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Love In Rosetti’s Goblin Market Essay, Research Paper

Incestuous Lesbian Love in Rosetti’s “Goblin Market”

Christina Rosetti’s “Goblin Market” hints incestuous lesbian love as an alternative to a heterogeneous relationship. “Goblin Market” is about a woman’s [Laura] attempt to create a perfect, true love relationship with a man which ends with her hope and love dashed to the ground. With her heart broken and her dreams shattered, Laura turns to her sister, Lizzie, for the comfort and security she once looked for in a man. This in turn forms an incestuous bond between the two sisters. In the poem, Rosetti uses many vivid images to literate an incestuous lesbian love affair between two sisters.

At the beginning of the poem we learn of two sisters, Laura and Lizzie, who have a close relationship: “Crouching close together/ In the cooling weather,/ With clasping arms and cautioning lips,/ With tingling cheeks and finger tips./ ‘Lie close,’ Laura said,” Here the two sisters are hiding together, secretly gazing on the goblin men. In the poem the ‘goblin men’ represent the human figure of man. We soon find that Lizzie is very apprehensive of the goblin men and she warns her sister of impending danger: ” ‘We must not look at goblin men,/ We must not buy their fruits;/ Who knows upon what soil they fed/ Their hungry thirsty roots?’ ” This is Lizzie’s first warning, two more times does she warn her sister of the goblin men. Laura refuses to listen to Lizzie.


Laura, unlike her sister, is interested in the goblin men. She thinks the goblins are full of love and they have much to offer: “Cooing all together:/ They sounded kind and full of loves/ In the pleasant weather.” Lizzie is afraid of the goblin men. So afraid that once the goblin men get too close Lizzie becomes frightened and runs off into the wood leaving Laura behind: “Curious Laura chose to linger/ Wondering at each merchant man.” As we can see, Laura is fascinated by the goblin men. Instead of running away into the woods like Lizzie, Laura waits for the men to approach her. Once the goblin men see Laura they want her to buy some of their ‘love-filled’ fruit. Laura doesn’t have any money so, ignoring her sister’s warnings, she offers a part of her body, her hair, as an equal trade to purchase goods from the goblin men. The goblin men conveniently accept her hair as a barter.

With the bought goods of fruit in her hands now, Laura becomes mesmerized by the succulent, sweet taste of its sexual nectar: “Then sucked their fruit globes fair or red:/ Sweeter than honey from the rock./ Stronger than man-rejoicing wine,/ Clearer than water flowed that juice;/ She never tasted such before.” Here we see that Laura immediately becomes enamored with the fruit offered to her. She becomes addicted: “She sucked and sucked and sucked the more/ Fruits which that unknown orchard bore;/ She sucked until her lips were sore;” In this line Laura saps all the succulent juices from the fruit. She has never tasted love so sweet. As soon as she drinks all the juice from the fruit in her possession she immediately wants more, but she only finds herself to be without anymore fruit. Laura is sad and alone. The goblin men have strangely disappeared.


Laura returns home by herself, in need of the sweet love juices from the succulent fruit to which she has now grown addicted.

Upon returning home Laura is met at the front gate by Lizzie. It is now to the point in the poem where we see Laura setting herself up for destruction. She has become addicted to the goblin fruit, so much that she will go in search of it again when the morrow comes. Not only is Laura addicted to the fruit, but she has also given a part of her body to the goblin men. We could say that she shares a heterogeneous love relationship with the goblin men. Laura has left herself to the mercy of man. It is when Laura returns the next evening to search for the goblin men that she discovers that they are no where to be heard or found. Only Lizzie can hear the goblin’s cry: “Laura turned cold as stone/ To find her sister hear that cry alone.” Laura now realizes that she will never be able to taste the succulent fruit of the goblin men again. This in turn offers no food to feed her addiction which leaves Laura broken hearted: “And gnashed her teeth for baulked desire, and wept/ As if her heart would break.” Laura is devastated. She becomes idle and depressed. Her life is now filled with never-ending longing and despair. “Her hair grew thin and gray;/ She dwindled, as the fair full moon doth turn/ To swift decay and burn/ Her fire away.” Laura can find no comfort for her addiction and thus becomes sickly, pale and feeble.

Lizzie soon notices her sister’s depression and realizes that in order to ‘live’ again Laura must have more of the sweet-tasting fruit of the goblin men. Lizzie is sympathetic towards her sister and can not bear to see her hurt. Laura is suddenly left in a position to where she has to look to her sister for love and comfort from the pain. This in turn sends Lizzie in search of the goblin men to buy their fruit so she can feed her sister and heal Laura’s sick, love afflicted body. Only the taste of the fruit will heal her broken heart. Upon finding the fruit, Lizzie is violently confronted by the goblin men. Lizzie refuses to partake of their fruit. Instead of eat the fruit she wants to take it home to Laura. The goblin men become angry and they will not let Lizzie leave until she eats the fruit. The goblin men assault Lizzie and try to make her eat their fruit. In the end the goblin men smash their fruit all over Lizzie’s face and body.

Once Lizzie escapes the goblin men’s clutches, she runs home to Laura’s bedside. Now the poem takes a drastic swing and we can see traces of lesbian overtones: “‘Did you miss me?’/ Come and kiss me./ Never mind my bruises,/ Hug me, kiss me, suck my juices.” Lizzie is obviously using the fruit as a tool to attract Laura to have a incestuous interlude. The fruit here is being used as a sex tool. First the goblins used it, now Lizzie. Of course Laura can’t withstand her addiction, so she willingly accepts her sister’s plea for romance: “She clung about her sister,/ Kissed and kissed and kissed her:/…She kissed and kissed her with a hungry mouth.” Laura has chosen an incestuous lesbian love as an alternative to the love she once received from the goblin men.

Christina Rosetti’s “Goblin Market” portrays how evil sexual desires can be. The writer of this poem finds herself torn between a sexual love of man and a incestuous sexual love for her sister. In the end, Laura will do anything to taste the fruit, even have incestuous relations with her sister. The poem thus defends its stand on lesbianism by stating, “There is no friend like a sister.”

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