No Friend Like A Sister

On page 16 of Goblin Market Christina Rossestti’s final words are “For there is no friend like a sister/In calm or stormy weather;/To cheer one on the tedious way,/To fetch one if one goes astray,/To lift one if one totters down,/To strengthen whilst one stands.” This line immediately stood out to me, as the oldest of three sisters whose very used to seeing inspirational quotes about sisters. Then upon rereading it, I realized it is a nice general sentiment about sister relationships, but it’s also a short recap of the poem thus far. This seems to be Rossestti’s way of saying only sisters can protect each other the way Laura and Lizzie do.

The first rhyme of this half of the stanza follows a questionable rhyme scheme. The first two words “sister” and “weather” can rhyme or not, depending on the pronunciation of the words. But assuming they do, the rhyme scheme is AABBCD.  I’m unsure if “down” and “stands” are supposed to rhyme, but they don’t, which ends the pattern. There no internal rhymes or other significant literary devices. But the word “one” is repeated in the same way a writer could say “when you.”

The main reason I fell in love with Goblin Market is because it gave me the same feeling I got when I watched Frozen for the first time as a kid; I love classic feeling fairytales about sisterly love. As much as some the underlying themes  of the poem are questionable, reading a lot like a commentary about the dangers of women being worldly, the positive message of sisterhood is largely what makes the story beautiful. I do think Rossestti’s choice to end her poem with this line is her way of  saying this was her message, like how in a lot of fables written for very young kids will end with the moral written out for them.

Rossestti also uses these last few lines as a way of recapping the story in a way that doesn’t feel tired. The line about calm or stormy weather refers to the sisters being there for each other before, after, and during the events of the poem. Obviously the line about being led astray refers to Laura being swept up in the market. And the last two lines about helping your sister come back from chaos refers to the previous stanzas of the sisters being reunited.

There have been plenty of children’s stories and fairytales with a final moral that’s simply “sisters are a gift.” That’s a fine moral for stories for children who can’t think much deeper than that. But Rossestti’s story is deeper than that. I think her choice to connect her recap of the story, with an emphasis on the importance of sisterhood, is her way of saying the true moral of this poem is that only a sister can save you from situations like the one Laura and Lizzie end up in.  “There is no friend like sister” and only that kind of friend can safe you from the Goblin Market.

2 thoughts on “No Friend Like A Sister”

  1. I love how you said that it reminded you of childhood fairytales like frozen, I think too that “Goblin Market” beautifully captures the essence of sisterly love. The proclamation, “For there is no friend like a sister,” resonates profoundly, echoing the sentiment that sisters stand as steadfast companions in both calm and stormy weather. Rossetti encapsulates the entire poem in this ode to sisterhood, skillfully intertwining it with a subtle recapitulation of the narrative. The irregular rhyme scheme mirrors the unpredictability of life, emphasizing the genuine and unscripted nature of sisterly devotion. Despite the darker undertones in the poem, the prevailing theme of sisterhood emerges as the beacon of beauty, transcending the narrative complexities.

  2. I liked how positively you were able to view this poem even though it has many darker undertones of men forcing things upon women. I think it is a very women empowering women story which I think is probably due to the more power women were receiving at the time. It shows that women are strong enough to take care of each other rather than relying on men to help them. This poem reminded me of some the themes in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in relation to the good vs the bad. In the “Goblin Market” you bring up the good in relation to the sisters supporting each other while the bad in this case is the pressure from the men.

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