What is conveyed about the position of women in Victorian society through "Goblin Market?"

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clairewait | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Like many of her contemporaries, Rossetti's writing reflects her isolation from a typical social lifestyle, her introspection as a result of that isolation, and her desire to be taken seriously as both a woman and a poet.

Two unifying themes of the works of Goblin Market and Other Poems by Christina Rossetti is first, the idea of self-renunciation, and second, a fascination with death.  "Goblin Market" is a long narrative poem which presents two sisters who are tempted by goblins into eating fruit.  One sister has a taste which later begins to kill her.  In the end, it is her sister who heroically risks her own life, faces the goblins again, resists them, and ends up saving her sister's life.

Women authors during the Victorian times were fighting for a voice in a mostly male-dominated art.  Through this publication, arguably the one which made the author most famous, it has been speculated that Rossetti had adopted a popular mindset of female authors of the 19th century.  It seemed that in order to be successful in writing, these women had to personally sacrifice the more socially acceptable and certainly expected institution of marriage.  Instead of acting as traditional housewives and mothers, Victorian female authors often ended up growing old as single women with a lot of time to themselves.

The resisting of the goblin fruit in "Goblin Market" has been related to the author's resisting of things of the flesh.  Additionally, with the time she must have spent alone, it seems she became very introspective.  Because she was a religious woman, it is not a wonder that life after death would have been of interest to her.  Finally, the two sisters in the poem value their relationship with one another above everything else.  The one sister even risks her life for the other.  The desire to portray strength in females and the sister-relationship is the final message that likely came directly from Rossetti's life as a Victorian author.

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