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Themes

The world of "Goblin Market" is a woman's world. We never meet any male characters, and the only sign that men exist at all comes at the very end, when we're told that Lizzie and Laura have become "wives" (line 544). Even then, though, there's no sign of their husbands. This is surprising, given Christina Rossetti's close attachment not only to her mother and sister, but also to her brothers, Dante Gabriel and William Michael Rossetti. Although they encouraged her writing, Christina's brothers never allowed her to become an official member of their artistic movement, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. (Check out the "In a Nutshell" section for more.) Maybe the exclusively women's world of "Goblin Market" is Christina Rossetti's answer to her brothers' exclusively male artistic movement. The critics Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar argue that "Goblin Market" is partly about the exclusion of women from the male-dominated artistic world during the Victorian period. (If you're interested in this theme, you may wan to read their book, The Madwoman in the Attic, for more on that.)

Questions About Women and Femininity

  1. In the second line of the poem, we're told, "Maids heard the goblins cry." Can men not hear it, or do they not exist in this world at all?
  2. Where are all the men in "Goblin Market"?
  3. If their personalities are so different, why do Laura and Lizzie look almost exactly alike? Check out Stanza 8 – these girls are like two peas in a pod.
  4. Is "Goblin Market" a feminist poem? Why or why not?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Only "maids" are able to hear the "goblins cry" to reflect Rossetti's perception that women faced challenges and temptations of which men weren't aware.

The exclusively feminine world of "Goblin Market" is Christina Rossetti's answer to her brothers' exclusive "Brotherhood" in the Pre-Raphaelite movement.

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