Dr. Eric Lee
22 November 2015
Decoding Adult Themes within a Children’s Tale
Although Christina Rosetti’s “Goblin Market” was originally published as a children’s poem in 1862, a close reading and critical research suggests more complex adult themes throughout the poem. Many interpretations have claimed that Goblin’s Market is simply another form of the well-known Adam and Eve story of Creation within the Bible. Other interpretations suggest that Goblin’s Market has strong feminist undertones possibly demonizing men and empowering women. Another plausible analysis of the poem suggests the content points to the dangers of addiction and the havoc it wreaks on one’s well-being. Because of the poem’s vagueness, many interpretations are reasonable and the text supports a variety of understandings. However, when considering the Victorian era and impact prostitution had on society regarding the ostracization and contempt of “fallen women”, it becomes apparent that Goblin Market could have also been written by Christina Rossetti to send a message encouraging other women that redemption is possible, regardless of the circumstances surrounding the sin committed. One could also take a reader’s response approach to the poem and suggest that an interpretation far beyond the scope of what has already been mentioned is appropriate, considering how personal circumstances will indeed play a role in how a piece of literature is interpreted.
The poem begins with a seemingly self-explanatory line, “Maids heard the goblins cry: ‘Come buy our orchard fruits/Come buy, come buy.’” What seems to be a rather unimportant line is significant because the old-fashioned definition of maid is “virgin.” This portrays both Lizzie and Laura as innocent, pure, virginal girls. The poem then turns to the description of the fruit for sale by the goblin men and is almost obsessive as it lists a plethora of fruits and their luscious qualities using sensuous imagery of “plump unpecked cherries” and “pomegranates full and fine.” The importance of this is to stress of the danger of temptation, and how it often is so appealing to the bare, unguarded senses. Like biblical story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, the fruit represents the door leading to the fall of mankind into a sinful nature. In the Bible, the forbidden fruit is not identified as an apple; it remains a mystery what it really was. The ambiguity of its identity reinforces the idea that anything can be the forbidden fruit. Lizzie proves to be the instinctively wiser of the two sisters as “Lizzie covered up her eyes” and “thrust a dimpled finger in each ear, shut eyes and ran” (Rossetti). “Lizzie’s impulse to cover her sensory organs demonstrates her understanding that any experience of the goblins and their forbidden fruit represents a threat to the self’s integrity. A noble soul requires strictly defined, carefully policed physical boundaries. For that reason, anyth...