Goblin Market

by

Christina Rossetti

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The Goblin Men’s Fruit Symbol Analysis

The Goblin Men’s Fruit Symbol Icon

The goblin men’s fruit is a complex symbol that represents different kinds of desire and temptation throughout the poem. For Laura specifically, the fruit represent a desire for things that are forbidden, exotic, and sensual. The goblins present the fruit to Laura on golden plates and describe it using sensuous language, emphasizing its taste, color, and juiciness. There is clearly a sexual dimension to Laura’s desire for the fruit, especially evident in the descriptions of her eating it: she “sucked and sucked and sucked the more,” and “sucked until her lips were sore.” Laura also speculates, at first slightly fearfully but later eagerly, about the exotic place where the fruit must have grown, wondering, “Who knows upon what soil they fed / Their hungry thirsty roots?” This suggests that for Laura, the fruit is further representative of life beyond the confines of her role as a typical Victorian woman. To eat it, then, is to metaphorically transgress past the boundaries of women’s acceptable behavior. In this way, the fruit also echoes the forbidden fruit in the biblical Garden of Eden: in the Bible, human beings fell from grace when Eve ate this fruit and introduced sin into the world. Laura’s eating of the goblin men’s fruit is a similar example of her giving into temptation, and her actions strip her of her innocence: Laura’s desire for more fruit is so strong that without it, she pines away and begins to weaken and age.

Lizzie similarly recognizes the fruit as an object of desire, but she perceives its dangerous qualities and tries to warn her sister against eating it. Like Laura, Lizzie becomes physically aroused by the sound of the goblin fruit sellers. Yet, in contrast to her sister’s overt curiosity, Lizzie is ashamed of her interest in the fruit. Like Eve, who attempts to hide herself from the sight of God after eating the forbidden fruit from the Garden of Eden, Lizzie crouches low to the ground and tries to “veil[..] her blushes.” When Lizzie thrusts “a dimpled finger/ In each ear,” shuts her eyes and runs away, she shows that she is not only afraid of the goblin men; she is also afraid of herself and the strength of her desire for things that are forbidden. Metaphorically speaking, Lizzie is afraid of sexual appetites that will place her beyond the pale for nineteenth-century women.

When Lizzie finally confronts the goblin men, she still desires the fruit—but importantly not for herself. She wants to purchase the fruit and bring it home to Laura in the hopes that it will work like an antidote and make her well again. In doing so, Lizzie becomes Christlike. Although acutely aware that goblin fruit brings death and misery to the women who eat it, robbing them of their peace of mind and opportunity to become wives and mothers, Lizzie risks her life and transgresses the rules to retrieve the fruit for her sister. Like Christ, who endured humiliation, torture, and death by crucifixion to save the souls of mankind, Lizzie willingly endures torture at the hands of the goblin men, who beat and abuse her when they realize that they cannot make her eat their fruit. There is also a sexual dimension to the attack Lizzie withstands, because their attempt to force fruit into her mouth might be viewed as a sexual assault or an attempt to violate and rape her. When Lizzie returns with the fruit juice dripping down her face, she instructs Laura to “suck my juices” and to “Eat me, drink me, love me,” echoing the words of Christ at the last supper when he instructed his disciples to eat his body and drink his blood. Through Lizzie’s act of sacrifice, the fruit is transformed from a symbol of forbidden and dangerous sexual desires to a symbol of sacrifice and sisterly love.

The Goblin Men’s Fruit Quotes in Goblin Market

The Goblin Market quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Goblin Men’s Fruit. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Temptation and Fallen Women Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin edition of Goblin Market published in 2005.
Goblin Market Quotes

Morning and evening
Maids heard the goblins cry:
“Come buy our orchard fruits,
Come buy, come buy:
[…]
Plump unpecked cherries,
Melons and raspberries,
Bloom-down-cheeked peaches,
Swart-headed mulberries,
Wild free-born cranberries,
[…]
All ripe together
In summer weather,—
Morns that pass by,
Fair eves that fly;
Come buy, come buy:
Our grapes fresh from the vine,
Pomegranates full and fine,
Dates and sharp bullaces,
Rare pears and greengages,
Damsons and bilberries,
Taste them and try:
Currants and gooseberries,
Bright-fire-like barberries,
Figs to fill your mouth,
Citrons from the South,
Sweet to tongue and sound to eye;
Come buy, come buy.”

