Xenophobia in “The Goblin Market”

“The Goblin Market” is a poem by Christina Rossetti and is about two sisters, Laura and Lizzie, who venture to a Goblin Market. Laura cautioned Lizzie “not [to] look at goblin men” and “not [to] buy their fruits” (Rossetti).  However, Laura falls to the temptation and buys the fruits. This leads to her becoming addicted to them and later her death. “The Goblin Market” is representative of xenophobia in the Victorian Era and the fear of foreign merchants. Anxiety around reverse colonization in the Victorian era caused many people to fear that foreigners would try to invade or harm them. This fear can be seen through “The Goblin Market” because the goblins are symbolic of traveling merchants.

The poem warns readers from buying items from these merchants because they could be dangerous. An instance of this in the poem is when Laura says “Their offers should not charm us, / Their evil gifts would harm us” (Rossetti).On top of this, the way the goblins are depicted indicates racism as well. All of the goblins are different animals, “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” (Rossetti). This may seem like a way to paint this poem as “kid-friendly” however, having the goblin merchants be animals is symbolic of how Victorians viewed many foreigners as animalistic or uncivilized. Christina Rossetti’s “The Goblin Market” is symbolic of racist views Victorians had toward foreign people and the fear of the harm they could cause.

Imperialism, Power, and Dracula

Bram Stoker’s Dracula presents us with themes of imperialism and power that represent the people’s views and fears on colonization in the Victorian Era. In Stephen Arata’s essay, “The Occidental Tourist: Dracula and the Anxiety of Reverse Colonization” he says that “vampires are intimately linked to military conquest” in Dracula (Arata 627). Vampires symbolize military conquest because of how they infect others and turn them into vampires. This also relates to imperialism because, like vampires invading foreign land and infecting the population, Europeans would invade foreign countries, often with military forces, and force that country’s people to assimilate to their culture. During the era of Imperialism, Europeans colonized many countries in order to profit off their resources and also so they could be seen as a global power.

Dracula’s lust for power can be seen when he meets Jonathan in London and says, “That is not enough for me. Here I am noble; I am boyar; the common people know me, and I am master. But a stranger in a strange land, he is no one” (Stoker 27). This quote shows that Dracula gets fulfillment out of ruling over people who know of his power and also fear him. Dracula does not get satisfaction out of being in London because the people there see him as a stranger and have no sense of his power. In his essay, Arata argues that Dracula represents the Victorians fear of “reverse colonization” and the decline of Britain as a global power. In the late 18th century, other countries like Germany, France, and the United States were rising to power. The “changes in international power relationships” caused a widespread fear that another country was likely to invade Britain and take control (Arata 624). This fear is reflected in Dracula when Count Dracula travels to London. Even though he is seen as a stranger, he has the power and potential to conquer Britain. Dracula and his subjects in Transylvania are symbolic of the fear of another country “trying to colonize the civilized world” (Arata 625).

My Lady’s Madness

Passage: “People are insane for years and years before their insanity is found out. They know that they are mad, but they know how to keep their secret… They commit a crime, perhaps. The horrible temptation of opportunity assails them, the knife is in their hand, and the unconscious victim by their side” (Braddon 283).

During this passage, Lady Audley is desperately trying to make Sir Michael believe that Robert has gone insane. She hopes to convince Michael that Robert suffers from madness before he has the chance to expose her secret to him. Through this passage, Lady Audley is trying to frame Robert, however, I believe this passage to be a reflection of her own mental state, and even a confession. As Lady Audley states, “people are insane for years and years before this insanity is found out”, and “they know how to keep their secret” (Braddon 283). This description fits Lady Audley because she has probably been mad for many years, due to George’s absence, and she definitely knows how to keep her secret. There have been many instances where Lady Audley has tried to manipulate Michael so he does not find out her true identity. Also, before the passage, Lady Audley says “I believe [Robert] has lived too long alone in those solitary Temple chambers. Perhaps he reads too much, or smokes too much” (Braddon 283). Again, this is more self-reflection on Lady Audley’s part as she was essentially alone for many years while George was in Australia. She even once admitted to Phoebe that she loves reading sensation novels.

The second part of the passage is where I believe Lady Audley is making a confession. She says “They commit a crime, perhaps. The horrible temptation of opportunity assails them, the knife is in their hand, and the unconscious victim by their side” (Braddon 283). Lady Audley was tempted by the opportunity to fake her death and start a new life, then, when George discovers her truth, she takes that opportunity to kill him. Though Lady Audley is trying to convince Michael of Robert’s madness, she was really reflecting on herself and the crimes she has committed.

Michael Audley and “My Last Duchess”

“He walked straight out of the house, this foolish old man, because there was some strong emotion at work and his heart – neither joy, nor triumph, but something almost akin to disappointment; some stifled and unsatisfied longing which lay heavy and dull at his heart, as if he had carried a corpse in his bosom. He carried the corpse of that hope which had died at the sound of Lucy’s words. All the doubts and fears and timid aspirations were ended now. He must be contented, like other men his age, to be married for his fortune and his position” (Braddon 17).

This passage describes Michael Audley’s emotions after his conversation with Lucy about if she loves him. Lucy’s response was that she does “not love any one in the world”, and this was reassuring to Michael (Braddon 17). In this passage, the word “corpse” is repeated many times. The “corpse” is referring to the emotional burden that Michael is feeling due to his uncertainty of whether Lucy loves him or not. Michael is also described as a “foolish old man”, which could mean that Lucy is lying to him and does in fact love another person (Braddon 17). Michael wishes to be married to someone who truly loves him, and his hope for that “died at the sound of Lucy’s words” (Braddon 17). At the end of the passage, Michael accepts that he is being married for his wealth and status.

This passage reminds me of Robert Browning’s poem “My Last Duchess” because it deals with marriage of people of different economic status. The poem depicts a wealthy duke reminiscing about his wife who has died. Like Michael, the Duke suspects that his late wife had possibly cheated on him or loved another person. In the end of Browning’s poem, it says “I gave commands; Then all smiles stopped together. There she stands, As if alive” This makes it seem like the Duke had her killed, possibly because she loved another man. This might be a stretch, but I wonder if Michael will do something similar to Lucy. This could also be why “corpse” was repeated so many times in the passage as well.