Don’t Talk to the Goblins

In class, we focused on the presence of sexuality in this poem and the message that Christina Rossetti aimed to convey in Goblin Market. I believe that the poem serves as a warning, or almost a scare tactic, regarding the importance of leading a “proper” sexual life. The goblin men in this poem are described as follows: “One had a cat’s face, / One whisk’d a tail, / One tramp’d at a rat’s pace, / One crawl’d like a snail, / One like a wombat prowl’d obtuse and furry, / One like a ratel tumbled hurry skurry. / She heard a voice like voice of doves / Cooing all together: / They sounded kind and full of loves.” In this passage, the description of the goblin men as animals creates a sense of uneasiness for the reader. Despite their animal-like physical features, they still manage to have the “voice of doves.” This paradox is part of Rossetti’s warning in her poem. The goblin men’s physical attributes represent their true character; however, they can “coo” and tempt women to trust them.  

The voice of doves and cooing that lured Laura to the goblin men dissappears once they have engaged with her. As they approach, Rossetti describes them as “Leering at each other, / Brother with queer brother; / Signalling each other, / Brother with sly brother.” The verbs that Rossetti uses project quite a different feeling than the voice of a dove. The transition to these words that develop a sense of distrust in these goblin men is done intentionally by Rossetti. This poem is meant to serve as a warning to Victorian women and the sly and leering goblin bolster her warning about the nature of men.  

Rossetti also uses Lizzie to explicitly state this warning upon Laura’s return home. She asks Laura if she remembers Jeanie, a woman who had interacted with the goblin men. Jeanie’s story serves as a warning because after her interaction, she “found them no more, but dwindled and grew grey; / Then fell with the first snow, / While to this day no grass will grow / Where she lies low.” The story of Jeanie serves to warn not only Laura of the consequences of entertaining men on the street, but it warns each woman that reads this poem. Here, the message becomes very clear, which is that men like the goblin men will ultimately leave you women after they get what they want.  

5 thoughts on “Don’t Talk to the Goblins”

  1. This is such a good analysis! The theme you discussed of women being punished from diverging from their path, reminds me a lot of The Lady Of Shalott. To me The Lady Of Shalott can be seen as a woman’s punishment for being too ambitious. A lot like in Tangled how Rapanzel just wanted to leave. Then in Goblin Market a woman is punished for being too wanting. I think both these poems could be used as commentary on the dangers of women developing autonomy.

  2. I think your analysis on the dichotomy between the goblins’ sweet voices versus their animalistic appearances fits well with the vampires seen in Dracula. Count Dracula, Lucy, and the weird sisters all have a sensuous nature about them, but that is part of what makes them so dangerous. I think reading Dracula as somewhat of a warning on the “dangers” of sexuality in a similar way to how you’ve analyzed Goblin Market here would be very interesting!

  3. I really enjoyed your deeper analysis in the intentional switch of verb-age used by Rossetti. I had always had a sense that these goblins were not to be trusted, maybe because in all the stories we kind of could see stuff like this coming, but after looking through it again, Rossetti certainly uses intentional switches throughout the poem that are meant to point the reader into these suspicions. Good work!

  4. I think this is a really good analysis and speaks a lot to a potentially common theme in our class. The presence of the Goblins often reminds me of the presence we experienced with Dracula. I think the idea that this is a warning from Rosetti is intriguing and definitely true. It feels like an old wide tale like “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”, in the fact that it presents the danger of men in society.

  5. Your analysis of the goblins and their voices hiding the true ugliness inside of them was very interesting to me. One thing I saw that guided my perception of this poem was that Lizzie was able to stand her ground and not give into the goblins, which is a metaphor for not giving into temptation. I think it’s very important to note that by writing a poem warning Victorian women, Rossetti breaks away from societal norms in which women were expected to adhere to all demands of men. Go Christina!

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