Cristina Rossetti's "Goblin Market" has received over the past two decades a remarkable amount of attention from literary critics who have approached the poem from a variety of perspectives: Marxist, feminist, biblical, and even biographical. Many of these critical articles are too concerned, however, with their own theoretical paradigms to provide more than a narrow perspective on the place of "Goblin Market" as both central to and representative of Rossetti's verse as a whole. Instead of beginning with such a norrow perspective, this essay argues for a return to the actual language and structure of the poem itself as a means of exploring its central themes. Most specifically, it examines Rossetti's use of the list in "Globin Market" as indicative of the poet struggling to resolve her intense Tractarianism with both her love of nature and her tendency toward a Pre-Raphaelite embracing of detail and abundance. Such an analysis of the forces that shaped Rossetti the poet is essential for an understanding not only of "Goblin Market" but of her poetry as a whole. Thus, this analysis does not reject all other critical approaches; rather, it attempts to subsume them into a less narrow, hopefully more fruitful perspective from which we may view Rossetti's poetry as she herself perhaps did. Only through such an approach can we arrive at the central themes of temptation and moral discernment, especially as present in a symbolic and seductively diverse natural world, that Rossetti explores at the very crux of "Goblin Market."
- Copyright 1996 The Regents of the University of California