Close Reading of Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market

Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market is overflowing with vehement sexual imagery, despite the fact that she insisted that is was appropriate for children. Lines 390 through 420 depict the shift that occurs when the goblins discover that Lizzie wants to take the fruits to Laura in hopes of curing her. In lines 334 through 349, the goblins were portrayed as being very happy and affectionate (too affectionate, if you ask me) (“chuckling, clapping, crowing”, “hugged her and kissed her, squeezed and caressed her”). However, this changes quickly as they “grunt” and “snarl” and appear now to be evil and violent.

In both instances, the goblins are compared to animals however the comparisons are vastly different. When Lizzie and Laura first meet them, they are “wagging” and “purring” like harmless creatures, but when Lizzie encounters them later on they lash their tails and bark and hiss. The goblins absolutely represent a binary, as they embody both innocence and corruption.

When Lizzie is attacked by the goblins, the word choice suggests that their intentions are perhaps more sinister than previously thought. The goblins “held her hands and squeezed their fruits against her mouth to make her eat”. The fact that they held her down and “squeezed their fruits against her mouth” suggests that this act was performed against her will. Also, the goblins “tore her gown and soiled her stocking” which too suggests that she was violated in some way by the goblins.

Color is also symbolic in this passage, as Lizzie is described in line 408 as being “white and golden”. White symbolizes purity, which has been soiled by the goblins in the previous stanza, however she stands strong despite the horrors she has faced. Lizzie is also compared to “a royal virgin town, topped with gilded dome and spire, close beleaguered by a fleet mad to tug her standard down”. This image of a beautiful, untouched town being ravaged by pillagers also alludes to the sexual violence that has befallen Lizzie. Surely, Rosetti includes this scene to make a statement about the evils of temptation and how reputation greatly affects women in the Victorian era.

Christina Rossetti. “Goblin Market.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Vol. E. New York: W.W. Norton &, 2012. 1496-1508. Print.

One thought on “Close Reading of Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market

  1. You cover a LOT here in the post! 🙂 You say early on that the goblins represent a binary between innocence and evil. How are they innocent? Does their purring necessarily make them innocent? Also, don’t forget to cite your quotations as you move in analysis later in the post!


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