Tuesday, January 18, 2011


So, when we last left the sisters of Goblin Market, Laura was cut off from the goblin fruit-sellers. She begins to waste away just like Jeanie, the girl in the story Lizzie told. Lizzie watches her sister's declining health with fear, and finally makes a decision:
"Till Laura dwindling
Seemed knocking at Death's door:
Then Lizzie weighed no more
Better and worse;
But put a silver penny in her purse,
Kissed Laura, crossed the heath with clump of furze
At twilight, halted by the brook:
And for the first time in her life
Began to listen and look" (33).
Lizzie previously had always covered her eyes and plugged up her ears, ignoring the sight and sounds of the goblin men and their cries. Now, she's seeking them out, opening her awareness, as it were, to temptation. The goblins cackle at the sight of her and scurry up: "Hugged and kissed her:/Squeezed and caressed her:/Stretched up their dishes,/Panniers and plates" (36). Lizzie tries to buy fruit in bulk to take back to Laura, but the goblins urge her to stay and eat with them. Lizzie stands her ground, though:
"'Thank you," said Lizzie: "But one waits
At home alone for me:
So without further parleying,
If you will not sell me any
Of your fruits though much and many,
Give me back my silver penny
I tossed you for a fee."--(39-40)
The goblins react badly; they drop their charming airs and snarl at her. They attack her, "Held her hands and squeezed their fruits/Against her mouth to make her eat" (42) in a scene that rings clearly of rape, with Lizzie "Like a royal virgin town/Topped with gilded dome and spire/Close beleaguered by a fleet/Mad to tug her standard down" (43). Despite it all, Lizzie keeps her mouth closed, "But laughed in heart to feel the drip/Of juice that syrupped all her face" (44). The semen imagery is clear, but Lizzie sustains herself throughout the attack and is not penetrated by the fruit or juices. Eventually, the goblins disappear and Lizzie hurries home.

When she gets there, she offers herself, covered in pulp and juice, to Laura: "Hug me, kiss me, suck my juices/Squeezed from goblin fruits for you" (49). Laura leaps up and kisses her sister for her perceived sacrifice and tastes again the goblin fruit.
"Her lips began to scorch,
That juice was wormwood to her tongue,
She loathed the feast:
Writhing as one possessed she leaped and sung,
Rent all her robe, and wrung
Her hands in lamentable haste,
And beat her breast" (51).
She's consumed entirely by the fruit again ("Ah! fool, to choose such part/Of soul-consuming care!" 52), her senses fail her and she collapses: "Pleasure past and anguish past,/Is it death or is it life?/Life out of death" (53). Lizzie keeps watch over her through the night, and when dawn breaks, Laura wakes and is as she was before she ate the goblin fruit. The last stanza is an epilogue in which Laura tells her children of her ordeal, and how her sister's virtue saved her.


Goblin Market is surprisingly explicit in its erotic imagery, what with all the sucking and the fire in breasts and everything. Rossetti depicts sexual desire as something evil, something which possesses and consumes a person, which makes sense in the context of Victorian morality and Rossetti's Anglican upbringing. The same flame that Oliver Mellors and Connie Chatterley embrace as a symbol of their love tears Laura apart. Despite its graphic description, this is all in all a more typical message of sexuality, more along the lines of what we expected from "classic" literature.


  1. Color me repulsed.

    Were there any male characters in this or are all men goblins?

  2. Nope. The only men in the poem were the goblins. Even at the end, there's no mention of the sisters' husbands.