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Does Rossetti's poetry portray males solely as villains?

Does Rossetti's poetry portray males solely as villains?

In the poem ‘Goblin Market’ by Christina Rossetti, the villains are seen to be the goblins, who also happen to be male. They try to entice both Laura and Lizzie to ‘come buy’ all their fruits, which when eaten, lead to terrible consequences.

     Rossetti uses a lot of comparisons between the goblins and animals, such as, ‘crowing, clucking and gobbling,’ which instantly portrays the goblins in a negative light, as they are shown to be less than human, which also gives them quite a sinister air. The fluctuation of the goblins’ moods is also extremely sinister for the reader, as at one moment, they are rough and animalistic, and the next, they are almost given feminine qualities; ‘full of airs and graces,’ and ‘demure grimaces.’ This is effective as, it may confuse the reader, and make them unsure of how the goblins will behave next, making them more threatening and adding to the tension.

    Near the end of the poem, it talks about Lizzie and Laura when they are older; ‘wives with children of their own,’ but with no explicit mention of any husbands and fathers, yet the ending is increasingly positive, idealising sisterhood; ‘For there is no friend like a sister,’ which could suggest that males are not included because they are negative characters or villains.

     In order to ascertain fruit from the goblins, Laura has to pay with ‘a precious goblin lock,’ rather than money, so she is essentially paying with a part of herself. When Lizzie tries to use money to pay for fruit later, the goblins become extremely hostile; ‘stamped upon her tender feet,’ which shows that they were only interested in immoral ways of being paid, and that they only viewed the girls merely as possessions, which is very true of the era the poem was written in; women were viewed as property of men, so this could be Rossetti making a social statement about how this is wrong. Also, this could be a loose retelling of Rossetti’s time helping at a house for ‘fallen women,’ particularly as the idea of payment through the use of parts of the body is reiterated; ‘you have much gold upon your head.’ This could again demonstrate a negative view of men as, women were viewed in a bad light for having led a life of prostitution, yet men were obviously perpetuating this crime by partaking themselves, yet their reputations were not tarnished, ad nor were they disowned.

     In the poem ‘Jessie Cameron’ by Rossetti, a different view of men is given, as Jessie’s lover, is portrayed to be the weaker character, who is unable to persuade Jessie to stay, let alone control and own her. He begs for ‘one kind word,’ which is something that a stereotypical female of the time would do. But most importantly, although he is portrayed negatively at first; ‘that in his heart was guile,’ the narrator challenges this hearsay, by saying, ‘yet he had gone through fire and flood only to win her smile,’ which successfully shows that he truly loves Jessie, which again, would be strange, as marriages at the time were not for love, they were essentially for security and status. The fact that the negative comments about him are actually hearsay and gossip; ‘some say his grandma was a witch,’ suggests that these comments are actually unreliable, making him seem like a better character.

     In Rossetti’s poems, conflicting views of men are shown. In ‘Goblin Market,’ men are ultimately shown as the villains, by almost causing the death of Laura, and also through the social undertones, regarding possessive nature of men over women at the time, yet in ‘Jessie Cameron,’ the male character is the one with genuine feelings for Jessie, who is spurned; ‘I’m no mate for you,’ effectively creating sympathy towards his character, and showing a vulnerable and caring sided, suggesting that despite derogatory comments, he is not a villain, proving that Rossetti had different views about men. 



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