No Peeking is an educational and entertaining app that is based off of Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s The Lady of Shalott. Find out if you can dodge the villagers and farmers that our Lady sees every day. How about Sir Lancelot? This app puts your reflexes and sight memory to the test.
Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti is a poem that could be associated with many diffe-
rent meanings. Some believe that it is an innocent moral fable; some believe that is shows a lesbian dynamic between two sisters. I, however, believe that the poem shows the tale of what happens when virginity is lost before marriage–it is a poem about sex and the problems that it creates. The key elements in disguising the theme of sex are the fruits, goblins, lock of hair and the fate that is stowed upon the young woman who falls for the call of the mysterious goblins.
One of the most important characters in the poem are the goblins. The poem opens up with: “Morning and evening/Maids heard the goblins cry:/’Come buy our orchard fruits,/Come buy, come buy:’”. If a reader is looking at this poem from an industrialist view they could think that the goblins are merchants and they are selling the fruits that they have grown; if looking at it from a sex oriented point of view, one could say that the goblins and fruit have very different meanings. Goblins are foreign beings, they are not common and are not humanistic; the fruit, when reading the next several lines, are not common fruits and are exotic. Both elements, therefore, would be intriguing to the maidens who hear their cry. Being uncommon, the fruits and goblins would beg for young women to want to know more and to want to try their “fruits”. The fruits, however, are not fruits at all.
There is one scene, in particular, that stands out and shows that the fruits take on a whole new meaning: “‘Buy from us with a golden curl.’/She clipp’d a precious golden lock,/She dropp’d a tear more rare than pearl,/Then suck’d their fruit globes fair or red:/Sweeter than honey from the rock,/Stronger than man-rejoicing wine,/Clearer than water flow’d that juice;/She never tasted such before,/How should it cloy with length of use?/She suck’d and suck’d and suck’d the more/Fruits which that unknown orchard bore;/She suck’d until her lips were sore;” (Rossetti). At first glance these lines show that a young woman bought fruit with a lock of hair and thoroughly enjoyed it; she sucked the juices out of it until her lips hurt from doing so. However, when looking deeper into the meaning, it could be argued that the goblins are not just selling her fruit, but rather taking a piece of her that cannot just be replaced.
The lock of hair is not just a payment, but rather a symbol of losing part of oneself–in this case her virginity. The fruit and the action of eating it has also been sexualized by the use of the phrases: “Clearer tan water flow’d that juice”, “She never tasted such before” and “She suck’d until her lips were sore”. This link shows a live version of these lines and allows the audience to see that there is more to the event than a girl eating fruits that she bought from everyday merchants (starting at second 21).
Another hint at the fruit not being what it is made out to be is what happens to those who consume it. After Laura ate the fruit she stopped hearing the call of the goblins and fell ill. This could suggest that the loss of her virginity made her worthless. She could not hear the goblins call because she was no longer wanted due to her loss of this precious gift before marriage and her illness shows that once a woman’s virginity is gone, she loses her spark. She did not lose her virginity in wedlock and therefore is, seemingly, punished for it. The only thing that could help her is having access to the fruits again, but the goblins do not want to allow for that. They already got what they wanted and want nothing else to do with the poor girl who could not resist temptation.
In a piece by Lesa Scholl, it says that “The forbidden fruit undoubtedly refers to female sexuality…yet it can also relate to female education and knowledge” (Sholl). I found this to be interesting because knowledge in women, at one time, was feared. It was also said that “intellectual activity would cause their reproductive organs to malfunction, securing the double bondage of sexuality and the intellect on women” (Sholl). This theory is one that could be argued because the illness that Laura gets could be seen as organ failure caused by the consumption of fruit that is really female sexuality. There is another case in the poem where the woman who consumed the fruit actually died from this travesty.
There could also be an argument that this poem has to do with a lesbian attraction between the two women. The piece has a seen where Lizzie comes home and says, “She cried, ‘Laura,’ up the garden,/‘Did you miss me?/Come and kiss me./Never mind my bruises,/Hug me, kiss me, suck my juices’” (Rossetti). These lines could be taken as them being attracted to each other and having intimate relations. I, however, believe that this is a scene where one sister went to extremes to save another from her fate after going against advice to hold onto her virginity.
