Forbidden Fruit: The Sweetest of Them All

In Christina Rossetti’s poem, Goblin Market, we are presented with two beautiful and kind sisters, Laura and Lizzie. It is while Laura and Lizzie are tarrying away in the glen, that they hear the seductive and nearly irresistible cries of the strange and fearsome goblin men. Lizzie warns her sister about them, claiming that she and Laura “should not peep at goblin men” because “their evil gifts would harm us” (Rossetti, 2). However, despite her sister’s vehement warning, Laura decides to throw caution to the wind and takes a curious glance at the merchant goblin men who come bearing delicious and tempting-looking fruit. With this one stolen glance, she instantly becomes enamored by them and allows them to come near her, showering her with their ripe and juicy pieces of sweet, forbidden fruit. Laura is said to have sucked on the fruit “until her lips were sore” and she “knew not was it night or day” (Rossetti, 4).

After this encounter, Lizzie slowly sees changes in her sister. Gone is the maiden who was happy and fulfilled, pure and kind, and in her place is a tired and graying husk of a woman who no longer seems to have any will to live. This is due to the fact that Laura can no longer hear the cries of the goblin men or get a taste of the succulent fruit that they carry with them. It’s clear that Laura is suffering from a crippling addiction and she is “longing for the night” when she can see them and once again sink her teeth into the most coveted of fruits (Rossetti, 6). Knowing that her sister will wither away and die if she doesn’t do something, Lizzie goes in search of the goblins, hoping to secure an antidote for her. She sets aside her concerns for her own safety and simply focuses on what she must do to save the soul of her beloved sister.

When Lizzie eventually comes across the goblin men and tells them of her intentions to buy their fruit, they are at first very much excited and want her to have it. However, when they realize that she refuses to consume the fruit herself, they become angry and physically assault her. It is said that they “Held her hands and squeezed their fruits / Against her mouth to make her eat” (Rossetti, 12). With her every refusal, the goblins become angrier and angrier, worsening her punishment by landing harsher blows and spewing more malicious mockery. Finally, after an interminable amount of time, they recognize that she will not bend her will to meet their demands. So, they abandon her in the glen and she is left with a bruised and battered body, their juices dripping and staining her previously untouched skin. Instead of allowing herself to be overwhelmed by this horrible violation, Lizzie races home and is able to save Laura’s life, proving that those with loving and courageous hearts can overcome all sources of evil.

Throughout the text, the goblin men were said to be animal-like, almost as if they had not fully evolved. For instance, they were described as being both “cat-like and rat-like” and they had tails that they used to harm their victims (Rossetti, 10). They were also distinctly different from typical British men and essentially belonged to an entirely different species. I believe that they were portrayed as these primitive, ruthless creatures because they represented an unknown, foreign entity.

During the Victorian Era, there was a strong desire to see the British Empire succeed and expand. Many British citizens felt that if foreigners came to England and shared their cultural beliefs and ideas with the general population, great harm would befall the country. This was because the Victorian Era was also known as the Age of Empire, and many British people felt that their way of life was superior to those living in other countries and cultures.

There was also this notion that if foreigners came and infiltrated England, they would taint pure British bloodlines by having children with the good women of British society. They would use their charm and means of seduction to take advantage of sweet, innocent girls, with the intention of tossing them aside at their earliest convenience. I think that it was because of this fear of the foreign that we see the goblin men being described as barbaric, wicked things that will lure in pure women and sully them with their archaic and evil ways.

Here Comes the Sun

Throughout the text we are able to see many examples of juxtapositions. One that is constantly referenced is the difference between light and dark, and day and night. It is in the morning when Jonathan Harker feels safest while he is a captive of Dracula. Jonathan says, “No man knows till he has suffered from the night how sweet and how dear to his heart and eye the morning can be” (Stoker, p. 54). During the day, Dracula is gone, along with the three strange and seductive women that Jonathan struggles to get a handle on. He claims that seeing the striking rays of the sun hitting the highest point of the gateway seemed to him as if “the dove of the ark had lighted there” (Stoker, p. 54). Jonathan takes these claims even further, saying how his “fear fell from him” and it was all because of the “courage of the day” and the rising of the sun.

Later on in the text, after Jonathan has figured out where Dracula goes during the day (to his coffin) and he is trying to get released from the Count’s home as quickly as possible, he says that Dracula “smiled, such a soft, smooth, diabolical smile that I knew there was some trick behind his smoothness” (Stoker, p. 57). With words like “diabolical” and “trick” we can easily see that by this point, the monster that Dracula is trying to hide within himself is rearing its ugly head. Finally, after Jonathan finishes his conversation with Dracula and he decides to stay in the Count’s home because of the fear of being slaughtered by the howling wolves that roam around during the darkest hours of the night, he says, “The last I saw of Count Dracula was his kissing his hand to me; with a red light of triumph in his eyes, and with a smile that Judas in hell might be proud of” (Stoker, p. 58).

After being provided with this evidence, we can see how the darkness was undesired because it hid within it the scary things that are thought to go bump in the night, such as wolves, monsters, and other terribly demonic things. Things simple humans can’t even begin to imagine. However, it is during the safety of the warm, bright day that these wicked and evil things disappear. I think that many people, like Jonathan, have a greater sense of security during the day when there is light because they are aware of the things around them, and it gives them a greater understanding of the world in which they live.

