Even as a subject to the limiting forces of Victorian social mores, Christina Rosettes established herself as one of the pre-eminent female poets of her time. Replete with biblical allusions to Adam and Eve as well as commentary on gender roles, her poem “Goblin Market” is her crowning representation of the presence of social contracts in Victorian England.
Rosettes Juxtaposes content and form by creating a fairytale-Like poem in terms of its rhyming and singsongs nature “Crab-apples, dewberries, / Pine-apples, blackberries, / Apricots, strawberries;-? / All ripe together” while also rafting a sophisticated text that carefully comments upon the nature of feminine identity and sexuality during the period (12-15). The goblins she portrays serve to illustrate the male dominance and influence that many females were bound to during the time.
The two sister’s Interactions with these goblin men combined with allusions to the original temptation, enlighten the reader to the existence of repressed sexual desires. In its acknowledgment of the male-dominated societal nature of Victorian England and a feminine sexual appetite, “Goblin Market” provides subtly feminist text in a time when social contracts insisted on creating boundaries for women in the literary realm. The notion of sexual temptation presented In the story of Adam and Eve Is matched here in “Goblin Market” in almost the exact same fashion.
The two sisters, Laura and Leslie are well aware of the negative consequences that come with a relationship to the goblin men “Their offers should not charm us, / their evil gifts would harm us” (65-66). However, despite her awareness of the dangers the goblins present, Laura chooses to indulge her desires. Notwithstanding, this is where she ND Eve differ: Although they both knew of the potential harm they could inflict upon themselves, Eve gave into the whims of male influence while Laura pro-actively chose to sate herself, presenting a strong feminine character and a renunciation of male dominated social contracts.
This Is supported by a reading that portrays the presence of sexual desires in Laura throughout the text, not Just when temptation is presented to her like Eve “With clasping arms and cautioning lips, / with tingling cheeks and finger tips” (38-39). These lines depict a natural response to sexual arousal, illuminating the idea that the inclination towards sex was always present within Laura and her sister. As the poem progresses, Laurel’s emerging sexuality follows suit. Lezzy makes It clear that Laura “should not peep at goblin men,” but the more she peeps the more her curiosity and appetite grow (49). How fair the vine must grow / whose grapes are so luscious; / How warm the wind must blow, / through those fruit bushes” (60-63). Ignoring her sister’s heeding, Laura yearns to know what makes the fruit so attractive and she will not be denied. Like the goblins she describes, she becomes less of a human and more of a sensual animal. One of a lustful. Carnal nature, “When Its last restraint is gone” (86). At this point Laura has completely unrepressed her sexuality restraints of social contracts.
Laurel’s independent and overtly feminine nature is further supported in her acceptance of the fruit as it is contrasted with Eve’s. Upon finally meeting the goblins they announce, “come buy, come buy” and Laura fully realizes her desires when she “Longed but had no money” (106). In the case of Eve, she only took a bite of the fruit after being carefully coaxed by the serpent. However, in the case of Laura, her behavior here is not a simple surrender to temptation but an aware and informed decision to satiate her carnal lust.
Furthermore, Eve’s reluctant bite is strongly outweighed by the way in which Laura Joyously devours the goblins fruit “She sucked and sucked and sucked the more, / fruits which that unknown orchard bore; / She sucked until her lips were sore” (134-136). Not only is the fruit characterized as “sweeter than honey from the rock” and “stronger than man-rejoicing wine” but the ay in which Laura enjoys the process of eating it is incredibly sexual, furthering her empowered femininity (129-130).
At this Juncture, Eve and Laurel’s narratives begin to diverge. Fortified by the fact that her desires were not prompted by an outside force but instead a product of her own accord, Laura craves more of the fruit while Eve was simply cast out of Eden for having disobeyed God. This divergence is especially revealing towards the feminine sexuality Rosettes wished to express as it could not be quelled and that women were just as wanting to indulge their desires as the men.
