In class and throughout people’s blog posts, it is clear the consensus on Goblin Market is that it is a paean to sisterhood and a rebuke of the sexual predations of men. That is certainly true to some extent, especially the first part, as the last six lines are a literal evocation of the power of sisterhood. However, the poem’s approach to men is more complicated than just a rebuke.
First, look at this section of the last stanza of the poem, where we meet up with the sisters years after Laura is saved: “Afterwards when both were wives/with children of their own;” (Rosetti pg. 15). Goblin market ends on the idea of it’s two leads happily married to unnamed husbands and with children, a reversion to the norm that does not exactly match with the evocation to sisterhood at the very end. Perhaps there is something in the fact that the husbands are unnamed and irrelevant, instead of dominant, in their relationships to their wives as presented to the readers. Or this is an unwanted conceding to her publisher brother, perhaps, but I feel uncomfortable making such claims without any direct evidence. For whatever reason, the best outcome Rosetti can conjure is one where a woman falls into the demands of the patriachy, but finds that it is really barely a hassle. Whatever the goblin men represent in the poem, it is an individual issue rather than structural one.
Looking elsewhere in the poem, this limitation of the representational quality of the goblin men is present in more places. Twice in the poem, both around the middle of the fourth stanza and the middle of the last stanza is this line, always said after mentioning the fruit the goblins sell: “(Men sell not such in any town)” (Rossetti pg. 3/pg. 16). This line highlights the exotic and strange nature of the fruits by comparing to the safe, normal, british, fruit sold in towns. ‘Town’ is especially important word choice here, emphasizing the idea of civilized order through towns and cities, and contrasting this to the wild forests the goblin market meets at. But of course, it is not just the fruit that is being divided into civilized and uncivilized: it is the men who sell it as well. The men in town sell reasonable fruit for reasonable prices (and one must imagine these civilized town men are the kind that Lizzie and Lucy end up marrying). But it is the strange goblin men who are declared uncivilized and sexually dangerous that are the threat sisterhood must combat.
Goblin Market is certainly preoccupied with the threat of men. But with this evidence in mind, the threat specifically comes from men who do not come from ‘here’.