Feminism in Goblin Market (1862)


This image represents the feminist tones throughout Christina Rossetti’s poem Goblin Market . Christina Rossetti takes a religious approach to her story telling technique which is very popular in Victorian literature. Instead of telling the traditional story of temptation and a woman tempting a man, it is rather the masculine figures of the Goblins tempting the women. This role reversal gives power to the women and shows men as something other than the hero or the protagonist of life. This is shown in the wood engravings done by Dante Gabriel Rossetti in which the goblins, who are unappealing try to manipulate Laura to buy the fruits and succeed while Lizzie is retreating away from the situation and the temptation. These two women capture the essence of what women were not suppose to be at the time, first strong, as Lizzie declines the temptation and later saves her sister, her role is that of a hero which is not suppose to be the role for a woman. Secondly women are not suppose to be  the ones to be tempted, typically it is the wicked women who tempt the men but in this poem the roles are reversed and Laura can be seen succumbing to the temptation by the masculine goblin figures. 

The illustrations of this moment is pivotal in understanding the way that the roles are reversed. Rossetti is offering a retelling of sorts of the traditional Adam and Eve story but through the lense of feminism and sisterhood. Though Dante Gabriel Rossetti depicts the women as beautiful they are not the temptresses and they are not looking to be saved by men, they are the protagonist of their own story as seen in the illustration. The work of the illustration and the poetry combined put emphasis that this is a story for women about women empowerment in a time and place where women were not seen as equals.


Rossetti, Christina G. Goblin Market (1862), illustrated by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Goblin Market Digital Edition edited by Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, Antony Harrison, et al. COVE Electronic Editions, 2018, https://editions.covecollective.org/edition/goblin-market

Associated Place(s)