Throughout the novel, we see Dracula being portrayed as the Devil and a menace of the night. He commits his evil sins and treacherous acts only when the rest of humanity is asleep and at their most vulnerable. He is believed to be a trickster, a master of seduction and debauchery, and a vile specimen that deserves to be punished and done away with forever. While Dracula is definitely not without fault and makes horrible choices throughout the book, I think there is a reason why he is depicted in this way throughout the text.

I believe that Dracula is portrayed as a foreigner and the Devil, because many British citizens believed that foreigners were sinners and unworthy of God’s love or the acknowledgment of the British Empire because they did not adhere to the same cultural beliefs that the Crown insisted were the right ones. If you acted, spoke, or thought differently than those who were members of the British aristocracy and the rulers of England, you had no place in their world. I believe this to be true because the Victorian Era was also known as the Age of Doubt and the Age of Empire. While many British people struggled with where they stood in terms of their religious beliefs, there was still this notion that it was because of God’s grace and love for the Empire, that they were able to truly succeed.

Dracula goes against everything they hold near and dear to them. He is different, in both physical appearance and moral principles. However, he is able to hide himself well and speak in their native tongue, and this is scary because they can’t control him if they can’t recognize his differences. If the British citizens aren’t careful, they fear that Dracula’s darkness and evil will slither in and taint the good members of British society. So, they believe that they must uphold God’s will and fight the darkness with their light and purity, similarly to how the sun fights the inky tendrils of the night.

It’s A Mad, Mad World

“Mad-houses are large and only too numerous; yet surely it is strange they are not larger, when we think of how many helpless wretches must beat their brains against this hopeless persistency of the orderly world, as compared with the storm and tempest, the riot and confusion within; – when we remember how many minds must tremble upon the narrow boundary between reason and unreason, mad to-day and sane to-morrow, mad yesterday and sane to-day” (Braddon, 206).

It’s a mad, mad world, plain and simple.

The above passage shows us some of Robert Audley’s innermost thoughts. He’s just come from speaking with George’s estranged father and sister, and as a result of the exchanges he shares with them, we are exposed to a far deeper understanding of the grief that he feels regarding the disappearance and presumed death of his dear friend. This passage stood out to me because Robert calls into question the way in which the world operates.

In class, we discussed a variety of values and beliefs that people of the Victorian Era held near and dear to their hearts. At the top of this list was the desire for propriety and decorum. It was frowned upon for people to display any outward signs of inner turmoil. Respectable members of society believed that it was far more important for one to maintain their composure in the presence of others than it was for them to express their feelings, no matter the toll that burden was taking on their heart and mind.

This passage is significant because it sheds light on the notion that not everything is as wonderful as it seems. While individuals might be able to hide their true selves from the prying eyes of society, it doesn’t change the fact that the world still has many flaws and not everyone is satisfied with this truth. Robert expands on this idea, saying, “We are apt to be angry with this cruel hardness in our life” (Braddon, 206). However, it is because of this desire for perfection that people are encouraged to suppress the emotions that torment them.

Based on this assessment, it is no wonder why many people in the Victorian Age despised sensation novels. They showed that even the most decent members of Victorian society could have potentially dark and dangerous sides. I’m sure they made many people uncomfortable, as they walked a fine line between fiction and reality.

In the case of our novel, we can see that Lady Audley is displaying rather peculiar and suspicious behavior in the way that she is reacting to the disappearance of George Talboys. Might this mean that she had something to do with it? Perhaps it isn’t strange for one to wonder if she isn’t half crazy herself.

After all, the world isn’t perfect; it is actually quite mad.



Blissful Misery

“I scarcely think there is a greater sin, Lucy,” he said solemnly, than that of the woman who marries a man she does not love. You are so precious to me, my beloved, that deeply as my heart is set on this, and bitter as the mere thought of disappointment is to me, I would not have you commit such a sin for any happiness of mine. If my happiness could be achieved by such an act, which it could not – which it never could,” he repeated earnestly, “nothing but misery can result from a marriage dictated by any motive but truth and love” (Braddon 15).

Upon first glance, Sir Michael Audley’s proposal to Miss Lucy Graham seemed rather romantic and full of a sort of innocence and vulnerability that I hadn’t expected. Being a man and a member of the aristocracy, it surprised me that Sir Michael would give any sort of thought to Lucy’s feelings. I couldn’t believe that he would value the desires of her heart over what would be best for him. However, as I took a closer look at the aforementioned passage and those that surrounded it, I found myself questioning my initial conclusions.

Perhaps the proposal wasn’t as straightforward and romantic as I first thought. While many women would have been overjoyed by the notion of Sir Michael’s proposal, this was not the case for Lucy. On the contrary, she was extremely upset and begged Sir Michael not to ask too much of her. She claimed that she could not “be blind to the advantages of such an alliance” (Braddon 16). It was with this statement that I began to wonder about Lucy’s motivations. Was her demure nature and sugary sweetness simply a façade put in place to distract those she met from knowing about her past and the dark shadows that lurked within it?

We are told that, “Beyond her agitation and her passionate vehemence, there was an undefined something in her manner which filled the baronet with a vague alarm” (Braddon 16). I think this is important to make note of because it alludes to the fact that Lucy might not be as mentally sound as some people believe. I also find it intriguing that Sir Michael didn’t heed his own warning about love and marriage. I think he’ll come to regret this decision later, as he realizes that one moment of bliss can’t justify years of misery.