Dr. Catherine Brown gives an analogy on how to think about sex in literature during the Victorian Era. She says that it is like when you watch a movie from the 1950s and a man and a woman, who could have interest in each other, disappear into a closet–you can assume what is happening, but it is not right there in front of you for you to see. There is a video on Youtube that Dr. Brown has posted that goes into this by using examples from literature, making it easier to understand why Rossetti may have tried to pass this poem off as moral fable. The technique used in this era was to insert topics that were taboo in a way that was hidden and could only be found when studied or read closely. Goblin Market seems to really portray this idea by using fruit to talk about sex and the act of losing ones virginity.
Schll, Lesa. “Fallen or Forbidden: Rosetti’s ‘Goblin Market.’” The Victorian Web, 23 Dec. 2003, http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/crossetti/scholl.html.
Rossetti, Christina. “Goblin Market” 1859.
Here is a link to my Victorian Period study guide.
Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market is a moral tale, telling the reader a story of the depth and importance of the sibling bond between sisters. However, at a second glance, it seems more and more about something a little more risqué. The poem is full of phallic imagery, allusions to virginity and sexual acts, and an incestuous relationship. Rossetti’s Goblin Market, like a modern Disney movie, is full of these images that become more and more apparent as you age. Presented as moral tales, these films are also lightly sprinkled (though the sprinkling in Goblin Market is incredibly heavy handed) with more sexual imagery than one would expect for a children’s movie. Rossetti’s poem, as we learned in class, was advertised as a moral tale. It was about trusting your sisters and only doing what’s right and knowing that the most important thing in your life is your sister. Disney movies fall into this same place, though maybe not explicitly choosing (and perhaps Rossetti didn’t intend this either) to be so blatantly full of sexual images that the moral is lost until the final six lines of the poem.
Rossetti dances around imagery that suggests more intimate details throughout the poem, using words like plump, juice, dripping, and suck, and detailing kisses shared between the sisters that we can assume go beyond a simple cheek peck. The sisters are presented as virtuous maidens who only have each other, trying to keep from falling into the trap of the goblin men who are selling their fruits. In true fashion, Lizzie falls prey and ends up purchasing herself some fruit from the goblin men, and this is where the sexual images set in. Lizzie cuts a curl of her hair, reminiscent of Alexander Pope’s The Rape of the Lock, where the cutting of hair is tied in with sexual endeavors. Lizzie trades her hair for these fruit, and “sucked their fruit globes fair or red:” (128). This is an image that seems innocent at first, but when read aloud and thought about a little harder, seems to be a reference to Lizzie preforming oral sex on these goblin men, even more so proven a few lines later with “She sucked and sucked and sucked some more/Fruits which that unknown orchard bore;” (134-135). The repetition of the word sucked is interesting in that she never actually bites the fruit, which you would think she would do if it actually was fruit. The mention of the unknown orchard is interesting too, as Laura is covered in imagery associated with virginity from lines 81 to 86, being referred to things like a lily, and flowers are a standard symbol for virginity and purity. The unknown orchard is unknown territory, and once Laura becomes familiar with it, she is no longer described with symbols of virginity.
The scene in which Laura essentially loses her virginity is closely followed by a slew of suggestions that this is exactly what happened – not a simple scene in which the girl gets the fruit she was looking to buy. Lizzie reminds Laura of Jeanie, a girl who also bought fruit from the goblin men. Shortly thereafter, Jeanie is said to have wasted away after she couldn’t get more fruit and that she “dwindled and grew gray;/Then fell with the first snow,/ While to this day no grass will grow/Where she lies low:/I planted daisies there a year ago/That will never grow.” (156-161). We can read this in that Jeanie has sex with the goblin men, and once she did they never returned to her. She grew to become undesirable after losing her virginity, and even in death was unable to sustain life – grass doesn’t even grow where she is buried, nor do the daisies that are planted. After losing their virginity, women are disgusting, they’re undesirable, and nobody ever will or ever should want them. After eating the goblin fruits, Laura becomes almost catatonic – she stops doing work, she begins wasting away, and Lizzie decides that she needs to save her sister.
