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Of the many ideas, concepts, and events of the Victorian Period, the Victorian Temper emerged, and quickly became evident through the writing of the era. In a time where individuals favored earnest behaviors, moral responsibility, and domestic propriety, the Victorian Temper, while it helped to further encourage these behaviors, also urged individuals to repress and discourage any and all notions of reproduction and sex. While the prospective outcome of the Victorian Temper may have been to form a pure society in which individuals are free and cleansed of sexual thoughts and desires, the result may have been the complete opposite. According to Sigmund Freud, because the individuals of the Victorian Period worked with great force to repress all reproductive desires and urges, the people of the period may have thought about sexual encounters more than any other group, as they constantly made efforts to repress these thoughts; however, they remained beneath the surface. Though the people of the Victorian Period made efforts to repress such ideas, and worked to refrain from using sexual concepts explicitly in their conversations, many poets and writers of the period, perhaps accidentally, due to the force of the repression, included implicit sexual and reproductive cues in their writing. In particular, Christina Rossetti’s poem, Goblin Market, may, on the surface, appear to present a story of two children in a rather innocent and imaginary, fairy-tale like manner, the poem presents sexual connotations to the reader, suggesting that Rossetti, herself, may have sexual feelings that she tries to keep hidden, beneath the surface.
While Rossetti claims to write an innocent and imaginary story, she reveals certain implicit sexual connotations to the reader from the beginning of the text. While initially describing the Goblin cries, Rossetti explains, “Maids heard the goblins cry: / “Come buy our orchard fruits, / Come buy, come buy: / Apples and quinces”(Rossetti 1496). Here, Rossetti begins by depicting that “Maids,” which are young and unmarried girls, are able to hear the “goblins cry.” The idea that only “Maids” are able to hear the cries of the goblins appears to relay that the cries are only audible to virgin ears. The goblins then offer many fruits, which are all very different. The first fruit that Rossetti relays is an “Apple,” which appears to be a direct reference to the Christian religion’s story of Adam and Eve, in which the initially pure characters gave into temptation, and consumed the fruits, specifically, the “Apples,” of the forbidden tree. By starting off her list of fruits with “Apples,” Rossetti appears to imply that the pure and untouched “Maids” that she initially depicted, if they were to consume these fruits, will be giving into temptation, and, just like Adam and Eve, risk losing their purity. Though Rossetti may claim to depict an innocent story of children and fruit, the language, and order of her words, appears to suggest that Rossetti’s own implicit reproductive feelings are beginning to present themselves in her story.
Rossetti’s sexual implications continue to present themselves through Rossetti’s depictions of fruit in her text. While Rossetti continues to relay the cry that the “Maids” can hear, she writes, “Apples and quinces, / Lemons and oranges, / Plump unpecked cherries”(Rossetti 1496). Here, Rossetti depicts a range of fruits, all of which are plump and round, which appears to be symbolic of female bodies, which are known for their curvature, especially after the age of puberty. This is significant, and contain juice within them.] Rossetti also describes “Plump unpecked cherries.” Using these adjectives to describe cherries suggests a deeper connotation behind Rossetti’s word choice. “Plump unpecked cherries,” are small and round red fruits, often connected to one another by a small stem, which appears to be symbolic of fallopian tubes, an aspect of female bodies. The depicted “plump” nature suggests that the “cherries” are rather large and juicy. Their claimed “unpecked” nature suggests that the “cherries” are pure, untouched, and in excellent and unused condition. The “unpecked” and untouched nature of the cherries appears to relate back to Rossetti’s initial depiction of the virginal “Maids,” relaying that the innocent girls are “unused,” likely in a sexual nature. This seems to suggest a deeper connotation behind Rossetti’s words. While Rossetti may claim to write innocently about fruit, here, she writes about fruits that are round, plump, and juicy, which appears to relay that Rossetti’s sexual feelings are beginning to present themselves from the start of the work.
Rossetti continues to depict sexual undertones as her work continues. While describing Laura’s initial encounter with the goblins, Rossetti writes, “She clipped a precious golden lock, / She dropped a tear more rare than pearl”(Rossetti 1499). Here, Rossetti writes that Laura “clipped a precious golden lock,” suggesting that she cut a sacred and pure piece of her hair, effectively “clipp[ing]” a piece of herself, or, perhaps, an element of who she is. Laura then “dropped a tear more rare than pearl,” which suggests that Laura became saddened, and a piece of herself, more precious and pure than an untouched orb, has fallen. Rossetti appears to depict that Laura has lost, or “dropped,” her own pureness, or, in other words, her own virginity. This seems to reinforce Rossetti’s depiction of “Maids” giving into temptation, as previously discussed, as, through her language, Rossetti appears to further depict that the “Maids” are giving into temptation, and, as a result, lose a “precious” piece of their “golden” purity. Though Rossetti may have intended to write an innocent portrayal of a girl interacting with goblins, through her depictions of a woman “drop[ping]” “golden” and pure pieces of themselves, Rossetti appears to imply a loss of virginity, subtly adding her own sexual feelings and implications to her work.
