I have to write a critical analysis of the Rossetti's poem, Goblin Market. I don't have a clue where to start and really need to score a good grade but haven't got a clue. Can anyone give me any advice on this please of which approach to take?
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Rossetti Goblin Market - Help please! watch
- Thread Starter
- 27-01-2010 18:50
- 27-10-2011 12:30
How does Rossetti tell the story in lines 320-420 of Goblin Market?
By Rosie May Bird Smith
Critics have analysed “Goblin Market” for many years and thus have accumulated many different interpretations. Even though Rossetti claims it was a mere children’s fairy story, it is hard for readers to miss the erotic imagery and sensual language that pervade the poem. “Goblin Market” is about two sisters, one of whom is enticed by Goblin calls, trades a lock of her hair and in return gorges upon the Goblin Fruit. However Laura falls ill and begins to waste away; thus Lizzie decides to go to the Goblins and purchase some more fruit in order to heal her ailing sister. The Goblin men turn violent when Lizzie refuses to “honour and eat” with them so they become progressively more brutal, “barking, mowing, hissing, mocking” and “held her hand and squeezed their fruits/Against her mouth to make her eat”. When Lizzie returns to the sanctity of the sister’s home, Laura kisses juice off her sister’s cheeks and is miraculously, but painfully, healed. Rossetti’s conclusive moral summarises the importance of sisterly love however many have read deeper into more controversial meanings. Many critics including Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar think “Goblin Market” is partly about the exclusion of women from the male dominated artistic world; however others believe eating the fruit is an extended metaphor for losing one’s virginity. Whilst various critics including Laura J Hartman are of the opinion that Laura’s experience at “Goblin Market” is similar to that of a drug addiction, this is a rational explanation and encompasses the concepts of hallucinations and withdrawal symptoms. One other possible interpretation is that of sin or transgression – is Laura a representation of Eve from the Garden of Eden, giving in to curiosity and desire and thus being punished by God, or society?
In lines 320-420 the rhyme scheme is more irregular than in the rest of the poem. Scattered throughout are frequent couplets and a general ABAB rhyme, however in this section there are more rhyming couplets interspersed and in some situations there are several lines in a row that rhyme. Rossetti changed the regularity of the rhyme scheme here in order to arouse a feeling of panick stricken emotion but also conjure the vitality and vigour of the lecherous Goblins. “Goblin Market” also employs an irregular metre and rhythm perhaps suggesting the sheer mixture of sensations that Lizzie embraces; it is possible that through this variation of tempo and beat Rossetti is implying Lizzie’s confusion; a passionate desire to rebel and taste the forbidden, enticing fruit constrained by sisterly love, sanctity and pride. In lines 391-393, three lines in a row rhyme – “No longer wagging, purring, / But visibly demurring, / Grunting and snarling” – the effect of this evidently quickens the tempo thus increasing the intensity and trepidation of the situation. If this scene does represent rape, it also aids Rossetti in portraying some men’s quick but voyeuristic characteristics. Additionally the consecutive rhyme of menacing adjectives imply that Lizzie is losing control and being overpowered by the Goblin Men, who are thus growing more and more spiteful and malevolent by the minute – this fabricates a worried but intrigued reader.
Similarly to the poem and line lengths, Rossetti’s stanzas are extremely long; one of the longest being from line 363-407. The effect of this is to present the reader with a detailed account of events and give the impression that we are watching a play rather than reading a poem. Such a lengthy poem gives the reader a chance to absorb intricate detail and become personally attached to the characters; thus influencing one to exhibit more pity for women who were trapped under men’s dominating trickery. Or perhaps the length of this stanza, in which Lizzie is abused, and the length of the poem, represents the unrelenting, extensive length of time for which men overshadowed women.
The chronology of this section is linear and accounts the time from when Lizzie decided to help her dying sister, finds the Goblin Men, describes their lewd mannerisms and is brutally attacked. The order of sequential events is crucial in order to keep the reader engaged and guessing as to what the fruit truthfully represents and how Laura will be redeemed. This section is mainly in the past tense to add to the sense of an ambiguous fairytale with conventional morals however there are numerous present tense adjectives listed – “Chuckling, clapping, crowing” which initiate a sense of urgency and bring the danger of trickery into reality for the reader.
