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The “Woman Question” is one of the most important issues of the 19th century. Women were subjected to the will of men, they were supposed to be the “angels of the house”, to be calm, wise, protective, to be the conscience of men, who were supposed to have the effective power over them. Women were thought to be intellectually inferior, even though they got an education it was just for the sake of the household because they could not work, female jobs did not exist. As a consequence they had no income, this fact making them totally dependent on men. Most of them believed that their condition was decided by God and that it was therefore irreversible. Even Queen Victoria, writing to her recently married daughter, was aware of the state of women during her century: “ … still men are very selfish and the woman’s devotion is always one of submission which makes our poor sex so very unenviable. This you will feel hereafter – I know; though it cannot be otherwise as God has willed it so” (1581). Women had to repress their natural desires and there was absolutely no freedom of expression of any kind for them. The issues of repressed desires and of lack of freedom are exactly what Christina Rossetti’s poem “Goblin Market” tries to deal with. During the 19th century women were not supposed to have desires, and according to Escobar, “Goblin Market” supplants this Victorian truth, showing that women had those desires and that they were susceptible to them: “Rossetti’s work undercut the domestic ideology of middle and upper-class Victorians, and functions to subvert both the patriarchal values that governed Victorian England and their extension in industrialism and capitalism.” (131)
impulsive woman. not a forced slave but a willing one. They have therefore put everything in practice to enslave their minds. The demon-like goblins consider Laura attractive and call her every day and at the end she gains the longed pleasure from them. she cannot resist anymore and frees herself from the bounds of convention. The author presents two apparent extremes of a woman’s character. After that moment they do not call her anymore. but after a close reading of the text the reader discovers that even Lizzie betrays little signs of her natural desire and attraction to the goblins and their fruits: “Laura bowed her head to hear. who tries to repress her desire and to dissuade her sister from falling into the goblins’ trap. The goblins can be interpreted as symbols of men. except the most brutish.” (1063). All men. not a slave merely. who longs for freedom and listens to her interior desires and Lizzie. but it is Laura that exposes herself. The goblins had the control of her mind just before the she ate the fruits.The poem represents two sisters who are two sides of a woman’s character: Laura. Lizzie was willing and desired to eat the fruits and she literally became mad after having eaten them. they want their sentiments. The philosopher writes: “Men do not want solely the obedience of women. listens to her instinct and goes against convention accepting the invitation of the goblins to eat their fruit. in the woman most nearly connected with them. and John Stuart Mill explains this kind of power clearly in his essay “The Subjection of Women”. maybe . an unconventional. They call and call until Laura gives up. Desire is present in Lizzie. maybe strangers selling goods in the markets of the 19th century. during her action of eating and the consequences are extended also in the future. but a favorite. desire to have. eating the prohibited fruit and reminding very much Eve’s original sin. when she is unable to hear their voices and to eat their fruits. The goblins as symbols of men have a kind of seductive power on her mind already from the beginning of her adventure./Lizzie veiled her blushes” (34-35).
” (1063) : this is exactly what Laura experiences at her own expense and what Lizzie experiences too. secondly. Mill discusses this peculiar womanly situation in the following way: “When we put together three things – first. Mill sustains that “… women are brought up from the very earliest years in the belief that their ideal of character is the very opposite of that of men. because in paying the goblins with one of her curls – the only “money she possesses – she pours a tear. kneaded caked of wheat. Laura knows exactly what will happen after having eaten the prohibited fruits. She gives up all her conventional duties. but submission and yielding to the control of others. Laura “…no more swept the house. / Tended the fowls or cows. maybe because they just wanted to enslave her mind in some way and then leave her alone.” (293-298). that the principal object of human pursuit. but wants to repress it in order to be able to remain protected by social conventions.because they do not find her attractive. can in general be sought or obtained by her only through him. Hairs are typically women’s symbols for femininity and Laura sacrifices her femininity to the goblins that will exploit it and after having done that. / Brought water from the brook: / But sat down listless in the chimney-nook / And would not eat. they will leave her without notice. not self-will. In his essay. and government by self-control. / Fetched honey. suffering and fading away. the natural attraction between opposite sexes. and lastly. and all objects of social ambition. the wife’s entire dependence on the husband. consideration.” (1064) The goblins are the ones who can give Laura pleasure. At the moment they do not want her anymore. she is dependant on them in any sense. every privilege or pleasure she has being either his gift. she is no more the . or depending entirely on his will. it would be a miracle if the object of being attractive to men had not become the polar star of feminine education and formation of character. when they are not interested in her anymore she is just left falling.
. a “masculine woman” (146). were supposed to be peculiar of men. it is the depression caused by continually repressed desires and by the lack of freedom. She is helped by Lizzie that cannot stand still and see her fading away. because she cannot hear the voices of the goblins anymore and Lizzie suffers with her because her loved sister has left all the securities that conventional lifestyle could give her in order to follow her desire.classical “angel of the house” and she is depressed. She is strong and refuses the goblin’s temptations and even when they insult her – they clearly feel their pride offended.” (132) In this poem there are two woman suffering at the same time: Laura. Furthermore. Christina Rossetti and her character Lizzie know how Laura feels: it is a feeling that just a 19th century woman can understand. but never had the courage to carry out the same action. Lizzie never blames Laura for what she has done: maybe it is exactly what she wanted to do too. women suffered a lot if they failed in reflecting those images of the “angels of the household”: “… Victorian women suffered terribly if they failed in this sacred duty while those who upheld the feminine virtues were warned against tainting themselves with the sin of a fallen sister. She possess strength of mind and body. during the 19th century. according to Escoban. . According to Escobar. In Escoban’s article. Laura is not left alone in her suffering. she suffers more and more day by day./ Like a rock of blue-veined stone / Lashed by tides obstreperously” (408-411). the author writes of the redemption and restoration of a woman who succumbed her desires (135). like men probably felt if refused by women – she “…stood / Like a lily in a flood. all qualities that. The realistic description of Laura’s sufferings arises in the poem from this deep understanding and Lizzie’s act of courage makes her appear like. by the subjection of women to men and by their impossibility to handle their lives as they wanted to.
. but Laura is able to tell her children what happened to her and her sister remembering “Those pleasant days long gone / Of not-returning time:” (550-551).from what Mill describes as a logic of power that forces somebody to do something that this person does not voluntarily want to do (1070).Courageous Lizzie frees her sister – and other part of herself . It is a pleasant remembrance after all and precisely because of that Laura will be able to warn her children effectively of the consequences of succumbing to desire. they are married and have children. At the end of the poem the two women succumb the laws of convention.
5 (1-2): 129-54. New York: W. Ed. 1070. 13 October 2010.W. Norton & Company. “Goblin Market”. “Female Saint. Abrams and Stephen Greenblatt. . M. Ed.W.W. 1474. Rossetti. Abrams and Stephen Greenblatt. Web. M. Mill. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. “The Subjection of Women. Abrams and Stephen Greenblatt. 1466. John Stuart. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Norton & Company. 2006. Norton & Company. 1581. New York: W.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Kirsten E. 1472.Works cited Escobar. Female Prodigal: Christina Rossetti’s “Goblin Market”” Religion and the Arts 2001. M. 1477 “The Women Question”. MLA International Bibliography.H.H. 1061. 2006. New York: W. Ed. Christina.H. 1063-1064.
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