Christina Rosetti’s Goblin Market chronicles two girls, young maidens Laura and Lizzie, who come across a market of goblins as they walk through the woods. The goblins symbolize strange men, who cannot be trusted, yet still Laura, the more naive one of the two, is drawn to them for the items they sell.
Lizzie warns Laura repeatedly to not give into her temptations, but alas she approaches the goblin men. She says “Good folk, I have no coin; … they answered all together ‘buy from us with a golden curl'”, cuts a piece of her hair off and receives the various fruits they are selling. After this, she begins longing for the fruits again and again.
Lizzie warns her again that “‘dear, you should not stay so late, twilight is not good for maidens; should not loiter in the glen, in the haunts of goblin men. Do you not remember Jeanie, how she met them in the moonlight, took their gifts… but ever in the noonlight she pined and pined away… 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.'”
This symbolizes what pleasure can do to the human brain, and that once something “good” is given to someone again and again, it becomes hard not to pine and long after it when it is taken away. The theme is just that, longing.
I think it is agreeable to say that Dracula scarred every character in the book in some way or another. I also think it is worth noting how much strength is shown by the characters, specifically Mina.
Mina is always thanking men. She is always so grateful and so enthralled by the idea that the men are taking care of things and making plans, etc. But she, whether she realizes it or not, is just as quick and smart as all the male characters are. She does not see it, maybe because she is one woman in a group of five men, and maybe because she has just lost her friend Lucy, who she probably saw as the ideal of what a woman should be (in the home, letting men make choices for her, etc).
Her mindset reflects the Victorian mindset on what a woman’s role is. She is constantly worrying about her husband Jonathan, in all her diary entries and letters. It’s always her either wondering if he is safe, or thanking god that he is with her. A woman’s role, traditionally in this time period, is to be loyal to and tend to their husbands. But Mina does this while actually thinking through why she should be worried, and even reads what Jonathan wrote at Dracula’s Castle and shows it to Van Helsing. She is again, more quickwitted and intelligent than what sits on the surface.
Even after she becomes bit by Dracula, Mina wants to help and to be involved. She is constantly under a lot of stress, having been bitten by a vampire and all, and she shakes off her tiredness and tries her hardest to help. She allows Van Helsing to hypnotize her, among other things. She even travels with the men to Dracula’s Castle. Women in the Victorian era can make for strong characters, as in the case of Mina Harker.
Throughout the short story ‘The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”, the author Robert Stevenson portrays a mythical example of the duality of man, and the extents that can be gone to in order to hide truth. The story presents a classic case of good vs. evil, and shows that although all people contain capacities for good and evil, at the end of the day it’s the decisions a person makes that portray them as a “good” or “bad” person.
Reputation was everything in the late 19th century setting this book takes place in, and opens with an example of a man who is seen by the public as extremely well respected, yet has some sort of an alternative side to him where he likes to meddle in what is seen as dark.
“But he had an approved tolerance for others; sometimes wondering, almost with envy, at the high pressure of spirits involved in their misdeeds; and in any extremity inclined to help rather than to reprove. “I incline to Cain’s heresy,” he used to say quaintly: “I let my brother go to the devil in his own way.”
“If he be Mr. Hyde,” he had thought, “I shall be Mr. Seek.”
These quotes, from Chapter 1 and 2 of Jr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, show Utterson’s pure curiosity towards darkness, even though he is seen as “pure” and well respected in society. This can be compared to society today, where people who have good standing in society sometimes love to meddle in things they aren’t supposed to, starting drama and spreading rumors. This is a large problem in today’s world, leading to misinformation and general distrust in society.
