England's Victorian era was known for its significant contributions to literature, and one of the most profound of the time was Christina Georgina Rossetti of London. She was mostly known for her thematic affinity for children's poetry, as well as toward religion and romance, and was hailed for her long narrative poem "Goblin Market".
Rossetti's sister Maria even became a nun with the Anglican order, and Rossetti herself began to denounce supposedly negative values in her favorite works of art and literature, such as nudity and pride. Her first collection, Goblin Market and Other Poems, was published in 1862 when she was thirty-one years old; this set, specifically "Goblin Market", was highly touted by critics as her best work and found its complex themes varying from seduction to feminism. Rossetti was never active in the women's suffrage movement of her time, but many believe that her seemingly child-oriented poetry proclaimed her stand on the issue. Coinciding with her religious beliefs, Rossetti was against war, slavery, and prostitution (Marsh 152)
For the rest of her writing career, Rossetti focused on children's poetry and religious literature, and her Christmas-themed work "In the Bleak Midwinter" is proof of her unyielding faith. Christina Rossetti contracted Graves Disease in the late 1800s, and passed in December 1894 (Everrett, pars. 1-5).
This landmark poem written by Christina Rossetti is often interpreted through several modes of criticism: from sexuality to vampiricism, from submission to deliverance, from gender issues to feminism. Though the author herself categorically declared that the poem was meant for children-as one would note its end being a tale about the value of sisterhood and loyalty-many critics believed otherwise. This is perhaps due to the wealth of sexual imagery in the poem, particularly in the graphic descriptions of the 'fruit' being used as a symbol of temptation. However, there is much to be gleaned from reading this complex work through the lens of feminism, due to the fact that Rossetti's Victorian society was abound with specific rules and conventions regarding women and their roles. Superstitions and tales are found within the poem's narrative, explicitly depicted by the reference to a woman named Jeanie; this belief is introduced in the lines "Do you not remember Jeanie,/How she met them in the moonlight,/Took their gifts both choice and many,/...But ever in the moolight/She pined and pined away;/Sought them by night and day,/Found them no more, but dwindled and grew gray". This is the causal effect of the warning Lizzie gave her sister, "Twilight is not good for maidens", which already hints at the kind of restriction forced upon such young women; the result of non-compliance would surely mean gloom and aging, both concepts considered undesirable by this group. The fear of these outcomes is elucidated upon even more in Lizzie's memory of "Jeanie in her grave,/Who should have been a bride;/But who for joys brides hope to have/Fell sick and died/In her gay prime", making Jeanie the prime example of the erstwhile Victorian maiden, whose ultimate goal is marriage. There is also a premium placed on youth and appearance, as seen in the visual comparison between the sisters' golden locks and the fallen woman's gray hair; undeniably, the ideal of the Victorian woman had much to do with beauty, and the sacrifice of such would be akin to death. This thread referring to physical looks is also maintained by the qualities of the fruits being sold by the goblin men, such as ripeness, ...
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