Our sisterly bond reaches a point of clarity when Lizzie takes it upon herself to seek out the goblin men, and she takes a strong stand. She arrives to them ready to pay with money as opposed to pay with hair or actions. The goblin men react poorly to this, “Grunting and snarling./One called her proud,/Cross-grained, uncivil;/Their tones waxed loud,/Their looks were evil.” (393-397). The goblin men seem to only want and desire one thing from women in exchange for their fruit, and it’s not what Lizzie is offering. The goblin men have previously been established as animalistic creatures, with faces akin to cats, rats, snails, and wombats, but they had voices like “the voice of doves/Cooing all together:/They sounded pleasant and full of loves/In the pleasant weather.” (77-80). The goblin men, though a little strange looking, are gentle, welcoming and inviting, much like a car salesman trying to trap you into a deal with a mediocre vehicle. Despite the voices, the images alone of animals represented among the goblin men are animals that are sly, associated with mischief, slimy creatures, or just all together a foreign animal – reminiscent of the way people today refer to lawyers or politicians as snakes. The goblin men have turned on Lizzie, and they become violent, their movements all animalistic and their voices gone and replaced with “Chattering like magpies,/Fluttering like pigeons,/Gliding like fishes, –” (345-347). Lizzie stands firm in resistance against the attitudes of these men, and this angers them further into attacking her, and the goblin men “Held her hands and squeezed their fruits/Against her mouth to make her eat.” (405-406). They assault Lizzie, covering her in the juices of the fruits before growing tired of her, tossing her money back on her and departing, leaving Lizzie alone in the woods.
In the end, Lizzie is able to return to Laura, and in a very descriptive scene, revives her. Lizzie rushes in and presses Laura to “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 … For your sake I have braved the glen/And had to do with the goblin merchant men.” (466-474). The sexuality of the poem shifts to the sisters, who are clearly intimate with each other, as we can gather from the language Lizzie uses, and the reader knows earlier in the poem as well that kissing is a common occurrence between these two sisters. Laura rushes forward and “Clung about her sister,/Kissed and kissed and kissed her:” (486-487), and in a violent way, has her youthfulness, her worth restored to her. This scene is a clear connection to the importance of the sisterly bond, but one cannot help but note the physicality between the two girls.
Goblin Market is a poem that is incredibly direct yet discrete about the sexual messages. Much like a Disney movie, the aim towards children is clear, but the writers will often throw something in for the parents to have a laugh at. For instance, another moral tale about sisterly bonds, Frozen, presents a few suggestive jokes and comments made by characters that will go missed by children, but unmissed by parents. One such joke is a reference to the shoe size being representative of male genitals, like in this linked scene. Granted, the scene in Frozen is so subtle one may not make the connection, while the scenes from the poem are heavy handed, but some who read Goblin Market may miss the images before them until they begin searching. Rossetti seemingly crafts an incredibly interesting poem about sexual experiences and disguises it as something about a sisterly bond.
Rossetti, Christina. “Goblin Market.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature.
Gen. ed. Stephen Greenblatt. 9th ed. Vol. E. New York: Norton, 2012. 2145-49.
Here is the link to my digital study guide. Enjoy!
Here Is the link for my study guide!
During the Victorian Period, which took place between 1837 through 1901, there were many different attitudes among the people. At the beginning, it started out that the people were very prudeish and would never talk about sex. Because of this, people during this time thought about sex the most just because they had to pretty much keep it a secret. Towards the end of the century, however, there was the beginning of “The New Woman”. This was a woman who was seen to be independent. She worked, had a higher education, wore pants and supported herself. These women also broke the societal norms when it came to marriage and motherhood. Many of them did not get married because they thought it would be hard to find equality and marriage and when it came to having children, some tended to put their careers first. This ideal of “The New Woman” was presented in the play Mrs Warren’s Profession written by George Bernard Shaw. Vivie, in Act 4, presents herself as “The New Woman” when talking with Frank, Mr. Praed and her mother, Mrs. Warren. She does this by smoking, not being interesting in marriage and romance, not following the societal norms for women and by talking about how she wants to be independent.
In the play Mrs Warren’s Profession, Act 4 seems to take an interesting turn. Vivie is visited by Frank at her new workplace. Vivie asks him of he would like to smoke and then Frank replies, “[Pushing the cigar box across.] Nasty womanly habit. Nice men dont do it any longer” (Shaw 1819). This is an interesting quote because of Frank’s wording. He uses “nasty” and “womanly habit”. The word nasty is used to mean gross, but nasty just sounds more harsh. Along with that, implying that it’s a “womanly habit” makes him seem like he is against Vivie with her new woman image and habits. Also, when he says “nice men dont do it any longer”, he is implying that the only people who smoke are women and scummy men. When looking into this, it seems as though Frank is completely against Vivie and the way she is choosing to live her life at the time. He is trying to bring her down by using a word such as nasty and then saying that nice men don’t smoke anymore is intended to be a low blow. The best part is that Vivie smokes in front of him anyway.
