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.  

How the Sublime Stands the Test of Time

In his video on the different aspects of Gothic literature, John Bowen outlines the presence of the sublime. He describes the sublime as something that is “terrifying and awesome,” and piques the attention of the reader through these means. This is laid out in great detail by Van Helsing in his note to Dr. Seward as they begin to understand Dracula’s true power. He describes Dracula as having a variety of super-human abilities, beginning with the fact that “he have always the strength in his hand of twenty men; even we four who gave our strength to Miss Lucy it also is all to him” (Ch. 15).  Not only is he un-dead, but his strength is unnatural. It makes him even more of a threat than the average criminal that British citizens encounter. On top of this, Van Helsing notes that Dracula can summon his wolf and I know not what. So if it be that he come thither on this night he shall find me; but none other shall—until it be too late. But it may be that he will not attempt the place. There is no reason why he should; his hunting ground is more full of game than the churchyard where the Un-Dead woman sleep, and the one old man watch” (Ch. 15). The Count himself is not all that the vampire hunters have to worry about. He is able to summon other beasts to support him in his hunt. While he resembles a man, Van Helsing compares him to an animal, as he has an established hunting ground in which his prey is plentiful. On top of his super strength and ability to control animals, The Count is also “cunning, as I know from Mr. Jonathan and from the way that all along he have fooled us when he played with us for Miss Lucy’s life, and we lost” (Ch. 15). His intelligence is what makes him truly terrifying to the reader, as he is not simply a beast that is carelessly using his power. This use of the sublime is reminiscent of the supervillains in our modern day. The supernatural abilities of villains paired with the potential for them to outwit the protagonist is what draws the viewer into movies. This displays how the sublime has stood the test of time as a literary tool. The combination of multiple superhuman abilities in villains leaves the readers in awe of their powers and prompts them to back the protagonists in their journey to stop the evil force before it is too late. 

The British Fear of Vampirism

Throughout this novel, Dracula and vampirism are created to portray the influences that are not within moral values held by Christians in England. Stoker uses Dracula to embody these foreign and dangerous values that are beginning to make their way into Western culture. Dracula begins his reign of terror in Romania, which is in Eastern Europe, and slowly begins to infiltrate British society. Johnathan’s first interaction with Count Dracula is in a place that he is largely unfamiliar with. As he prepares to depart for the Count’s castle, he is met with warnings from the locals, as they say “It is the eve of St. George’s Day. Do you not know that to-night, when the clock strikes midnight, all the evil things in the world will have full sway?” (Ch. 1). In response to this warning, Jonathan attempts to comfort her and state that “it was all very ridiculous, but I did not feel comfortable” (Ch. 1). The townsfolk are aware of the dangerous aspects of their nation, but Jonathan does not know enough to take caution. His dismissal of the local warnings displays the depiction of the superiority of British society, as Jonathan has never had to concern himself with such dangers in England.  

Stoker’s use of vampirism as a symbol of non-British influence is further seen when Mina decides to read through Jonathan’s diary. As she read through his accounts of his experiences in the castle, she sees that the Count has plans to come to England. Upon reading this, she writes that “That fearful Count was come to London… If it should be, and he came to London, with his teeming millions… There may be solemn duty to; and if it come we must not shrink from it” (Ch. 14). This is a call to action for those in Britain. Van Helsing notes that once vampirism infects one individual, they pass it on to others. This illustrates the fear of foreign influences that were present at the time. Once these dangerous people and ideologies make their way in, they upset the status quo and prove difficult to stifle. Mina makes the decision to take action in the fight against vampirism and is praised by Van Helsing for doing so. He describes her as “one of the lights” of the world. Mina is a textbook example of a British patriot and Stoker portrays her as an angel because of this.

Lethal Creatures and Dr. Roylott

“His costume was a peculiar mixture of the professional and the agricultural, having a black top-hat, a long frock-coat, and a pair of high gaiters, with a hunting-crop swinging in his hand. So tall was he that his hat actually brushed the cross-bar of the doorway, and his breadth seemed to span it across from side to side. A large face, seared with a thousand wrinkles, burned yellow with the sun, and marked with every evil passion, was turned from one to the other of us, while his deep-set, bile-shot eyes, and the high thin fleshless nose, gave him somewhat the resemblance to a fierce old bird of prey” (140).  

