A New Kind Of Woman In Christina Rossetti’s “Goblin Market”

2117 words - 8 pages

In Paradise Lost, Milton puts forth the idea that an innate difference exists between man and woman, claiming “For contemplation he and valor formed, / For softness she and sweet attractive grace; / He for God only, she for God in him” (Paradise Lost IV.296-298). For centuries, these three lines have been the topic of debate among poets and writers from every literary genre. Some have declared Milton to be an early chauvinist, criticizing him for supporting the notion that women should have no functional purpose within society, while others have maintained that the famous three lines prove him to be an advocate for women’s rights, asserting that Milton was disparaging this kind of attitude toward women, not condoning it. A similar issue is presented in Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market. While her poem can be interpreted as a critique of woman’s role in society, it is difficult to decipher whether her critique supports the idea presented in Paradise Lost that women should have no purpose other than to love, serve, and submit to their husbands, or if Rossetti is using the metaphors within the poem to condemn those who believe women should be confined to such an obscure part. Rossetti uses ambiguous symbolism and flawed religious allegories in Goblin Market hat open the poem up to numerous interpretations, causing readers to puzzle over what message Rossetti is actually trying to communicate. This paper will explore the ambiguity of Goblin Market and attempt to determine what Rossetti is saying about feminism through it by examining the significance of the biblical allegories and symbolism she uses.
The beginning of the poem introduces the reader to two sisters, Laura and Lizzie, who are being tempted by goblin men to buy the luscious fruit which “[m]en sell not such in any town” (Goblin Market 554). Laura initially acknowledges to her sister Lizzie that “[they] must not look at goblin men” (42), knowing that “their evil gifts would harm [them]” (66). However, it is not long before Laura is overcome with curiosity about the strange creatures that “[tramp] [d]own the glen” (55) and gives in to their “sugar-baited words” (234) urging her to “come buy” their enchanted wares. Lizzie knew the danger of giving in to the temptation and “thrust a dimpled finger / In each ear, shut eyes and ran” (67-68). Once Laura has indulged herself in the “fruit globes (. . .) [that were] Sweeter than honey from the rock” (128-129), she returns home and tells Lizzie of her succulent feast.
There exists within the first few pages of the poem an unmistakable allusion to the story of Adam and Eve’s fall from Eden . It is no surprise to find a reference to the story of Adam and Eve in a poem that can easily be read as a criticism of the social oppression of women. As evidenced by the lines taken from Paradise Lost, it is common for writers to focus on the relationship between Adam and Eve when discussing where women fall within the social hierarchy. Rossetti’s...

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