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Sisters' Relationship in Christina Rossetti's "goblin Market"

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Sisters' Relationship in Christina Rossetti's "Goblin Market"

The relationship between the two sisters Laura and Lizzie in Christina Rossetti's "Goblin Market" seems highly controversial. Having in mind that the author wrote during the Victorian era, when such values as religion, sexual restraint, morality, code of conduct were appreciated, and it was a patriarchal society, where women had to work hard and obey men, might have influenced what she wrote about. Therefore, I will look at the two possible interpretations of how the relationship between sisters in "Goblin Market" can be understood. At one point it looks as if Rossetti is representing women's desires in times when they had to be hidden and the need to restrain from various temptations. Yet, another way to look at the sisterhood is from the feministic point of view: the strength of women during times of their oppression and the importance of relationship between them.

First, I see the relationship between the two sisters as contradiction between the Victorian morality and the wish to be set free of these social rules. Laura, to my mind, is representing women's desires, which they were not supposed to have during those times. Lizzie acts as the one, who obeys the rules. The poem begins with stating that the two sisters are constantly being tempted by goblins' cries to "come buy, come buy" their sweet fruits. I see goblins as the society and their fruits as temptations that women have to restrain from. That is why they are described as hard to resist "plump unpeck'd cherries", "bloom-down-cheek'd peaches, "swart-headed mulberries". Lizzie does not succumb to temptation because she knows it is inappropriate to desire these "fruits". She warns Laura that goblins' "evil gifts would harm" them, which means that if they act the way they want they would be judged and pushed out of society. Lizzie tells Laura that she has to remain virtuous and reminds her of "Jeanie", who was judged greatly by society after her misdeeds. But Laura can restrain no more. She desires to taste these "luscious grapes", meaning that she wants to be free of these burdens. Finally, she does not keep discipline anymore, succumbs to the temptation and sins. She "suck'd and suck's and suck'd the more/ Fruits which that unknown orchard bore". From this time on, Laura becomes a sinner in society's eyes and is therefore pushed out, which makes her sink into sickness and depression, in other words, into loneliness.

Lizzie however, is the one that acts the way a woman is supposed to act. She is diligent and keeps away from temptations maintaining her social value. She knows that "twilight is not good for maidens" and that she must not look at goblin men's fruits. Since women had to work hard during those times, another example of Laura setting off of Victorian values is when sisters do all their work in the morning and sit down to sew as usual, Lizzie feels content, but Laura "sick in part". However, Lizzie cannot watch her sister being so depressed and decides to defend her against society. She then comes to "goblin men" but because Lizzie does not agree with their views about her sister, they call her "proud" and "cross-grain'd". It again represents how harsh and unforgiving society is for committing sin. She is being mocked and kicked by goblins, which to my mind represents that they argue and the society tries to convince her not to help her sister because she is a sinner. But because Lizzie herself has acted as a decent woman all the time, society lets her go in a way forgiving



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