The actions and sensations with which Laura lost her virginity become blatantly clear in the following lines, where Rossetti writes that Laura, “Then sucked their fruit globes fair or red: / Sweeter than honey from the rock. / Stronger than men-rejoicing wine, / Clearer than water flowed that juice”(Rossetti 1499). Here, Rossetti depicts that Laura “sucked,” actively, using her own mouth, “their fruit globes fair or red,” implying that Laura orally interacted with the round, plump, and juicy fruit “globes,” of all varieties or colors, “fair or red.” After implying of this interaction, Rossetti elaborates upon Laura’s sexual enjoyment of the experience. Rossetti claims that the round and plump fruits that Laura was “suck[ing]” “flowed” a certain “juice,” which Rossetti writes were “Clearer than water.” Suggesting that her female character “sucked” orbs that began to “flow” a certain “juice” appears to symbolize that Rossetti is depicting her character engaging in a sexual act, as her act of “suck[ing]” on globes, before “juice” begins to “flow,” further implies Laura’s oral intercourse, which Rossetti depicts results in a sort of ejaculation, a “flow[ing]” of “that juice.” [sexual encounters, organs.] Rossetti writes that Laura “sucked” fruits that were sweet, and the fruits had a powerful grasp upon Laura, further depicting that Rossetti’s own sexual undertones were presenting themselves through her writing.
(Round fruit globes with juice inside. Medical News Today. Web.)
Rossetti continues to use language that presents her own repressed sexual feelings within her work. As Laura continues to passionately enjoy the goblin’s fruit for the first time, Rossetti writes, “She never tasted such before, / How should it cloy with length of use? / She sucked and sucked and sucked the more / Fruits which that unknown orchard bore; / She sucked until her lips were sore”(Rossetti 1499). Here, Laura is depicted as experiencing a new sensation, through the fruit, of which she has “never tasted” previously. Having previously been described as an innocent and untouched “Maid,” it appears increasingly evident that Rossetti is writing Laura’s encounters in a sexualized manner, as she repeats the word “sucked,” and she describes that Laura did so, until her “lips were sore.” Rossetti uses words, such as “taste,” and “suck,” which reinforce her sexualizations of Laura’s situation, depicting that Laura became increasingly involved in an oral activity that closely resembles oral intercourse. Rossetti’s implicit sexual undertones present themselves through her writing, as, while Rossetti may have intended to depict an innocent scene of Laura enjoying fruit, the language that she used is blatantly reproductive, suggesting the repression of her own deep sexual feelings.
Rossetti’s repressed sexual feelings continue to emerge through her writing, as she presents more reproductive implications as her work continues. While reflecting on her experience to Lizzie, Laura says, “I ate and ate my fill, / Yet my mouth waters still; / Tomorrow night I will buy more:” / and kissed her…”(Rossetti 1499). Here, Rossetti emphasizes that Laura “ate and ate [her] fill,” repeating her action of ‘eating,’ suggesting that Laura engaged in physical and natural acts of consumption, until she became satisfied. Rossetti continues to draw upon Laura’s “mouth,” in a seemingly objectifying manner, suggesting that her oral fixation is her main source for pleasure. Rossetti appears to further relay her own repressed sexual feelings, as she frequently mentions “mouth[s]” throughout the work, and oral satisfaction, rather than, say, a character’s stomach, after consuming “fruit.” Focusing solely upon oral satisfaction, which is further reinforced by Rossetti’s depiction that Laura immediately “kissed her” sister, it appears that Rossetti may be further implicitly symbolizing oral intercourse, as she places a heavy focus on “mouth[s],” and oral actions. Because she only focuses primarily upon oral aspects and satisfactions, and never mentions a satisfied stomach after consuming “fruit,” it would appear that Rossetti’s own implicit and repressed sexual feelings are presenting themselves through her writing.