The concept of duality is present in the the novel, “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”, through the main character Dr. Jekyll. Duality is a popular “Victorian” theme as well as the idea of secret lives. Dr. Jekyll shares some similar qualities with the astrological sign Gemini, particularly the concept of duality. The astrological sign, gemini, is typically associated with dual personalities, being two faced, and twins. Dr. Jekyll’s character embodies the two faced stereotype; the good and friendly Dr. Jekyll and the unrestrained and violent Mr. Hyde. This dichotomy reflects the twin-like nature of the Gemini sign as well as the idea of secret lives or duality in Victorian literature. Dr. Jekyll was able to navigate different aspects of himself and separate his good and bad qualities through use of a potion. Dr. Jekyll’s experiment and the manipulation of human nature to separate the good and bad qualities into different personas, reflects his internal struggles. Dr. Jekyll is constantly at battle with his morals and his dark desires, so he toys with potions and successfully separates his darker inclinations behind a masked persona, Mr. Hyde. Although not physically two different people, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are viewed very differently by society. Dr. Jekyll is respected in society and because of this he holds high expectations for himself which is why he indulges in a potion that allows him to transform into Mr. Hyde. Dr. Jekyll is able to maintain a respectable reputation through the secret transformation of his darker alter ego, Mr. Hyde. Of course, life isn’t perfect and everything begins to backfire as Dr. Jekyll loses control over the transformations into Mr. Hyde. The loss of control highlights how unrealistic it is to live two lives and how difficult it is to carry secrets. The separation of the respectable Dr. Jekyll from the malicious Mr. Hyde resonates with the Victorian era, especially the constraints of Victorian society.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s “The Lady of Shalott” is viewed as a romantic ballad, filled with vivid descriptions and a tragic ending. However, beneath its surface beauty lies a deeper exploration of themes that represent the Romantic era. The poem, through the plight of the Lady of Shalott, challenges societal expectations and explores the dangers of isolation and repressed desires. “The Lady of Shalott” is not merely a romantic ballad, but a powerful critique of societal constraints and the yearning for self-determination. We see evidence of this throughout the poem. The Lady’s confinement to the tower, her dependence on the mirror, and her forbidden desire to experience the world directly all highlight the restrictive nature of her existence. As she states, “I am half sick of shadows,” revealing the emotional toll of her isolation and the yearning for connection with the world beyond the mirror. The poem further emphasizes the Lady’s lack of agency by portraying her as a weaver of tapestries depicting scenes she has never experienced firsthand. She is merely a passive observer, forced to create a second-hand reality through her art. This reinforces the societal expectation that women should remain confined to the domestic sphere, unable to participate fully in the world around them. The Lady’s eventual transgression, when she looks directly at Lancelot, symbolizes her defiance against these constraints. This act of self-assertion, while leading to her death, also serves as a moment of liberation. As she sings, “Out flew the web and floated wide, The mirror crack’d from side to side” she breaks free from her metaphorical prison and asserts her individuality. “The Lady of Shalott” transcends its romantic façade to offer a powerful critique of societal expectations and the desire for self-determination. The poem’s enduring appeal lies in its exploration of themes that resonate with readers even today, reminding us of the importance of challenging constraints and pursuing our own desires.
The duality of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde represents the implications of a highly judgmental society in the Victorian era. Throughout the Victorian era, England was predicated on class and social status. Peers judged each other constantly by these aspects, and it made people act differently compared to their true nature. For instance, Dr. Jekyll stated, “I was born in the year 18— to a large fortune, endowed besides with excellent parts, inclined by nature to industry, fond of the respect of the wise and good among my fellowmen, and thus, as might have been supposed, with every guarantee of an honorable and distinguished future” (Stevenson, “Henry Jekyll’s Full Statement of the Case”). From a young age, Dr. Jekyll was clearly concerned about the opinions of his peers, especially since he came from wealth. It shows how concealing his true nature resulted in his duality of life.
The judgments made people live two different lives in the public and private spheres. On the one hand, there would be well-respected citizens like Dr. Jekyll. On the other, there would be a person full of temptations and bold actions like Mr. Hyde. For instance, Dr. Jekyll said, “The evil side of my nature, to which I had now transferred the stamping efficacy, was less robust and less developed than the good which I had just deposed” (Stevenson, “Henry Jekyll’s Full Statement of the Case”). Dr. Jekyll is saying part of himself or his own nature, has been suppressed, and due to the suppression of his nature, he has ended up creating an evil half of himself. The suppression of one’s true nature that Dr. Jekyll experienced was not uncommon in the Victorian era. It is the reason many people live dual lives in private and public spheres. Duality can not only explain Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde but also the duality of many gothic characters through the social norms and class of the Victorian era.
Longing kills. Christina Rossetti is not the first author to breach female loneliness in her works, and she is far from the last, but there is something to be said about the angle from which she approaches the experience. It is oftentimes easier to say that when a woman chooses her independence, she will ultimately be fulfilled without caveats. After all, everyone enjoys a happy ending to a powerful narrative. Rossetti instead lives in the what ifs: what if we are not truly satisfied, what if happiness is not infallible, what if we always want what we cannot have? Her poem “Goblin Market” explores the consequences of the necessary choice women must make between freedom and love, and illustrates a greater collective struggle within oppressed women to choose between independence and companionship at their personal loss.
