rossetti. April, 1862.