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Rock Street, San Francisco
Rock Street, San Francisco

The definition of the word subversive means “in opposition to a civil authority or government” (Answers website 2009) and Christina Rossetti shows us how she does this in the poem Goblin Market in a lot of different ways. For a woman to be heard of in this era was hardly ever heard of in arts or literature. Her brother, Dante Gabriel Rossetti was widely known for his art collection and for the poems he wrote, and for been a member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. The art they produced had a lot of religious aspects mixed with modern day issues of the time.

Their art was true to nature, and very detailed. The women they painted all looked very similar; Christina Rossetti was one of the models for her brother, as well as his wife Elizabeth Siddall. A lot of the PRB art had this idea of sin and redemption, the women in the pictures can easily be seen as fallen women, and some are trying to redeem themselves; but none seem to be able to do this. In the Victorian era there were lots of prostitutes or fallen women but once they had fallen they were very unlikely to ever regain the respect they had previously.

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I think one of the main ideas that Christina Rossetti put across in her poem is that if a perfect god is willing to give us a second chance why is an imperfect society not willing with regard to fallen women. I think the poem Goblin Market has a lot of issues that Christina Rossetti was dealing with or had dealt with at the time it was written. Including love, how fallen women were treated, where she worked, her brother; and his treatment of his wife.

Some researchers have come up with the idea that the poem is about the market trade and industry at the time, with the fact that advertising for businesses had just come on to the scene. Stern 2003 and Tucker 2003 show us that in there essays. They believe that most intellects have read too much into the notion of Christianity and sisterhood. This idea of market trade or the idea that Laura got food poisoning is a more likely reason for her illness, but then why would it be seen as though the fruit cured her? Plus why was the money not accepted by the Goblins in lines 368-390.

therefore this reason it seems an unlikely stance that Rossetti’s poem was making remarks at the way the economy was with advertising and using jingles or with “ostensibly nutritious food”(Stern 2003). If this poem had anything to do with the economy and businesses it would be to say that men did not like women been involved in the business side of things, as this was shown when the Goblins did not accept Lizzie’s coin. This may be because Rossetti believed that most males believed that you could only do business with men, and the only business you do with women for money is when you pay for a prostitute.

Lizzie offering them the coin instead of them offering her something for her wares means she is turning the status around and as we see the Goblin men did not like that. I think one of the reasons why this poem seems subversive for its time is that Laura is eventually redeemed. Many people have linked her to Eve in the story of Genesis, in the fact that she is tempted by the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and is then classed as a fallen woman. Like Eve Laura is tempted by the fruits of the Goblin men.

Before she tastes the fruit, she is described as a “maid”, “swan” and “lily” all imagery of a virgin. After she has tasted the fruit she is not described as pure but as though she is a “leaping flame”. The words used whilst she tastes the fruit are very erotic: Then sucked their fruit globes fair or red: Sweeter than honey from the rock, Stronger than man-rejoicing wine, Clearer than water flowed that juice; She never tasted such before, How should it cloy with length of use? She sucked and sucked and sucked the more

Fruits which that unknown orchard bore, She sucked until her lips were sore; Lines 128-136 When the Goblins are describing the fruit that Laura eats lines 5-14 they are very aural and you find yourself making sexual indications with your tongue and lips. “The listing of the various fruits promises and provides pleasure, then, as the list is both framed with the phrase assuring consumer enjoyment (again, “Come buy”) and is itself visually alluring and poetically seductive” (Mendoza 2006).

Obviously Laura is not married to the Goblin men and by the language used; it suggests that Laura has had sex with the Goblin men. She went to the market with no money “to buy” these fruits, yet the goblins did not ask for her money but a lock of hair. Hair is a symbol of virginity, and by cutting a piece of hair off could mean in this situation that she has given her virginity away. Yet she does this willingly, they do not cut it off for her which could then be seen as rape like what they later try to do to Lizzie.

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