“Goblin Market”’s central conflict revolves around the potential consequences of consuming the goblin men’s fruit. When reading the poem through the lens of sexuality, it is often thought that Rossetti aims to depict the dangers of men’s implicit violence in sexual encounters. The goblin men pressure Laura into giving up what she does not wish to lose, leaving her alone to yearn further for their fruits. This narrative doubly portrays the choice women are made to make: Laura cannot enjoy the company of a man and live as herself at the same time. By taking the fruit, she makes the transaction of her livelihood for pleasure; we learn that in this metaphor, the two cannot coexist. When Laura goes to bed for the evening, she “[sits] up in a passionate yearning, / And [gnashes] her teeth for baulk’d desire, and [weeps] / As if her heart would break” (stanza 13). “Yearning” and “desire” are both very loaded words typically associated with the romantic and even carnal. Laura wants. And this very wanting is her downfall. Through the language Rossetti employs, she is able to emphasize the lack of agency women are given to have both love and their own lives.
Christina Rossetti’s The World tells the story of the narrator being wooed by a woman who in daylight seems beautiful but by night transforms into a devilish creature. At first the title of the poem seems unrelated to the poem itself, but I believe that Rossetti may be describing how she views “The World” or society. In particular, I think that The World serves as an allegory for the experience of a woman growing up in Victorian society. The attractions of participating in society such as companionship, status, and respect are represented in the poem as “ripe fruit, sweet flowers” and the promise of “full satiety.” The gaining of these attractions is contingent upon acceptance which in turn is contingent on conformity to societal expectations. As the narrator starts to realize this, they see the beautiful woman “in the naked horror of the truth:” “Loathsome and foul with hideous leprosy And subtle serpents gliding in her hair.”
The narrator engages in an internal debate between giving themselves up to the woman or turning their back on all she has to offer. If the narrator wants to gain access to the fruits of society, they must first become what society expects of them. By conforming to societal expectations, the narrator has to “sell My soul to her, give her my life and youth Till my feet, cloven too, take hold on hell.” Once a woman has sacrificed her freedom, independence, and ability to support herself, she may become accepted as the ideal presentable woman and go onto uphold the societal expectations that she may have once abhorred.
The story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a very gloomy one. Dr. Lanyon, Dr.Jekyl, and Mr. Utterson were best friends for many years. When Dr. Lanyon sees Dr. Jekyl transform into Mr.Hyde, he decides never to be friends with him again. This scene represents the fact that people can ignore someone’s bad side, and once they see it, nothing can be done to make them forget it. Everyone has a bad side, Dr. Jekyll just found a way to isolate himself. When humans love someone they tend to be blind towards all the bad aspects of them. This is the reason for toxic relationships of any form. Love makes you blind. This side of Dr. Jekyll was there the whole time, however, he just hid it better. In Dr. Jekyll’s letter to Mr. Utterson, he said, “If I am the chief of sinners, I am the chief of sufferers also. I could not think that this earth contained. a place for sufferings and terrors so unmanning;” (23 Stevenson) Sometimes humans even become blind to their own bad side. People want to think of themselves as good people. Generally speaking, most people try to be good people. However, often times when humans are faced with a moral dilemma they make a more selfish choice. In conclusion, when people see that they or someone else has a darker side, they will forever think of that person differently.
After finishing the “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr.Hyde” I believe that Stevenson was attempting to portray the duality of human nature as well as the natural internal human struggle between good and evil through the characters of Jekyll and Hyde. This idea is very clear from the start of the story as Dr. Jekyll develops a potion that transforms him from a well respected scientist into a morally corrupt monster that taps into his deep sinister desires. One quote from the text where this idea is very prevalent comes when Dr.Jekyll is explaining the reasoning for creating this dual identity, “Hence it came about that I concealed my pleasures; and that when I reached years of reflection, and began to look round me and take stock of my progress and position in the world, I stood already committed to a profound duplicity of me. Many a man would have even blazoned such irregularities as I was guilty of; but from the high views that I had set before me, I regarded and hid them with an almost morbid sense of shame” (50) For me this clearly represents the duality of human nature and Dr.Jekyll’s inability to showcase his true persona and beliefs out of fear for being judged and scrutinized by the public. This theme continues to persist throughout the novel as Dr.Jekyll begins to lose control of Mr.Hyde and the urges and temptations from the “evil side” of his persona ultimately overwhelm and drown out Dr. Jekyll, leading to him committing suicide in order to prevent the dangers that Dr.Hyde posed to society. This ending perfectly wraps up the novel and ties together the idea about the duality of human nature and how sometimes individuals are unable to win the battle of the mind or the battle between good and evil. Dr. Jekyll and Dr.Hyde clearly represent the natural duality of human nature and the difficulties that many individuals have attempting to maintain a balance between the two sides while not succumbing to complete madness like Jekyll ultimately does.