Related Characters: The Goblin Men (speaker), Laura, Lizzie
Related Symbols: The Goblin Men’s Fruit
Page Number: 5-6
Explanation and Analysis:

Crouching close together
In the cooling weather,
With clasping arms and cautioning lips,
With tingling cheeks and finger tips.
“Lie close,” Laura said,
Pricking up her golden head:
“We must not look at goblin men,
We must not buy their fruits:
Who knows upon what soil they fed
Their hungry thirsty roots?”

Related Characters: Laura (speaker), Lizzie, The Goblin Men
Related Symbols: The Goblin Men’s Fruit, Hair
Page Number: 6
Explanation and Analysis:

Laura stretched her gleaming neck
Like a rush-imbedded swan,
Like a lily from the beck,
Like a moonlit poplar branch,
Like a vessel at the launch
When its last restraint is gone.

Related Characters: Laura, The Goblin Men
Related Symbols: The Goblin Men’s Fruit
Page Number: 7
Explanation and Analysis:

But sweet-tooth Laura spoke in haste:
“Good folk, I have no coin;
To take were to purloin:
I have no copper in my purse,
I have no silver either,
And all my gold is on the furze
That shakes in windy weather
Above the rusty heather.”
“You have much gold upon your head,”
They answered all together:
“Buy from us with a golden curl.”
She clipped a precious golden lock,
She dropped a tear more rare than pearl,
Then sucked their fruit globes fair or red:

Related Characters: Laura (speaker), The Goblin Men (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Goblin Men’s Fruit, Hair
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:

“Do you not remember Jeanie,
How she met them in the moonlight,
Took their gifts both choice and many,
Ate their fruits and wore their flowers
Plucked from bowers
Where summer ripens at all hours?
But ever in the noonlight
She pined and pined away;
Sought them by night and day,
Found them no more but dwindled and grew grey;
Then fell with the first snow,
While to this day no grass will grow
Where she lies low:
I planted daisies there a year ago
That never blow.”

Related Characters: Lizzie (speaker), Laura, The Goblin Men, Jeanie
Related Symbols: The Goblin Men’s Fruit, Hair
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:

One called her proud,
Cross-grained, uncivil;
Their tones waxed loud,
Their looks were evil.
Lashing their tails
They trod and hustled her,
Elbowed and jostled her,
Clawed with their nails,
Barking, mewing, hissing, mocking,
Tore her gown and soiled her stocking,
Twitched her hair out by the roots,
Stamped upon her tender feet,
Held her hands and squeezed their fruits
Against her mouth to make her eat.

Related Characters: Lizzie, The Goblin Men
Related Symbols: The Goblin Men’s Fruit, Hair
Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:

White and golden Lizzie stood,
Like a lily in a flood,—
Like a rock of blue-veined stone
Lashed by tides obstreperously,—
Like a beacon left alone
In a hoary roaring sea,
Sending up a golden fire,—
Like a fruit-crowned orange-tree
White with blossoms honey-sweet
Sore beset by wasp and bee,—
Like a royal virgin town
Topped with gilded dome and spire
Close beleaguered by a fleet
Mad to tug her standard down.

Related Characters: Lizzie, The Goblin Men
Related Symbols: The Goblin Men’s Fruit, Hair
Page Number: 16
Explanation and Analysis:

She cried “Laura,” up the garden,
“Did you miss me?
Come and kiss me.
Never mind my bruises,
Hug me, kiss me, suck my juices
Squeezed from goblin fruits for you,
Goblin pulp and goblin dew.
Eat me, drink me, love me;
Laura, make much of me:
For your sake I have braved the glen
And had to do with goblin merchant men.”

Related Characters: Lizzie (speaker), Laura, The Goblin Men
Related Symbols: The Goblin Men’s Fruit
Page Number: 17
Explanation and Analysis:

“For there is no friend like a sister
In calm or stormy weather;
To cheer one on the tedious way,
To fetch one if one goes astray,
To lift one if one totters down,
To strengthen whilst one stands.”

Related Characters: Laura (speaker), Lizzie
Related Symbols: The Goblin Men’s Fruit
Page Number: 20
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Goblin Market LitChart as a printable PDF.
Goblin Market PDF

