Study Guide

Goblin Market Women and Femininity

By Christina Rossetti

Women and Femininity

Morning and evening
Maids heard the goblins cry (1-2)

Only women can hear the goblins. Are the men completely absent in the world of "Goblin Market," or do the goblins not represent a threat to them?

"We must not look at goblin men,
We must not buy their fruits" (42-43)

Even "look[ing]" at the goblins is dangerous. This could be analogous to the widespread belief in Victorian Britain that young women should know nothing about sex, because even the barest knowledge could contaminate them and make them less pure.

Like two wands of ivory
Tipped with gold for awful kings. (190-191)

Laura and Lizzie are being compared to two white ivory scepters with gold on the ends. Since their skin is pale and their hair is golden blonde, the simile makes some sense. But what's the deal with these "awful kings"? Are the girls' bodies and hair only beautiful for the use of "awful kings"? Why can't they just be pretty on their own?

Fetched in honey, milked the cows,
Aired and set to rights the house,
Kneaded cakes of whitest wheat,
Cakes for dainty mouths to eat,
Next churned butter, whipped up cream,
Fed their poultry, sat and sewed; (203-208)

This is the long catalogue of Laura and Lizzie's domestic chores. They seem to live all by themselves, but are well equipped to perform all the usual household tasks usually assigned to women during the period.

Talked as modest maidens should:
Lizzie with an open heart,
Laura in an absent dream (209-211)

The girls chat as they go about their work, but Laura's too busy obsessing about goblin fruit to pay much attention to her sister.

"For there is no friend like a sister
In calm or stormy weather" (562-563)

Laura gets the last words in the poem. After telling the story of the goblin market to their children, she tells them that the moral of the story has to do with sisterly heroism. Does this really seem to be the moral of the poem?