Two of Christina Rossetti's narrative poems, Goblin Market and The Prince's Progress, feature themes of women in love who appear betrayed — at a number of levels and with varying effects — by false ideals, false lovers, or what is in the background of betrayal by false ideals and false lovers: innocence; specifically, innocence as a deceptive ignorance to flexibility. The results of shortened expectations and heightened consciousness among Rossetti's victims of love vary greatly. Some become malicious. Others, like the bride in The Prince's Progress, die or are left confused by what amounts to the rape of their illusions. Yet some, like Laura in Goblin Market, ultimately benefit from their experiences and denial of illusions and earthly morals. They are led toward higher, more spiritual ideals of love and unconditional acceptance. By means of their suffering in love and their sacrifice to false ideals of love or pleasure, they are saved from the world.
The issue of betrayed expectations in love from is confronted in both The Prince’s Progress and Goblin Market. In both stories the topic of the power of temptation to entice man from the worthy and earnest work of life is common. In Goblin Market the temptations are both resisted and overcome; in The Prince’s Progress they succeed over the main characters. Also, in the case of Goblin Market the main temptations taking over Laura were sensory and in the end were equated with sexual pleasures. She allowed the goblin men to ravage and soil her with the juices of their fruits with the end objective as Lizzie breaking away from her spell. Only one of the two central temptations, lust, in The Prince's Progress prevents the understanding of the implied ideal that married bliss is not only customary, but sexual. The other, greed, ironically promises the continuation of an ideal married life. Both poems that depict betrayal and illusions about love essentially carry tones that reflect Rossetti's highly visual consciousness concerned with overcoming the certain betrayal of love's short-term pleasure or our high expectations of love shown by such pleasures and expectations being blindly expressed.
Goblin Market and The Prince's Progress also attack the tradition of the modern romance story. Not only do they both shun the hallmark custom in romances where love ideals are usually presented by male characters who seek satisfaction by marrying their chosen loves, but they also expose the crooked and socially dictated foundations that those false ideal stand upon. Furthermore, they demonstrate the ways women are perceived as objects or mere symbols of obedience by the male characteristics of romantic love that appears to worship women promote the sanctity and comforts of marriage. Therefore, these poems represent powerful social critiques of romantic ideals and values that began with its glorification of middle-class women as “angels of the household”, chaste, silent, and obedient.
An example of betrayed...