The Goblin Men’s Fruit Symbol Timeline in Goblin Market

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Goblin Men’s Fruit appears in Goblin Market. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Goblin Market
Temptation and Fallen Women Theme Icon
Women’s Role in Society Theme Icon
...hear the cry of the goblin men, who encourage the women to “come buy” their fruit. The goblins sell a variety of exotic, luscious-sounding fruits that they describe in sensuous terms,... (full context)
Temptation and Fallen Women Theme Icon
Women’s Role in Society Theme Icon
...warns her sister that they should not allow themselves to be charmed by the goblins’ fruits and wares, which she calls “their evil gifts.” Thrusting a “dimpled finger” in each ear... (full context)
Temptation and Fallen Women Theme Icon
...sell not such in any town”), while another heaves a heavy golden dish laden with fruit to offer her. Still, they continue to cry out “come buy, come buy.” (full context)
Temptation and Fallen Women Theme Icon
Women’s Role in Society Theme Icon
Laura stares, but does not move. She desires the fruit but has no money to offer in exchange. Nevertheless, the goblin merchants continue to try... (full context)
Temptation and Fallen Women Theme Icon
Women’s Role in Society Theme Icon
Laura knows that she ought not to accept the fruit without being able to pay. She hastily explains this to the goblins, regretting that she... (full context)
Temptation and Fallen Women Theme Icon
Women’s Role in Society Theme Icon
...and urge her to clip one of her curls to offer in exchange for the fruit. Laura agrees and clips the desired lock of hair, dropping “a tear more rare than... (full context)
Temptation and Fallen Women Theme Icon
Women’s Role in Society Theme Icon
Laura immediately begins to suck the fruit that is presented to her. The fruits’ flavor is unlike anything she has ever tasted,... (full context)
Temptation and Fallen Women Theme Icon
When she finishes gorging on the fruit, Laura flings the rinds away and gathers up a kernel stone or fruit pit to... (full context)
Temptation and Fallen Women Theme Icon
Women’s Role in Society Theme Icon
...fate of Jeanie, who met the goblins in the moonlight, accepted their gifts, ate their fruit, and wore their flowers, but then pined away when the goblins abandoned her. Jeanie’s hair... (full context)
Temptation and Fallen Women Theme Icon
...concerns, telling her to “hush.” Laura explains that although she ate her fill of goblin fruit, her mouth still waters for it, and so she has resolved to meet the goblins... (full context)
Temptation and Fallen Women Theme Icon
Women’s Role in Society Theme Icon
...maidens,” Lizzie is content while Laura is absent-minded and sick with longing for the goblin fruit. (full context)
Temptation and Fallen Women Theme Icon
Women’s Role in Society Theme Icon
...hears the goblins, and again urges Laura to come home with her: “I hear the fruit-call but I dare not look.” Laura, on hearing this, turns “cold as stone.” Realizing that... (full context)
Temptation and Fallen Women Theme Icon
Women’s Role in Society Theme Icon
...in a sunny spot and waters it with her tears, but it will not grow fruit. As Laura becomes weaker and older looking, she dreams of the fruit in the way... (full context)
Temptation and Fallen Women Theme Icon
Women’s Role in Society Theme Icon
Salvation and Sacrifice Theme Icon
...to hear the goblins’ cry each night and morning. Lizzie longs to buy the goblins’ fruit to comfort Laura but fears the consequences of this. She remembers the fate of Jeanie,... (full context)
Temptation and Fallen Women Theme Icon
Salvation and Sacrifice Theme Icon
...stretching out dishes and plates and inviting her to look at and taste their luscious fruits. They seductively invite Lizzie to “Bob at our cherries” and “Bite at our peaches,” urging... (full context)
Temptation and Fallen Women Theme Icon
Women’s Role in Society Theme Icon
Salvation and Sacrifice Theme Icon
...and reassuring her that the night is early and warm. They warn Lizzie that the fruit will lose its juiciness and flavor if it is transported from the glen. Lizzie continues... (full context)
Temptation and Fallen Women Theme Icon
Salvation and Sacrifice Theme Icon
...lip/ Lest they should cram a mouthful in.” Instead, she internally laughs to feel the fruit juices covering her face and neck. Finally, the goblins are worn out by Lizzie’s resistance.... (full context)
Temptation and Fallen Women Theme Icon
Salvation and Sacrifice Theme Icon
...and pulls at her hair. She fearfully asks Lizzie if she has eaten the goblins’ fruit and wonders whether her sister will begin to wither and age as she has. She... (full context)
Salvation and Sacrifice Theme Icon
...“scorch” as she sucks the juices from her sister’s face, and the once deliciously sweet fruit becomes bitter and repulsive like “wormwood.” Like someone “possessed,” Laura writhes, leaps, sings, and tears... (full context)
Temptation and Fallen Women Theme Icon
Women’s Role in Society Theme Icon
Salvation and Sacrifice Theme Icon
...her girlhood. However, she also tells them about her dangerous encounter with the “wicked, quaint fruit-merchant men,” whose fruits were “like honey to the throat/ But poison in the blood.” She... (full context)