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A Marxist Criticism of Goblin Market

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Introduction

A Marxist Criticism of Rosetti's Goblin Market Oliver Latham 'Goblin Market', an early work considered to be one of Rosetti's masterpieces, was supposedly intended simply as a fairy story. Despite assertions that Rosetti meant nothing profound by the tale, its rich, complex, and suggestive language has caused the poem to be practically ignored as children's literature and instead regarded variously as an erotic exploration of sexual fantasy, a feminist glorification of 'sisterhood', or a Christian allegory about temptation and redemption, among other readings. Marxism, however, is a 'materialist philosophy': that is it tries to explain things 'without assuming the exisistence of a world or of forces beyond the natural world around us...' and, more importantly 'the society we live in.' Marxist literary criticism maintains that writer's social class, and its prevaling 'ideology' (outlook, values, assumptions etc.) have a major bearing on what is written. Writers, Marxism proposes, are not simply autonomous 'inspired' individuals, whose creative genius enables them to bring forth great works of literature, but rather they are constantly and subconsciously formed by their social and economic contexts.1 In Goblin Market, for instance, Rosetti takes a rather conservative stance on the issue of female sexual exploration which reflects her upper middle class Victorian upbringing. ...read more.

Middle

Laura's refusal to attend these chores further places her outside the domestic sphere7, because she is no longer able to perform the tasks that will someday give her value as a wife. That marriage is the main goal of the female characters in the context of the poem is implied by Lizzie's musings of Jeannie's fall and subsequent death: 'She thought of Jeanie in her grave, who should have been a bride...' (312-3) Jeannie represents the archaic belief in Victorian society that the 'fallen women' is bound to die early. This latter reading is evidenced in 'Goblin Market' through Lizzie's physical deterioration. She ages prematurely: 'Her hair grew thin and gray; she dwindled, as the fair full moon doth turn to swift decay...' (277-9) and experiences a loss of reproductive ability. When Laura tries to cultivate a fruit tree from the kernel stone of one of the goblins' fruits, watering it with her tears, the pit does not take root and grow. In Laura, however, Rosetti asserts her belief in redemption and restoration for the women who transgress. That the writing of 'Goblin Market' coincided with the period during which Rosetti worked at the Highgate Penitentiary attests to this belief. While Jeannie dies because of her sins, Laura is restored. ...read more.

Conclusion

The implications of 'Goblin Market' are wide ranging and ambiguous, just as are the views of its author. Rosetti pulls down the ideological boundaries of femininity and sexuality through her characterization and language, only to reestablish them at the poem's close. Yet, to a Marxist critic, this is evidence of the turbulent times Rosetti found herself writing in and analysis reveals the underlying ideologies which were present under the surface of the seemingly conventional Victorian world. 1 Beginning Theory: Marxist criticism/Marxist literary criticism: general/p.158 2 The Nineteenth Century: Comparing Critical Approaches/p.51 3 Beginning Theory: Marxist criticism/The present: the influence of Althusser/p.163 4.Beginning Theory: Marxist criticism/ The present: the influence of Althusser/p.166 5 AQA Critical Anthology (01.09)/Bertens, H. (2001) Literary Theory: The Basics, (The Politics of Class: Marxism), (pp. 81-3), Abingdon: Routledge 6D'Amico, Diane/ Christina Rossetti: Faith, Gender, and Time/ Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP (1999) Bentley, D. M. R./The Meretricious and the Meritorious in "Goblin Market: A Conjecture and an Analysis 7 Victorian social structure: men and women occupied different roles in society, or spheres. Women were assigned the domestic sphere which emphasized the importance of marriage, childbirth and respectability. 8 Gitter, Elisabeth G. "The Power of Women's Hair in the Victorian Imagination." (1984): ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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