Christina Rossetti’s poem, “Goblin Market,” offers a lesson regarding Christianity and provides the reader with a story about gender and sex during the Victorian period. Rossetti uses the characters within her poem to represent characters from the story of Adam and Eve, from the Book of Genesis, as well as to demonstrate how women and men were portrayed within Victorian society. With regards to Christianity, Rossetti demonstrates how human sin can occur as a result of omnipresent temptations, but because of the sacrifices of Christ, sin can be forgiven.
The views on gender and sex in Victorian culture both coincide and contradict the Christian moral lesson because both show how it is possible to find redemption, but the views on gender show how it is possible to lose worth as a result of not meeting Victorian standards.
Rossetti alludes to the story of Adam and Eve and draws parallels between the characters in her poem and the characters found in the Book of Genesis.
Laura represents Eve who is tempted by the fruit of the goblin men, and the goblin men represent the snake that tempts Eve.
As Rossetti lists the fruit that the goblins’ are selling, it resembles how many temptations there are for Laura. After Laura tastes the forbidden fruit, she cannot take back the sin that she committed until her sister rescues her. In this story, Laura’s sister, Lizzie, accepts being beaten to save her sister. In this case, Lizzie represents Christ and how he sacrifices himself to save the ones that have sinned.
Lizzie’s sacrifice for her sister comes from the pure love and friendship she shares with her sister and demonstrates how “There is no friend like a sister.”
Although the poem mimics the Christian moral lesson: that it is possible for redemption after one has sinned, it also shows that there are different views about regard and culture during the Victorian era. The correlation between temptation in the story of Adam and Eve, and the temptation that Laura gives into for the goblins’ fruit also represents lust that women have, which was unacceptable to act upon during Victorian times. Before Laura gave a lock of hair in exchange for the goblins’ fruit, she and her sister were innocent and virgins. By giving in to temptation, she gave to lust and she lost her virginity before marriage, which was unacceptable at the time. By having sex before marriage, Laura loses her maidenhood and has to suffer because of it. As her hair turns grey and she loses her youth, it shows how Laura is losing her worth in society because she is not meet Victorian standards.
Yet, as Lizzie allows the goblin men to beat her without tasting the juices of the fruit, she keeps her maidenhood and virginity and still can help her sister. Lizzie resists the forbidden fruit and temptation so her sister can regain her maidenhood and youth. By Lizzie allowing goblin men to beat her, Rossetti shows how important sisterhood and community are in Victorian society. The attachment between Lizzie and Laura also shows how no matter what, sisters are to stand by one another no matter what, and be each other’s rational mind “if one goes astray.”
Rossetti only uses “girls” and “goblin men” to describe the characters in the poem to demonstrate how Victorian culture portrayed the different genders. By using the term “girls,” Rossetti insinuates that females are to be treated as young, innocent humans that do not have lustrous thoughts, yet on the other hand, males are constantly trying to lure women into going against the Victorian standards and take away the females’ innocence and virginity. After Laura gives in to her temptation, she cannot hear the cries of the goblin men anymore because they have accomplished what they wanted and have moved on to corrupt another innocent girl.
In “Goblin Market,” Rossetti offers her readers a Christian moral lesson that redemption is possible even if one has sinned, and also demonstrates how the Victorian culture views gender roles as far from equal. In the Christian view, one can be forgiven for sin because of what Christ sacrificed, and in the Victorian culture, one can find his or her way through the help of others, but no matter what, the bond and love that comes with a sister, is powerful and cannot be broken.