Rossetti’s Goblin Market viewed by Marxist criticism
The poem, “Goblin Market” by Christina Rossetti, was originally intended to be a fairytale to teach children the simple cliché: “Don’t trust strangers.” Nevertheless, whether intended or not, the convoluted manner in which Rossetti crafts this poem, demonstrates that there are deeper meanings to this poem. The poem is no longer regarded as just a children’s fable, but instead is viewed as social commentary in which Rossetti is commenting about the world around her. The poem can be understood more deeply when it is interpreted through Marxist criticism. Marxist criticism, utilizes beliefs and ideas generated from Karl Marx. It involves analyzing the social structure, such as race, class and culture, and the distribution of wealth and power in a society. Utilizing Marxism criticism, we can further delve under the poem’s deceivingly innocent and childlike facade and better understand the socioeconomic relationships and social injustices that took place during this time period, the Victorian era. Through the use of Marxist criticism, the “Goblin Market” by Christina Rossetti becomes a social commentary that explores the issues of capitalism and seeks to debunk social injustices. Marxism states that the power in society lies with the people who have more money or goods and that the class struggle can only be ended by a revolution of the proletariat, the laboring class. In “Goblin Market” Rossetti shows the class stratification between the two sisters and the goblin men, the latter being more powerful and controlling in the society. This class status is maintained till the end of the poem when Lizzie, a member of the proletariat, fights back and there is a revolution to usurp the power of the bourgeoisie. “Give me back my silver penny/ I tossed you for a fee.”−/ They began to scratch their pates,/ No longer wagging, purring,/ But visibly demurring”; Lizzie uses her money to buy the fruit and take back the power of the proletariat (11). This is the class revolution, in which the bourgeoisie begin to question their power (demurring) and begin to feel threatened by the growing strength of the proletariat. The goblins do not simply succumb to the pressures and efforts of the proletariat, they fight back. The bourgeoisie physically fight back to reassert their social dominance. “Lashing their tails/ They trod and hustled her,/ Elbowed and jostled her,/ Clawed with their nails”; the goblins are literally clawing to maintain their social standing, and when they are threatened they become belligerent and deem the only way to regain their position is through violence (11). This trend
can be seen throughout history when the bourgeoisie feels that their status is threatened they will lash out and become aggressive.
In “Goblin Market” Rossetti simply does not craft a work for children to read, but creates a world that emulates the real, increasingly capitalistic world in which Rossetti lived. In the poem, the goblin’s marketplace represents a monopoly. As the owners of the monopoly, the goblins have all the power, rendering the protagonists, Lizzie and Laura, powerless. The market itself is a representation of capitalism, where people own goods and businesses privately and are free to set their own prices, solicit their goods, and make their own profits. The goblins in the market were willing to trade for their goods, but the only condition was that they would have to set the price. Laura wants to buy the fruit from the goblins. Although she has no money, the goblins insist that she can buy the fruit anyway: “You have much gold upon you head,”/They answered all together:/ “Buy from us with a golden curl’” (4). In this situation the goblins are able to set the price. Laura does not have real money, but they allow her to pay with her hair, instead of money. As a result, Laura is indebted to the goblins. By allowing Laura to pay with her hair and falling into debt with them, the goblins...
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