One cannot help but notice the numerous interpretations of Christina Rossetti's Goblin Market that pertain to either gender, sex, or religion. The poem itself has been scrutinized more often than one can count, critics often referring to its erotic subtext and similarities to various biblical passages. In this essay I intend to expand on those sentiments, suggesting that there does not need to be one simple explanation, but rather a series of interconnected theories, central to the poem's theme of temptation, sin, and the Fall. I will focus on the specific aspects of gender and sexuality and how conjecture surrounding Goblin Market is rooted in these inferior female roles, roles that stem from and are caused by what Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar refer to as the submissive silences of domesticity (Gilbert and Gubar 1537). In addition to this, there are several aspects of Rossetti's poetic fable that critics have yet to examine thoroughly. One of these is the notion of the madwoman, and how female behavior of a rampant, rebellious or sexual nature is seen as unnatural or mad. In the sexually repressed Victorian society, women weren't allowed to openly enjoy sex, not if they wanted to remain good and chaste. The alternative would be to go the route of Rossetti's fallen woman Jeanie, whichthe poem showsleads to death. Simply put: good girls live; bad girls die.
[...] This theory of chastity and charity that Rossetti utilizes throughout the poem is very common in the works of John Milton, who, in addition to Comus, wrote Paradise Lost, which mirrors the Adam and Eve tale in the Garden of Eden and tells the story of the Devil's fall from Heaven. Vejvoda takes the religious theme a step further, citing Lizzie as a “female Christ figure.” According to Vejvoda, these themes of Temptation and the Fall fascinated Rossetti as she “explored these same concerns in her own poetry and devotional prose” (Vejvoda 1). [...]
[...] When Laura returns home, in a daze, Lizzie scolds her for staying out amongst the goblin men, reminding her of a girl named Jeanie who surrendered to the goblins' tempting and then was never satisfied, always wanting more, until she withered away grew grey” (156). This scene is reminiscent of when girls gossip amongst themselves, warning of that one girl who dresses provocatively or acts suggestively, and to stay away from her, or when mothers warn their daughters to steer clear of that one neighbor girl who is always seen on the back of some boy's motorcycle. [...]
[...] Similarly, in the Book of Genesis, the serpent lures Eve into eating the forbidden fruit, which mirrors the goblin men in “Goblin Market” enticing Laura and Lizzie to eat their fruit. The symbol of the biblical serpent is often used to signify the temptation of evil or the Devil himself. Rossetti's goblins are a reflection of this temptation, except the serpent is one where the goblins are many. This leads one to believe that the goblins are a parallel of men in general, and that Rossetti's poem is a metaphor describing the evil temptations of men and the perils that can befall women if they succumb to them. [...]
[...] They mention “Goblin Market” as well, stating that ladies like Laura and Christina Rossetti should not loiter in the glen of imagination, which is the haunt of goblin (qtd. in Gezari 13). To the co-authors, the goblins are a vital connection to the male controlled society and the “submissive silences of domesticity,” the embodiment of the masculine will and its proclivity toward dominance. In other words, what Lizzie tells Laura echoes what Rossetti must tell herself—that the risks and rewards of art are good for maidens,” a lesson Laura must conform to, or otherwise die. [...]
[...] Gilbert and Susan Gubar's The Madwoman in the Attic.” Essays in Criticism 56.3 (2006). Project Muse. Queens College Rosenthal Library CUNY Dec
using our reader.