Christina Rossetti As One of the Most Prominent Female British Poet: Analytical Essay

This essay sample was donated by a student to help the academic community. Papers provided by EduBirdie writers usually outdo students' samples.

Cite this essay cite-image

Christina Rossetti, one of the most prominent female British poets, was born in 1830, and wrote during the height of the Victorian age. As a well-educated, but unmarried woman, she would have been intimately familiar with the standards that the fairer sex were held to, the most important of which was purity. As journalists Karen Prior points out, purity, or virtue, was almost always equated with virginity in the Victorian era, and so women who had transgressed sexually in the eyes of society through prostitution, adultery, or intercourse before marriage, were known as ‘fallen woman’ and were shunned (Furneaux).

Christina Rossetti's poem, The Goblin Market, written in 1859, functioned as a moral allegory cautioning against sexual transgression, using the extended metaphor of the fruit sold by the Goblin men to represent a sinful intercourse. The warning against the Goblin men echoes throughout the poem, beginning with admonitions and not to look at the Goblin men (Rossetti, 42, 49), and then going on to describe the dangers of their fruit, as it ‘would harm us’ (66), and is ‘poison in the blood’ (555).

In Victorian England, prostitution and other sexual misdemeanors were regarded as very serious social evils, and it was believed that these sins would lead to deep tragedy, and ultimately, death. This attitude is reflected in the first section of The Goblin Market, where Lizzie reminds her straying sister of what happened to their friend, Jeanie, who met the Goblin men and ‘ ate their fruits’ (150). This unfortunate girl ‘dwindled and grew grey’ (156), and, at the time of the poem, lies buried in a grave where flowers refused to grow (157-161). The story of Jeanie is revisited later in the poem, and the metaphor becomes more explicit, saying that Jeanie

… should have been a bride;

But who for joys brides hope to have

Fell sick and died (313-315).

In other words, the joy of the bride, which is sex, was indulged in before marriage, and as a consequence, the girl died. Victorian society was obsessed with this fear and even the Bishop of London addressed the issue in 1868, discussing strategies to reduce prostitution and encouraging ‘the prevention of early vice among the young’ (The Morning Chronicle, 3).

The Goblin Market discourages sexual indiscretion, but rather than focusing on temptation being overcome, it deals with the possibility of redemption after the temptation is given in to. The poem follows two sisters, Lizzie and Laura, through one of the most common of story patterns: temptation (Rossetti, 1-80), the fall (81-298), and redemption through sacrifice (299-567).

This trope can be seen in many stories and pieces of literature, not the least of which is the Bible. The Bible tells the story of the creation of humankind, their temptation, their fall into sin, and eventually, their redemption through the death of Jesus, who took a consequence of sin upon himself, and then rose from the dead in victory. The Christian church played a significant role in the everyday life of people in Victorian England, so most readers would recognise the parallels in plot and form between The Goblin market and the Bible (Arnstein, 149-175).Â

Christina Rossetti was a woman of deep faith, and intimately familiar with the Bible (and much of her writing reflects her religious and spiritual convictions). Her view of female virtue was in alignment with what Victorian society held to be true, but what set her apart from the majority of Victorians was her belief that fallen women were not necessarily ‘lost forever’ (Poetry Foundation), but could be rehabilitated and saved. The last half of The Goblin Market (the redemption section) reveals this new perspective. For example, rather than viewing Laura with judgment, as many Victorians would have viewed prostitutes, Lizzie treats her fallen sister with deep compassion, and ‘could not bear to watch her sister’s cankerous care Yet not share' (Rossetti, 299-301). It is this kindness that ultimately leads to Laura's redemption, through Lizzie's sacrificial actions. Lizzie is almost a Christ-like figure in her brave quest to save Laura's life, and the Biblical allusion and symbolism throughout the last section of the poem would have been familiar to most Victorian readers (Arnstein, 149-175). Just as in the Bible, blameless and sinless Jesus Christ took upon himself the sin of all humankind (and as a result, their punishment), so similarly in The Goblin Market, Lizzie who never ate the Goblin fruit, chose to share in her sister's punishment:

Save your time!
We can take care of your essay
  • Proper editing and formatting
  • Free revision, title page, and bibliography
  • Flexible prices and money-back guarantee
Place Order

undone in mine undoing,

And ruin'd in my ruin (482-483).

In the poem, Lizzie tells her sister, ‘for your sake I have braved the glen And had to do with goblin merchant men’ (473-474), just as Jesus had to brave the consequences of sin. According to the Bible, the natural punishment for sin is death(English Standard Version, Romans 6.23), and so Jesus died. His sacrifice allowed humans to live eternally in heaven by trusting in him (John 3.16), and because Jesus was also God, he came back to life (2 Corinthians 5.14-15). This death and resurrection pattern is alluded in the poem, and as Jesus' sacrifice allows humans to live, so Lizzie's sacrifice brings to her sister ‘ life out of death’ (Rossetti, 524). Due to Rossetti's piety, and the fact that she worked for over 10 years as one of the ‘sisters’ at the St. Mary Magdalene house for fallen women (a refuge designed to support and rehabilitate fallen women), it is understandable that she used the illusion of redemption through sisterly love in her poem.

For all its moralizing, The Goblin Market does not conclude with a stern warning or cautionary phrase, but rather with a restatement of the power of sisterly love:

For there is no friend like a sister

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. (Rossetti, 562-567)

The Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti is more than just a story of sisterly love. When studied in the socio historical context, this poem provides a fascinating insight into some of the darker aspects of Victorian culture, specifically its judgment of fallen women. Using Biblical allusion and extended metaphor, the poem explores not only the dangers of sexual transgression, but also the possibility of redemption, and this is what makes the poem still relevant today. Many of the societal standards for women and common beliefs about virtue that were prevalent in Christina Rossetti's time no longer apply to general society today, but despite the changes in culture and worldview, the themes of sacrifice, love, and redemption hold true, and everyone can acknowledge the power of a story that tells of a sister who “ Stood in deadly peril to do her[ sister] good' (557-558).

Make sure you submit a unique essay

Our writers will provide you with an essay sample written from scratch: any topic, any deadline, any instructions.

Cite this paper

Christina Rossetti As One of the Most Prominent Female British Poet: Analytical Essay. (2022, September 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 21, 2024, from
“Christina Rossetti As One of the Most Prominent Female British Poet: Analytical Essay.” Edubirdie, 27 Sept. 2022,
Christina Rossetti As One of the Most Prominent Female British Poet: Analytical Essay. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 21 May 2024].
Christina Rossetti As One of the Most Prominent Female British Poet: Analytical Essay [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 27 [cited 2024 May 21]. Available from:

Join our 150k of happy users

  • Get original paper written according to your instructions
  • Save time for what matters most
Place an order

Fair Use Policy

EduBirdie considers academic integrity to be the essential part of the learning process and does not support any violation of the academic standards. Should you have any questions regarding our Fair Use Policy or become aware of any violations, please do not hesitate to contact us via

Check it out!
search Stuck on your essay?

We are here 24/7 to write your paper in as fast as 3 hours.