Introduction to Goblin Market, Rossetti

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  • Topic: Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Christina Rossetti
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  • Published : May 8, 2013
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1 "Goblin Market" by Christina Georgina Rossetti
Poem by Christina Georgina Rossetti (1830-1894), composed in 1859 and published in 1862 in Goblin Market and Other Poems. INTRODUCTION "Goblin Market," an early work considered to be one of Rossetti's masterpieces, was intended simply as a fairy story. Despite Rossetti's assertions that she meant nothing profound by the tale, its rich, complex, and suggestive language has caused the poem to be practically ignored as children's literature and instead regarded variously as an erotic exploration of sexual fantasy, a commentary on capitalism and Victorian market economy, a feminist glorification of "sisterhood," and a Christian allegory about temptation and redemption, among other readings. Additionally, in attempts to decode what is often described as the poem's subversive text, critics have looked to Rossetti's life for interpretive keys. The biographical aspects which have been examined by critics as means toward achieving a greater understanding of the poem include Rossetti's love affairs, her work with the Oxford Movement's "women's mission to women" in which she helped "rehabilitate" prostitutes, and her association with her brother, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood. Since the language of "Goblin Market" suggests a variety of meanings, critics rarely agree on what the poem is about. Although scholars have failed to concur about something as elemental to the poem as its themes, "Goblin Market" is generally viewed as one of Rossetti's greatest works. Biographical Information Although Rossetti was a frequent contributor to her brother Dante's Pre-Raphaelite journal The Germ, she achieved immediate and significant recognition as a skilled poet with the 1862 publication of Goblin Market and Other Poems. The publication of the volume was hailed as the first literary success of the Pre-Raphaelites, earned critical and popular acclaim, and paved the way for the publication of Rossetti's next volume of poetry, The Prince's Progress and Other Poems (1866). Rossetti went on to publish religious poetry, devotional prose, and nursery rhymes for children. Due to the early success of "Goblin Market," Rossetti rarely fell out of favour with critics or her reading public and remains a focal point of critical study of nineteenth-century literary figures. Plot and Major Characters The story narrated in "Goblin Market" is often described as simple. Two sisters, Laura and Lizzie, who apparently live together without parents, are taunted by goblin merchant men to buy luscious and tantalizing fruits. Lizzie is able to resist their coaxing and runs home, but Laura succumbs. She pays for the wares with a lock of her hair and gorges herself on the exotic fare, but her desire increases rather than being satisfied. She returns home and informs Lizzie that she will venture back into the glen and seek the goblins again. But Laura can no longer hear the call of the goblins and grows increasingly apathetic. She refuses to eat and begins to age prematurely. Fearing for her sister's life, Lizzie decides to seek out the goblins in order to purchase an "antidote" for her sister. When the goblins learn that Lizzie does not intend to eat the fruit herself, they throw her money back at her and verbally and physically abuse her, pinching and kicking, tearing at her clothing, and smearing the juice and pulp of their fruit on her. Lizzie refuses to open her mouth and returns home with the penny in her purse. She invites her sister to suck the juices from her body, which Laura does. The juice of the goblin fruit now tastes bitter to Laura, and she writhes in pain from having consumed it. But the antidote works. Laura returns to her former self, and the epilogue of the poem

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describes Laura and Lizzie as wives and mothers. Laura now tells the story to their children, reminding them that "there is no friend like a sister." Major Themes Critics look to the language and structure of...
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