Term Paper: Goblin Market - Christina Georgina Rossetti Literature

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Goblin Market - Christina Georgina Rossetti

Literature can be read on several different levels. Some people read poetry or prose for sheer enjoyment or intellectual/emotional enhancement. Others analyze the characters or relate the theme to their own lives or other works they have read. Another method is a close reading, which is a more subtle and complex process that entails reading and understanding the meaning of the literary piece and also looking at linguistic nuances and connotations. A close reading of the poem "Goblin Market" by Christina Georgina Rossetti shows a use of myriad poetic devices and imagery that detail a sensual tale of forbidden fruit.

A brief overview of Rossetti's life is helpful for the best close reading of "Goblin Market." Born in 1830, Rossetti was close enough to her Church of England Christian beliefs that she ended one engagement because her fiancee converted to Catholicism and another relationship because the man "was not a Christian" (Victorian Web). In his critique of Rossetti on the Victorian Web, Glenn Everett stated that Rossetti's religious scruples remind one of Dorothea Brooke in George Eliot's Middlemarch. Similar to how Eliot's heroine gave up riding because she enjoyed it so much, Rossetti stopped playiing chess since she enjoyed winning. She also pasted paper strips over the antireligious parts of Swinburne's Atalanta in Calydon, which allowed her to thoroughly enjoy the poem; objected to nudity in painting, especially with women artists; and refused to see Wagner's Parsifal, because it celebrated a pagan mythology. Yet she vicariously lived through other people's lives as she lived home with various chronic illnesses.

"Goblin Market" is about two sisters who are afraid of being lured by the goblins to taste the forbidden fruit. After succumbing to the goblin brothers' fruit, Laura describes the pleasures of the forbidden delicacies to her sister Lizzie, who has resisted the temptation. A close reading of line one to 86, an example of the poem in its entirety, clearly reveals how Rossetti uses numerous poetic devices to convey sensuality and human senses. These include rhyme, "Maids heard the goblins cry:

Come buy our orchard fruits/Come buy, come buy" (lns. 1-3); alliteration, "Pomegranates full and fine" (ln. 21); imagery, "Bright-fire-like barberries" (ln. 27); simile, "Like a rush-imbedded swan" (ln. 82); repetition, "Like a rush-imbedded swan/Like a lily from the beck" (lns 82-83); point-of-view, "Oh,' cried Lizzie, 'Laura, Laura,'/You should not peep at goblin men" (lns. 82-83); echo, "Come buy our orchard fruits/Come buy, come buy" (lns. 2-3); hyperbole, "One had a cat's face/One whisk'd a tail" (lns. 71-72); and, of course, symbolism.

With the use of many different poetic devices, Rossetti conveys an extremely corporeal poem that includes all the human senses. For example, the poem has very detailed descriptions of taste, such as the figs to fill your mouth (ln. 28) and Citrons from the South that are sweet to the tongue...(ln. 29-30). The poem is extremely visual, because it mentions fruits that the reader associates with vibrant colors. In addition are lines including "Bright-fire-like barberries" (ln. 27) and lines that say that the women should "not look" because they could be charmed by what they see including, "You should not peep at goblin men/Lizzie cover'd up her eyes/Cover'd close lest they should look" (lns. 49-51).

Similarly, the sense of hearing is depicted by such lines as the cry of the goblin (ln. 2): "With their shrill repeated cry / Come buy, come buy" (lns. 79-80) and voice of doves and "Cooing all together / They sounded kind and full of loves..." (lns. 78-79). The poem also ncludes the sense of touch and feeling, such as "With clasping arms and cautioning lips / With tingling cheeks and finger tips" (lns. 38-39). Finally, there are the different smells and aromas of the ripe fruit come across throughout the poem which are referred to.

The poem also elicits different emotional feelings. There is the excitement of hearing the goblins' call. However this is coupled with such other feelings as fear, anticipation, and guilt. There is an emotional give-and-take as the women are drawn toward the goblins' cries and then break away when realizing what is happening. There is also the greater magnetism of Laura and the warnings of Lizzie, who is better able to resist the temptations.

Going deeper into this poem based on Rossetti's background is her own approach/avoidance with men. She fell in love with men, but then backed out because of her Christian beliefs. This is the same problem that kept her from enjoying life too much, reading taboo subjects or recognizing that women could paint nude people. She had one side of her that was austere and religious and another side that was attracted to men and banned activities. She was even said to have fallen in love with a man who did not return her feelings. As Everett noted, Rossetti also lived vicariously through other people's activities. She did not allow herself to enjoy these things, but would relish when someone else did. This was similar in the poem as the one sister listened to the experiences of the other.

Finally, this sensual feel to the poem even delves into the sexual area. The two "maidens" or virgins are being lured by the men to taste the elicit fruit that they never had before. They are being enticed by their differing sexual appetites. There are different types of men with whom they can meet, different fruits that they can eat. Ironically, although Freud was just born at this time so could not have had an impact on Rossetti, she uses sexual images such as rushing water and fruits that are always considered female.

Sexual repression was indicative of the Victorian Era, although ironically this may have been one of the most promiscuous periods. Girls were raised to be sexually innocent and ignorant and under the protection of their parents' strict home. When married, the woman became a possession of her husband and was not allowed to have many outside interests other than the most refined. The majority of her time was to be spent on being a wife and mother. Her societal status was completely dependent on the economic status first of her father and then her husband

Thus, the two women in this poem are being torn between the way they should behave or are governed to behave by their society and the temptations of undergoing a change and breaking away from the traditional dictates. As the poem ends, one sister saves the other from this decadency at risk of her own well-being. Thus the goblins do not take another soul and fruit will never taste as sweet.

References

Goblin Market" Christina Georgina Rossetti. 2005. Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto. 28 May, 2007. http://rpo.library.utoronto.ca/poem/1753.html

Victorian Web. Christina Rossetti. 27 May 2007. http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/crossetti/rossettibio.html

Morning and evening

Maids heard the goblins cry:

3"Come buy our orchard fruits, 4 Come buy, come buy:

Apples and quinces, 6 Lemons and oranges, 7 Plump unpeck'd cherries, 8 Melons and raspberries, 9 Bloom-down-cheek'd peaches, 10 Swart-headed mulberries, 11 Wild free-born cranberries, 12 Crab-apples, dewberries, 13 Pine-apples, blackberries, 14 Apricots, strawberries;

All ripe together

In summer weather,

Morns that pass by, 18 Fair eves that fly;

Come buy, come buy:

Our grapes fresh from the vine, 21 Pomegranates full and fine, 22 Dates and sharp bullaces, 23 Rare pears and greengages, 24 Damsons and bilberries, 25 Taste them and try:

Currants and gooseberries, 27 Bright-fire-like barberries, 28 Figs to fill your mouth, 29 Citrons from the South, 30 Sweet to tongue and sound to eye;

Come buy, come buy."

Evening by evening

Among the brookside rushes, 34 Laura bow'd her head to hear, 35 Lizzie veil'd her blushes:

Crouching close together

In the cooling weather, 38 With clasping arms and cautioning… [END OF PREVIEW]

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