hristina Rossetti's "Goblin Market" contains multiple images of doubling. Lizzie and Laura embody the gap between innocence and experience. From the very beginning of the story, the two sisters seem interchangeable:
Golden head by golden head,
Like two pigeons in one nest
Folded in each other's wings,
They lay down, in their curtained bed:
Like two blossoms on one stem,
Like two flakes of new-fallen snow,
Like two wands of ivoryv Tipped with gold for awful kings.
Described as "two pigeons," "two blossoms," "two flakes of new fallen snow" and "two wands," the girls mirror one another. Lizzie and Laura could represent two halves of one whole; however, while Laura gives in to temptation, Lizzie resists and ultimately gains knowledge of seduction while remaining pure. The sisters' relationship also signifies a chaste, untainted love. The goblins, on the other hand, exemplify erotic love and the dangers that a "fallen woman" must face. The language used to describe the scene in which Laura succumbs to the goblins' allure paints it in an undignified and sexually explicit manner:
She sucked and sucked and sucked the more
Fruits which that unknown orchard bore,
She sucked until her lips were sore;
The above description differs from that which Rossetti uses to depict Laura's salvation at Lizzie's hands:
She clung about her sister,
Kissed and kissed and kissed her:
Tears once again
Refreshed her shrunken eyes,
Dropping like rain
After long sultry drouth;
Shaking with aguish fear, and pain,
She kissed and kissed her with a hungry mouth.
Clearly, a doubling of sexuality exists. The goblins manipulate Laura's budding curiosity and wield sexuality as a weapon while Laura and Lizzie's domestic sensuality seems pure and possesses more power. In this way, love represents both a corruptive and redemptive force.
1. Why do you think the same substance represents both the poison and the antidote?
2. In many fairy tales, woodland creatures are depicted as being friendly and helpful to the heroines. Why do you think Rossetti chose to cast them as evil creatures?
3. Laura's story seems to be a cautionary tale for those who surrender to internal temptation. In what other works have we seen characters that are their own worst enemies?
4. How were "fallen women" treated in Rossetti's time? Was it dependent on their social class?
5. In the first passage above, Rossetti uses a lot of repetition. How does this enhance her telling of the story?
Last modified 1 March 2009