Discuss the ways in which Christina Rossetti explores attitudes to women in ‘Goblin Market’ and how this compares with other works of Victorian poetry.
In Victorian poetry and art women are portrayed as being less than men, with little or no freedom. They have a much lower status, and are looked upon in very derogatory ways. This century poetry and art express the importance of the male gaze. Women in poetry are mostly unaware of their audience, if they are aware, they are seen as being easy and loose. In Victorian times women were objectified in both poetry and art. However, in ‘Goblin Market’ it seems Christina Rossetti approaches stereotypes based on women differently, clearly contradicting and challenging stereotypes of women. This is similar to her poem ‘A birthday’ where rather than be quite and oppressed, she wants to celebrate and show the world her love. In comparison ‘My Last Duchess’ written by Robert browning, shows women in the more typical Victorian eye. The woman in this is seen as nothing more of, but a story and a painting. She is repressed.
In ‘Goblin Market’ there is two women; at the start of the poem they appear to be naïve, however later on we see a dramatic change in these characters. The first description we see of the poems main characters is ‘maids’. This word symbolises just how innocent and naïve women were. They are pure and virgin; this is a typical representation of women in Victorian art and poetry. Later on in the poem we meet the characters being described.
‘Laura bow’d her head to hear, Lizzie veil’d her blushes:’ From this description we can see clear differences between the two characters. Laura seems more mature and more confident, yet is still curious. Whereas Lizzie seems shy and embarrassed. Lizzie’s character fits in more with the Victorian depiction of women. At the sight of the goblin men she blushes, although trying to cover it, this blushing may not be embarrassment but lust. A little further into the poem we see their characters change.
‘With tingling cheeks and fingertips’
This is the next description we see of Laura. At the very beginning it seemed only Lizzie was blushing, and interested in the goblin men and their fruits, but this quote shows that now Laura may be blushing too. Now both Laura and Lizzie are feeling the temptation. This confuses the readers as now both girls seem like paeans of young Victorian women, shy and giggly. ‘‘Oh’ cried Lizzie ‘Laura, Laura you should not peep at goblin men’’ and ‘‘No’ said Lizzie ‘No, no, no; their offers should not charm us’ These two quotes show a dramatic change in Lizzie’s character. From the first quote we see Lizzie becoming more prudish and Laura becoming more daring. Laura seems to like the feeling of lust and is giving into temptation. Lizzie is taking control and trying to lead her sister away from sin. From the second quote it appears Lizzie is horrified. Her resistance is said in a childish manner showing that she doesn’t trust herself. The fact that she says ‘should not’ shows that she is tempted, but knows that, that feeling is wrong. The start of the poem draws the reader in, with its constant rhythm and rhyme it is easy to read. With the language and rhythm it is easy to create a sense of imagery. The beginning of the poem is full of description, of both the sisters and of the goblin men.
‘One had a cat’s face. One whisk’d a tail,’
The goblin men are described as animals throughout the poem. This creates a sense of the unknown. The goblin men seem normal except for one thing that is animal like. They are uncanny although appear to be nice, we unsure of them. This creates a clear sense of foreboding. The unknown is sinister to us.
Rossetti’s was a very religious person and we see this in her poetry; ‘Goblin market’ is about temptation and sin.
‘Cried ‘pretty goblin still for pretty Polly’’
In the poem the girls receive a lot of flattery from the goblin men, trying to tempt them and get them...
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