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Female Relationships in Goblin Market

hwink's picture

To me, the most striking thing about Rosetti's "Goblin Market" was the relationship between the women.

The relationship between Laura and Lizzie is complicated and intriguing; they are described as sisters but there is innuendo of sexual relationship. "Golden head by golden head" they sleep beside one another. Lizzie risks everything to help Laura, and succeeds in saving her. Maybe lovers, maybe sisters, one is undoubtedly the savior of the other. And the concluding lines of the poem do not chastise Laura for her indiscretion, but rather dispense the wisdom that "there is no friend like a sister." Regardless of its ambiguous nature, the poem centers on the fact of their relationship.

One of the things we didn't really talk about in class was Jeanie, the woman who fell prey to the goblins in the way that Laura did. Only, presumably, Jeanie did not have a Lizzie. Laura reflects on Jeanie when she realizes she can no longer hear the goblins, and the poem reads,

"She thought of Jeanie in her grave,

 Who should have been a bride;

But who for joys brides hope to have

Fell sick and died"

What can we make of this woman who was a victim of the goblins? What is the role of Jeanie? Is she a warning to the other girls? I am interested in what we make of this. Is it okay to frame a victim like Jeanie as an example to other women of what not to do--i.e., do not eat the fruit of the goblin men or you'll end up like Jeanie-- or is it problematic somehow? If the poem is about the relationship between women, what can we say about the relationship between the sisters and Jeanie?

I don't have any answers to these questions, or really any solid theories. But I am curious about Jeanie, a women who went through much the same ordeal as Laura but whom we did not mention at all. I think it could be a very interesting path for discussion. 


sara.gladwin's picture

Goblin Market and Smith-Rosenburg

As I was reading Goblin Market I was actually continually reminded of another essay I've read, titled "The Female World of Love and Ritual" by Carroll Smith Rosenburg. In the article she makes the arguement that female love and relationships between women during this time period were not in anyway socially deviant, but instead quite normal; in fact "homosocial." She claims that because the "spheres" of men and women were so seperate that close bonds between same sex people, considered socially and sexually deviant today, where very much a normal and expected way of life. In fact, the more sexually deviant relationships were between members of the opposite sex, as shown in the Goblin Market with the implicit sexual relationships between the male Goblins, Jeanie and Laura. I felt like much of the conversation around Goblin Market revolved around this idea that the relationship between Lizzie and Laura was something peculiar and extrodinary- designed by Christina Rossetti to make a particular statement about what relationships between women should or could be. I actually have been thinking more about their relationship as a reflection of a normal friendship between two women, and the strength of homosocial spheres during this particular time. 

(I tried to look for a space to include this essay but couldn't- it is available on JSTOR