There is no first person narrative in “Goblin Market”; instead Rossetti uses a third person omniscient narrator who generally describes Goblin Market objectively. However occasionally as the poem progresses the “passive” narrator will interject an adjective that suggests she is not so objective. For example she describes Lizzie “like a lily in a flood” and Laura’s silence as “sullen” (271). Towards the end of the poem the narrator actually breaks out and addresses Laura directly – “Ah fool, to chose such part/ Of soul consuming care!” Perhaps this echoes Rossetti’s highly religious, Anglo-Catholic views and condemns maidens who were so blindingly foolish to lose their virginity and give in to the temptation of sex outside of marriage.
In this section there are two settings. The first mentioned is the sister’s house, which too has deteriorated with Laura’s demise. The second is the market. Notice how the market is only available at twilight. This clever feature aids Rossetti in portraying the dangers and irrational desires than can come with darkness. Personally I think the use of twilight, half light half dark, highlights how only some are capable of seeing behind the masked promiscuity that is hidden in the night. Rossetti draws attention to the idea that only some women had the self pride and female dominance to see through the enticing, succulent fruit to the lecherous, sinister, self righteous Goblins beneath. Furthermore the fantasy world of the travelling “Goblin Market” appears a lot like an idyllic English countryside – with fresh flowers, cows to milk, brooks and meadows etc. I believe Rossetti included this setting of pastoral beauty to contrast sharply with the unnatural, foreign fruits and colours introduced by the Goblin Men. Is she suggesting that the introduction of capitalist merchant economies is shattering innocence and natural splendour or is she sympathising with women who had their purity stolen by callous men thieving women’s chastity?
The language used to describe the Goblin Men is deliberately animalistic; Rossetti makes use of adjectives that would be used to depict rats, crows, dogs and countless other undesirable animals. By doing this the reader hears more of the opinion of the omniscient narrator, blatantly Rossetti is comparing men to certain animals in the way they are carnal and almost bloodthirsty for sex and a woman’s virginity. Adjectives such as “crowing” conjure a vivid image of a tormenting screech and a pointed, viscous beak whilst “hissing” creates connotations of a vulgar, sly and cunning creature that discreetly slithers their way towards their own devious plans and desires. Another poignant line is “lashing their tales” – this arouses an image of the devil himself. Rossetti is comparing the Goblins, and thus her view on men, to a demon spirit who was feared and never spoke of in the highly religious Victorian society. Perhaps Rossetti viewed men as the wrongdoers of society and sex as a sin condemned by God.
Rossetti also makes use of countless repetition and alliterative phrases in this section. The repetition of “with us” in the lines “sit down and feats with us/ Be welcome guest with us/ Cheer you and rest with us” creates a chant like notion suggesting hypnosis and seductive allurement that absorbed most of the girls who went to the market. “With us” also depicts the Goblin Men as almost taunting Lizzie for being outnumbered and highlights how isolated and alone she was amongst the menacing Goblin Men – perhaps delineating the sheer vulnerability of women in the Victorian Male dominated society.
A poignant simile used when Rossetti describes Lizzie’s internal strength is “Like a fruit crowned orange tree/ Sore beset by wasp and bee”. Personally I think Rossetti is hinting at rape here by using the sexual imagery of a tree being pollinated by wasps and bees. Furthermore Rossetti could be suggesting the pain they are inflicting upon her by using animals that sting – whether this is stinging her pride or physically abusing her body. Flowers occur countless times in Rossetti’s poetry – more often than not Lilies. The simile “Like a lily in a flood” and the alliteration underscores the connection between Lizzie and fragile purity, opposed to the luscious, decadent, sensual Goblin fruit. By juxtaposing the “lily” with the “flood” Rossetti clearly portrays how delicate and vulnerable Lizzie was amongst the violent, malevolent Goblin Men.
In conclusion the narrative techniques used by Rossetti to tell the story in “Goblin Market” in the lines 320-420 are both subtle but effective. Her skilful use of rich, opulent language, succulent imagery and repetition ensure that the reader is constantly aware of the racy temptations in society and for me, hidden meanings that lurk behind every line in the poem. Rossetti’s use of dialogue, omniscient narrator and lengthy structure of the poem allow her to keep the reader hooked in an endless cycle of enticement that leaves one wondering how Rossetti’s ever avoided men and marriage. Whether Rossetti secretly included implications of sex, drugs, violence and female dominance or if it was simply a child’s fairytale, she was successful in telling the story in a way which influenced readers to revaluate their own position in society and consider whether men are as licentious as Rossetti may have implied.