In Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti, Laura becomes entranced by the goblin men’s “Plump unpeck’d cherries, / Melons and raspberries,” to the point where she has to have them, despite having no money to buy them. She tells them that “all my gold is on the furze,” meaning she is so poor that the only thing close enough to gold in her household is the yellow flowers that grow in her yard. But the goblin men seem only more excited by this statement, and insist that she “buy… with a golden curl” from her head.
The reason why becomes clear when considering historical context. The Victorians were rather obsessed with the concept of the state of someones body reflecting their morality: somebody with a whole, undamaged body was pure and of good character, while one with missing limbs or scars was not. Through this lens, Laura giving away a strand of her hair to buy fruit destroys her purity and corrupts her character.
Furthermore, the text of Laura trading a piece of her body in return for the fruits of the goblin men is rife with sexual innuendo. It is said that Laura “suck’d until her lips were sore” at the fruit. If the fruits are the penises of the goblin men, and Laura is trading her body to suck the fruit, then this poem is intrinsically a story about prostitution. By performing these acts, Laura is no longer within the lines of society and social norms. She, an unmarried woman, has solicited sex with multiple men. Has bought sex with her body. One only needs to look at the fate of Jeanie, a former buyer from the goblin market, who slowly wasted away without the fruits of the goblin men until she died. Even worse, by eating the fruits, Jeanie is so unpure that no flowers will grow on her grave. This is the fate Laura narrowly avoids.
Goblin Market is a poem about the dangers of sex outside of marriage. The goblins take a piece of the girl and likely use it to grow their “Plump unpeck’d cherries, / Melons and raspberries,” all metaphors for desirable, virginal parts of a woman, and the cycle begins again while the previous girl wastes away.