But after nourishing her own wants, Laura begins to deteriorate, especially when she realizes that she can no longer access the fruits or even hear the goblins cry. “Her hair grew thin and grey; / she dwindled, as the fair full moon doth turn / to swift decay and burn / her fire away,” but the goblin men remain unscathed (277-280). This idea is particularly telling to the nature of the male dominated social contracts that were established in the Victorian era although the desires of the two sexes are similar, the entertainment of them have starkly different conditions and consequences.
Laurel’s health continues to decline until she is on the brink of death, necessarily calling Leslie to action: “Till Laura dwindling seemed knocking at Death’s door: Then Leslie weighed no more better and worse; but put a silver penny in her purse, kissed Laura, cross’s the heath with clumps of furze, at twilight, halted by the brook: And for the first time in her life began to listen and look” (32()-328). Disregarding her knowledge of the goblin’s dangerous ways, Leslie set out to save her sister, promoting the prospect of feminine capability and identity by completing a rave rescue normally reserved for a chivalrous man.
But it is in her interactions with the goblins that the male influenced social contracts are perpetuated. When the goblins become aware of her intentions to bring the fruit to her sister they become offended as her presence among them is not concurrent with their desires but “They began to scratch their pates, no longer wagging, purring, but visibly demurring, grunting and snarling. One called her proud, cross-grain’s, uncivil; Their tones ward loud, their looks were evil. Plagued by their anger, the goblins commence in what is seemingly a rape of Leslie s they “Tore her gown and soil’s her stocking, / twitched her hair out by the roots, / stamp’s upon her tender feet, / held her hands and squeezed their fruits / against her mouth to make her eat” (403-407). When she finally escapes from the goblins, Leslie hurries home to save her sister Laura and they enact perhaps the most sexually intriguing scene of the poem as she commands her sister to “Eat me, drink me, love me; / Laura, make much of me; / For your sake I have braved the glen / and had to do with goblin merchant men” (471-474).
As Laura eats the Juice off of her sister she lowly begins to return to health. Not only is this instance expressive of feminine sexuality but it also occurs under their own unanimity, empowering them to acquire an ending they both desire, not one that was presented for them by male social contracts. Although Laura was punished for indulging her desires, Rosettes promotes the concept that women can act upon their sexuality without immediately becoming fallen like Eve or being forced to endure a consequence beyond repair. This idea seems to encourage a more modern reading of Laurel’s desires.
Even today there are offering consequences for the behavior, particularly sexual, of men and women. These double standards can be discriminatory but being mocked as a “slut” does not truly compare to the punishments incurred on Eve or even Laura, who nearly died as a result of her self-expression. After Laurel’s recovery the poem moves forward “Days, weeks, months, years / afterwards, when both were wives / with children of their own; / Their mother-hearts beset with fears, / their lives bound up in tender lives” (543-547).
Despite their perceived societal wrongdoings, the sisters are still able to choose their futures. Even though they have returned to the societal normative construct of a husband and wife relationship, they still acknowledge the fact that: “there is no friend like a sister, in calm or stormy weather; To cheer one on the tedious way, to fetch one if one goes astray, to lift one if one totters down, to strengthen whilst one stands. ” (562-567) This ending promotes a sense of feminine identity as well as a feminine sexuality not bound to societal constraints or social contracts in that it is decided by and for the individual woman. The poem “Goblin Market” by Christina Rosettes serves as an insightful look into he societal construction of Victorian England. She effectively creates a modern day social contracts of the time as well as the positive existence of a feminine identity and sexuality.
By comparing and contrasting Laura to Eve of the Garden of Eden, Rosettes is able to voice the complaints of an immeasurable amount of women whose biologically-driven sexual desires are treated as worse than socially immoral but as representing a “fallen,” disreputable self. All the while the men of the society are not subject to the same standards, which allows them to perpetuate these contracts. However, Rosettes moves away from Eve’s narrative as she presents Laura not as remorseful for having eaten the fruit but remorseful for her inability to acquire more.
This presents Laura as self-discerning, as an independent woman who can choose how, when, and where to indulge her needs a concept that was very controversial at the time. Moving away from Victorian customs, Rosettes does not end the story with Laurel’s death, she ends with her recovery and movement to happiness with her sister, qualifying the entire significance of the poem in that if a woman falls, she can get right back up.