Should Christina Rossetti be at the table?

epeck's picture

Originally, I saw Goblin Market as being about the dangers of “strange men,” but by looking at commonalities in the interpretations offered by other critics, I can see that Goblin Market lends itself to a wide range of interpretation.  The common thread seems to be that the goblins must represent something forbidden that young women could fall prey to (drugs, sex, food, consumerism…etc…).  The real point of importance to me is what all of these interpretations could say about women and sisterhood.  Regardless of what the temptation is, the roles given to women are both one who falls victim to temptation, and one who selflessly rescues a weaker victim.  On one hand, it seems very feminist to have a heroine who does not need the help of a man.  On the other hand, it seems that everyone who falls victim to temptation in the world of Goblin Market has been a woman, the only reference to past victims was also a woman and there is no significant mention of human men.  What would have happened in the poem if a father, brother, or other male figure was present?  While a female helping another female seems very feminist, a temptation that only corrupts women seems strange and could be promoting women as the “weaker sex.”  I am still not sure whether Christina Rossetti deserves a seat at the table – although she promotes independence and sisterhood, the sisterhood came at great expense and does not seem to exist in a broader world that includes men. 

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dchin's picture

Does Christina Rossetti deserve a seat at the table?

The question of whether Christina Rossetti deserves a seat at the table, for me, invokes the question of why she chose to write "Goblin Market" as a poem so similar to a nursery rhyme. The rhyming and fairytale-like qualities of the poem initially made me think it was for children, but the troubling content in the plot would clearly dispute this. Who then, was the audience for Rossetti's poem? Young girls, to whom it would serve as a warning? Adult women, for whom it might paint a picture of their circumstances? Or, did Rossetti intend her audience to include men, for whom the poem might raise awareness or highlight the ways in which femininity and maidenhood were tied? Finally, if Rossetti did have specific motives for writing "Goblin Market" as a poem, was it because in this form the content was slightly more palatable, or did her position as a female writer have any bearing?

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