In the beginning of Christina Rossetti’s poem “Goblin Market,” the goblin men at the market are trying to sell their fruits. The men describe the fruits they are selling as “sweet to tongue and sound to eye.” This is an important description because it helps Rossetti use fruit as a symbol of temptation. The use of the words “tongue” and “eye” particularly emphasize the physical satisfaction of eating the fruits, which connects them to erotic temptation.
It is important to note that men are describing the fruits in this way to appeal to female customers. This represents the way heterosexual men try to attract women for physical intimacy. This poem warns women about the dangers of such temptation and suggests that it can lead to an insatiable, destructive desire. By consuming the fruit, Laura loses her innocence, the same way society thinks women do when they begin engaging in sexual activity with men. She then begins to decay and die, which suggests that succumbing to physical temptation is bad for the body and soul. In contrast, Lizzie remains innocent and is thus able to save Laura from death. The poem speaks to the powerful bond of sisterhood and connections between women. It also brings to mind biblical stories, such as Eve bringing about original sin by eating forbidden fruit and Jesus sacrificing himself to save mankind from such sin.