Comparing Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market and William Wordsworth’s The Thorn
On the surface, the poems “Goblin Market” by Christina Rossetti and “The Thorn” by William Wordsworth appear to be very different literary works. “Goblin Market” was written by a young woman in the Victorian period about two sisters who develop a special bond through the rescue of one sister by the other. “The Thorn” was written by the Romantic poet William Wordsworth about a middle-aged man and his experience overlooking a woman’s emotional breakdown. Material to understanding the works “Goblin Market” and “The Thorn” is recognizing the common underlying themes of sex and gender and how these themes affect perspective in both poems.
In Christina Rossetti’s “Goblin Market,” the main foci are on feminism and the oppression of women by men. The first part of Rossetti’s message is given through her thoughts on feminism, which is surely a major theme in this poem. For instance, the two main characters, Laura and Lizzie, reside free of any positive male interaction. Considering Rossetti’s background as part of Victorian society, the conclusion can be made that Rossetti longed for a place where she could be free of masculine overbearance. Even so, she understood the impossibility of any such personally ideal world. The poem illustrates this realization by including the Goblin men, who seem to haunt the female characters. The Goblin men’s low-pitched cries follow the girls. Laura and Lizzie constantly hear the goblins in the forest: “…Morning and evening / Maids heard the goblins cry…” (Rossetti, 1713.) Even while the characters were alone or in the exclusive presence of women, the presence of the Goblin men existed as reminders that the presence of men is socially necessary. Also illustrating Rossetti’s feminine ideal is the constancy of sisterhood between Laura and Lizzie. Lizzie is even somewhat Christ-like in her effort of self-sacrifice, in which she saves her sister’s soul from destruction by male evil-doers. Rossetti is communicating that women must save one another by self-sacrifice, much like Christ is said to have sacrificed himself for the Christians. In this way, Rossetti associates the male population with harm and destruction, much like Christian doctrine associates Satan with evil and harm. In this, Rossetti is enforcing the poem’s premise that women can only rely one another, especially when tricked by men.
The underlying theme of feminism is also illustrated by actions of maternal love displayed when Lizzie is caring for Laura’s body and soul. Lizzie is acting much as though she were Laura’s mother as she feeds and bathes Laura during her ‘sickness.’ By this, Rossetti reinforces the point that women look out for other women, and men cannot be relied upon. The point illustrated here is that men cannot be trusted to care for the women that they cause to be ‘ill.’ The poem concentrates on...