In class, we looked at Doyle’s description of Doctor Roylott. I believe that this passage uses similar strategies to develop the image of Roylott as a savage. To begin his description, Doyle decides to call Roylott’s clothing as a costume rather than an outfit or get up. While this may be reading too far into the language, I have come to learn that authors don’t accidentally use certain words. His “costume” is described as peculiar, which further emphasized that he was not what was considered normal in England at the time. The rest of this passage also begins to point out the animalistic attributes of Doctor Roylott. It starts with his size and continues on to other physical descriptions. He is so tall and wide that the door that works well for the typical British citizen, almost does not work for him. Now he has created the image of a strange, massive being. Continuing with his description, Doyle gives him a “large face, seared with a thousand wrinkles” because of his extended exposure to the sun, a fleshless nose, and bile-shot eyes. The wrinkled face implies that he spends much of his time outdoors, which is atypical for the average British gentleman, while the fleshless nose and bile-shot eyes suggest that he does not care for his appearance at all. These descriptions are intended to identify all of the qualities that make him different.  

In the last sentence, Doyle ensures that this description is not misunderstood by the reader. He explicitly equates his appearance to one of a “fierce old bird of prey.” This method of associating Roylott with animals is deliberate in establishing Roylott as an outcast from society. The passage above is not the first time that Roylott is associated with animals and was not the last. Not only is he associated with animals, but they are all dangerous animals: cheetahs, baboons, snakes, and fierce old birds of prey. This appears to reinforce the common sentiment that was present in the Western world at the time, which was that those who did not conform to society were seen as uncivilized and dangerous. It was noted earlier that Roylott had spent time in India and brought these animals back with him. This displays the perceived negative effect that an “uncivilized” culture can have on a man who was once squared-away and educated.  

Death as a Description

“He slowly emptied it of its contents, taking out each article separately, and laying it carefully upon a chair by his side. He handled the things with a respectful tenderness, as if he had been lifting the dead body of his lost friend. One by one he laid the neatly folded mourning garments on the chair. He found old meerschaum pipes, and soiled, crumpled gloves that had once been fresh from the Parisian maker; old play-bills, whose biggest letters spelled the names of actors who were dead and gone; old perfume-bottles, fragrant with essences, whose fashion had passed away; neat little parcels of letters, each carefully labeled with the name of the writer; fragments of old newspapers; and a little heap of shabby, dilapidated books, each of which tumbled into as many pieces as a pack of cards in Robert’s incautious hand. But among all the mass of worthless litter, each scrap of which had once had its separate purpose, Robert Audley looked in vain for that which he sought—the packet of letters written to the missing man by his dead wife Helen Talboys. He had heard George allude more than once to the existence of these letters” (Braddon Ch. 19).  

The first thing that stood out to me in this passage was the overwhelming presence of death in such a short period of time. It caught my attention because death was used to refer to something that was not dead or dying. Variants of death are used throughout the entire passage: dead, death, passed away, dead and gone. When death was not directly being used to as a description, old was. Everything was either old or dead. There were old newspapers and meerschaum pipes, shabby, dilapidated books, and crumpled gloves. Braddon describes Robert’s action as though he was “lifting the body of his dead friend.” This feels very intentional to me. I can think of a lot of different ways to describe someone handling an object with care that do not involve death. But Braddon is certainly trying to create a deathly mood and she does not do it discreetly. This description is of the trunk that Robert has acquired from George Tabloys. I believe that by putting such an emphasis on the presence of death in the trunk, Braddon is reaffirming the fact that George is dead. No one has confirmed that he is dead, but this passage gives me the feeling that he is.  

The one contrast I found was in the description of the crumpled gloves. She noted that they “had once been fresh from the Parisian maker.” Fresh just felt out of place to me in this passage. I know that she says that they used to be fresh, but fresh was the one word that didn’t sound old and run down. I can’t help but wonder if this is intentional and if it is, what purpose it serves.