Rossetti’s repressed sexual feelings continue to present themselves within her work. While Laura presents the details of her previous pleasurable encounter, she explains that, “You cannot think what figs / My teeth have met in, / What melons icy-cold / Piled on a dish of gold / Too huge for me to hold, / What peaches with a velvet nap, / Pellucid grapes without one seed”(Rossetti 1499). Rossetti continues to describe fruits that are plump, round, and juicy, suggesting that Laura experienced her own pleasure through her interactions with items of this nature. Here, it appears that Rossetti’s own repressed sexual feelings present themselves, as she describes that Laura’s “teeth have met in” the fruit, or, in other words, that Laura has orally penetrated “in[to]” these plump and juicy items. Rossetti describes the fruits in a sexual manner, claiming that they were “Too huge for [Laura] to hold.” After revealing Laura’s oral penetration, it appears, here, that Laura may become involved in further penetration, or, amid her pleasurable experience, the sexual satisfaction may have been too great “for [her] to hold,” and, in response, Rossetti appears to depict Laura’s experience of sexual ejaculation. This becomes further evident, as Rossetti follows this with depictions of “grapes without one seed,” suggesting that the once juicy and round fruits have, perhaps temporarily, lost their fertility, or, their own “seed.” Though Rossetti may claim to portray a young girl’s innocent explanation of the fruits she enjoyed, Rossetti’s words suggest aspects of fertility, such as penetration, and “seed[s],” which carry reproductive undertones, suggesting that her own repressed sexual feelings are presenting themselves in her writing.
(Oral satisfaction; “You cannot think what figs My teeth have met in.” Lausanne Tourisme. Web.)
Rossetti’s repressed sexual feelings continue to present themselves through her writing. While explaining Lizzi’s plea to Laura that they return home for the evening, Rossetti writes, “Come with me home. […] Let us get home before the night grows dark: / For clouds may gather / Tho’ this is summer weather, / Put out the lights and drench us thro’: / Then if we lost our way what should we do?”(Rossetti 1501). Here, Rossetti employs multiple aspects of weather in her writing. By describing that “clouds may gather / Tho’ this is summer weather,” Rossetti appears to relay that the “summer” sun is shining, illuminating light, which appears to symbolize purity, and brightness, upon her characters. In this way, Rossetti appears to be referring to her previous depiction of her female characters as pure “Maids,” using the sun to emphasize their innocence, in this scene. Lizzi suggests that “clouds may gather,” suggesting that, if the innocent females are not careful, and give into the temptations, as previously discussed, “clouds” may gather, and the “light” which illuminates the girls may become obstructed, and “Put out.” The girls would then be subjected to a certain evil “dark[ness]” of the covered sun, and their innocence would be “drench[ed],” covered, in water. Rossetti then asks, “if we lost our way what should we do?”, reinforcing the idea that, if their innocent “way[s]” were to be lost, and “drench[ed],” or, if they gave into temptation, likely through the enjoyment of previously discussed sexual pleasures and satisfaction, the once innocent girls would not what to “do.” Through Rossetti’s depiction of her character’s plea, and her emphasis on weather, of which she presents in a manner that suggests the consequences of giving into temptation, it appears that Rossetti’s own repressed sexual feelings are presenting themselves, implicitly, through her writing.
(If we lose our way, clouds may gather, and we may be drenched in darkness. Wallpaper Up. Web.)
Rossetti’s repressed sexual feelings continue to implicitly present themselves through her writing. While Lizzie encounters the Goblins, Rossetti writes, “Tho’ the goblins cuffed and caught her, / Coaxed and fought her, / Bullied and besought her, / Scratched her, pinched her black as ink, / Kicked and knocked her, / Mauled and mocked her”(Rossetti 1505). Here, Rossetti depicts that her female character is “cuffed,” which limits her mobility, which is often used in certain sexual fetishes, blatantly suggesting that Rossetti’s repressed sexual feelings are boiling to the surface. Rossetti then depicts that her female character is “caught,” which serves to objectify her, depicting that she is under the control and restrain of the “goblin” men. Rossetti then focuses heavily upon movements and verbs, as she emphasizes several words that describe action. Using these words, Rossetti appears to depict that the goblin men are forcing themselves upon Lizzie, and that the creatures are treating Rossetti’s female character as though she were an object, to be acted upon, by the goblins, against her will. While Rossetti may have intended to write an innocent scene regarding a child’s interaction with goblin men, by depicting that the goblins are forcing themselves upon Lizzie, who is “cuffed,” and restrained, in very physical manners, it appears that Rossetti’s own implicit sexual feelings and desires are presenting themselves, through her writing.
Rossetti continues to implicitly express her own repressed sexual feelings through her story, as she depicts interactions with the “mouth” of her female character. As Lizzie refuses the Goblin’s forceful advances, Rossetti writes, Lizzie uttered not a word; / Would not open lip from lip / Lest they should cram a mouthful in”(Rossetti 1505). Here, Rossetti uses words that signify physical movements, such as “cram,” and “lodge,” which represent actions, specifically insertion, which appears to further symbolize penetration, in this piece. Rossetti reinforces these symbols of penetration by writing that Lizzie “Would not open lip from lip,” with “lip,” appearing to represent, and symbolize, female sexual organs, specifically the vagina. Rossetti depicts her symbols of penetration by writing, “Lest they should cram a mouthful in.” The use of the word “in” further emphasizes the theme of penetration, and Rossetti’s use of the word “cram” suggests that “they,” the goblin men, are forcibly attempting to penetrate Lizzi, with a “mouthful” of their own object(s). Once again, Rossetti depicts “mouth[ful]s,” suggesting that her female character is being subjected to oral penetration, by the goblins, and her female character’s “mouth,” is an object that the goblins are attempting to physically “cram” their items within. In this way, Rossetti’s repressed feelings, of reproduction, and of oral intercourse, appear to present themselves, through her writing.
