Literature · Poetry

Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti | Poetry Analysis


Goblin Market is probably one of the most interesting and strange poems I have read. I mean it terms of lyricism and prose it doesn’t wow me. But the little story the poem tells and how drips with erotic undertones does.

Come on it’s hard not to think of sexual innuendos when reading this poem. I mean look at this:

“She suck’d and suck’d and suck’d the more
Fruits which that unknown orchard bore;
She suck’d until her lips were sore;”

I’m not saying this is a bad thing I find it quite entertaining. I even wrote a paper on this poem for one of my classes. It was a psychoanalytic analysis, and wow this poem gave me a lot of material to work with. Now I’m going to write some of my thoughts here.

According to Sigmund Freud’s theory of psychosexual development there are these stages: Oral, Anal, Phallic, Latency, Genital.  A person is supposed to pass by these stages normally, but sometimes if something goes wrong a person can become stuck in one of the early stages.

Now the oral is the first stage and starts in infancy. I bring this up because in Goblin Market there’s a lot of oral fixation going on. Laura, especially has not advanced past the oral stage of development and so her sexual fantasies fixate on it.

The image of Goblins and fruit is childlike imagery – both of the sisters in the poem are naïve and inexperienced. Therefore, their sexual temptations are taking the form of childhood fantasy creatures. Laura is the one who gives into the temptation and Lizzie has save her.

Because of the childishness in association with sex – this is why there is so many references to the mouth within the poem such as the quote above. Here’s some more examples from different parts of the poem:

“Stamp’d upon her tender feet,
Held her hands and squeez’d their fruits
Against her mouth to make her eat.”

“Lizzie utter’d not a word;
Would not open lip from lip
Lest they should cram a mouthful in:”

“Shaking with aguish fear, and pain,
She kiss’d and kiss’d her with a hungry mouth.”

“Her lips began to scorch,
That juice was wormwood to her tongue,”

And so on. After Laura had given into the goblin’s temptation she begins to rot away – this gives reference to the societal idea that a woman is “used” up after she has given into temptation.

Lizzie has to win back her sister’s virtue – she faces the goblins and is able to refuse their advances. But Lizzie is also a woman in control of her sexuality. She takes what she wants from the goblins and is able to return to her sister.

In the end, sisterhood beats the goblins.

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