Another aspect of “The New Woman” ideal was not wanting to get married because of the fear of not finding equality in a relationship and then marriage could also mean that they would have to give up their work and essentially their independence. Vivie was having a conversation Frank and Mr. Praed and she was getting frustrated with the fact that Frank wanted Vivie to be his wife and Praed wanted Vivie to travel the world with him to enjoy art and the beauty of the world. Vivie says, “…But there are two subjects I want dropped, if you dont mind. One of them [To FRANK] is love’s young dream in any shape or form; the other [To PRAED] is the romance and beauty of life… If we three are to remain friends, I must be treated as a woman of business, permanently single [To FRANK] and permanently unromantic. [To PRAED]” (Shaw 1822). This quote is interesting to look at because Vivie is addressing both Frank and Mr. Praed saying that she doesn’t want what they want for her. When looking at this, it is interesting how she uses “love’s young dream”. Vivie most likely says this because growing up most girls would dream of falling in love and Viv just doesn’t feel that way at all. She also talks about “the romance and beauty of life”. To her, she is talking about art and traveling to different cities. Vivie is so focused on work that she doesn’t want to be in a relationship and she doesn’t want to take time off of work to see other places and to look at art. She also wants to be treats as “a woman of business”. This shows how focused she is on her work and her dedication to work. Vivie also says she will be “permanently single” and “permanently unromantic”. She is sticking with her ways of depending on herself and only herself. This quote supports the New Woman because these women in particular did not want to be married and instead of traveling and seeing the world, they wanted to focus on themselves. Vivie is essentially isolating herself so she can be an independent woman.
Being independent was one of the main reasons why “The New Woman” was so important. Women were finally doing things for themselves and didn’t want to be supported by a man or their families. Vivie, when talking to her mother towards the end of the act, decides to give her mother her money back. She says, “Its my month’s allowance. They sent it to me as usual the other day. I simply sent it back to be placed to your credit, and asked them to send you the lodgment receipt. In future I shall support myself” (Shaw 1826). In this quote, Vivie is returning her mother’s money because she doesn’t want to be dependent on her, or her business anymore. It’s interesting how she has an “allowance” seeing she has been through college but her mother still seems to give her money. Viv saying “I shall support myself” really shows how set in her ways of being an independent woman she is. She is working and making money for herself so she doesn’t need anyone else to give money to her. This goes along with the New Woman because she is striving to be independent and she literally cuts ties with her mother and her mother’s money in order to do so.
Lastly, the entire “New Woman” ideal was to stray away from the societal norms of women and what had been expected of them up until this point. Vivie is talking with Frank and Mr. Praed about her mother and her business and why she is doing what she is. Vivie says, “…There is nothing I despise more than the wicked convention that protects these things by forbidding a woman to mention them” (Shaw 1823). The words “wicked convention” really stand out. Using these two words together is interesting because wicked means morally wrong or evil while convention means the way something is usually done. Viv is pretty much saying here that she hated how things that are morally wrong but are usually done are things that women cannot talk about here. Here, she is referring to her mother’s prostitution business. During the Victorian Period, sex and prostitution was not something that was talked about because of their prudish behavior. Because of this, Vivie cannot tell people why she is becoming so independent so quickly, but she also hates the fact that she cannot say what she is feeling. Eventually she writes out what she wants to say but Vivie’s goal throughout this play is to break thought the societal norms for women and create her own path.
Overall, Vivie is exactly how “The New Woman” is suppose to be. She smokes, has a higher education, doesn’t believe in marriage or romantic things, she is striving for independence, and she is going against the societal norms. This mentality was a new way of thinking for all women because before this time, getting married and being a mother was really the only option women had. Now, with high education being available to women, they could go and get an education and get a successful job and support themselves. Being independent from men was a huge step for women but it lead the way to so many successes for women not only then, but now as well. Thank you, Vivie, for inspiring women for so many centuries.
Here’s a video talking about “The New Woman”.
Greenblatt, Stephen, and Meyer H. Abrams. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Ninth ed., E, Norton, 2012.
Eine, Victoria, et al., directors. The Fallen Women and The New Woman. YouTube, YouTube, 9 June 2015, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LVHTwfHAGSQ.
Here’s the link to my Sway compilation of tweets for the Victorian Period. Happy Studying!