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.