(“Lest they should cram a mouthful in.” Pure Devotion. Web.)
Rossetti’s repressed sexual feelings appear to present themselves, as she uses sexualized language, sensations, and gestures, in her writing. While the goblins finish physically forcing themselves upon Lizzie, Rossetti writes, “But laughed in heart to feel the drip / Of juice that syruped all her face, and lodged in dimples of her chin, / And streaked her neck which quaked like curd”(Rossetti 1505). Here, Rossetti depicts many aspects of liquids, and the sensations that they provide to her female character’s skin. Through her description of “juice that syruped all her face,” Rossetti suggests that her female character is experiencing rather thick fluids releasing themselves over “all her face,” which appears to depict that her face has been ejaculated upon, and she is able to “feel the drip” of the fluids. Furthermore, Rossetti claims that these liquids “lodged” themselves within her female character’s skin, which appears to symbolize seminal ejaculation, while further emphasizing Rossetti’s theme of penetration. Though Rossetti may claim to have written an innocent story about children and goblin creatures, through her use of language, which appears to depict penetration and ejaculation, it seems that Rossetti’s own repressed sexual feelings are presenting themselves, through her writing.
Rossetti’s repressed sexual feelings continue to implicitly present themselves through her writing. After Lizzie returns from her own encounter with the Goblins, and greets Laura, Rossetti writes, “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 1506). Here, Rossetti further objectifies her female character, as she depicts her character’s desire to act upon her, in various physical ways. Rossetti sexualizes this scene, as the physical movements that she mentions all represent affectionate and sexual actions. Rossetti uses words such as “suck,” “Eat,” and “drink,” with regards to “me,” which further relate to oral acts of consumption, as though Rossetti is suggesting that her female character is an item for oral pleasure and satisfaction. Rossetti also continues to depict liquids, which were “Squeezed from goblin fruits,” which appears to further suggest ejaculation, as these thick fluids and “dew[s]” where physically “squeezed” from fertil goblin “fruits,” which seems to symbolize their own reproductive organs. Though she may claim to have written an innocent story about a child’s return from goblins, and their fruit, because of the language, which seems to depict physical movements, consumption, and oral satisfaction, Rossetti’s own implicit and repressed sexual feelings appear to present themselves, through her writing.
(“Hug me, kiss me, suck my juices.” 123rf. Web.)
During the Victorian Period, individuals favored earnest behaviors, moral responsibility, and domestic propriety. The Victorian Temper emerged, which, while encouraging these behaviors, encouraged individuals to repress any and all notions of sexual reproduction. Because of the sheer force with which these reproductive feelings were repressed, some aspects of these ideas, though buried beneath the surface, appear to present themselves through the writing of the period. For instance, Christina Rossetti, though she may claim to write an innocent story, she depicts several sexual undertones in her piece, Goblin Market. In Rossetti’s work, she uses language to depict seemingly pure topics in a rather sexualized manner. Rossetti depicts “fruit[s],” which are all plump, round, juicy, and “unpecked,” which appear to symbolize the curvature and roundness of female bodies. Rossetti also describes physical movements, such as “suck[ing]” and “cram[ming],” which appears to symbolize sexual actions, along with means of oral satisfaction, and oral intercourse. Rossetti also places an emphasis on “juices,” elaborating upon their thickness, and “syrup[-like]” quialities, which appear to depict reproductive ejaculation. Finally, Rossetti elaborates upon the sensations that each of these items and actions provide, upon the “face” of her female character. Though Rossetti may claim to have written an innocent and imaginary story about children, her word choice, and use of language, all suggest sexual symbols and implications, suggesting to readers that Rossetti’s own repressed sexual feelings may be presenting themselves, through her writing.
To continue learning about the Victorian Period, please watch the video below.
Adam and Eve Apple. Sargents Fine Art. Web.
Rossetti, Christina. “Goblin Market.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Volume E. Print.
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Are you passionate about English literature? Does Victorian Era writing provide you with a thrilling feeling about all that there is to read and discover, regarding the period? If so, here are resources which provide even more information to learn about the glorious Victorian Period!
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