Side by side or miles apart, will sisters always be connected by heart?

“Goblin Market” is like a loaded baked potato. I mean it is stuffed with moral and ethical questions. There is sisterhood, deceit, desire, sacrifice, etc. Out of all of these packed topics, the strongest message that came through this poem for me had to do with the power of sisterhood. The fairytale nature and the development of the sisters’ relationship both impacted my interpretation of the lesson of a sister’s love.

The fiction is immediate. Initially, the title places us in the middle of a strange setting where goblins exist. Then the first two lines hit the ground running by showing us that “morning and evening maids heard the goblins cry” (lines 1-2). We see an interaction between the goblins and humans. This interaction is hardly normal or accepted to the adult, but from a child’s perspective could be possible. The way Rossetti makes this poem so instantly fictitious encourages the reader to read with the perspective of a child, or simply as though you are reading a children’s tale. When I read kids books, my mind immediately expects two things: a moral of the story and out of the box, creative thinking. Considering this, the fairytale nature of “Goblin Market” prompted me to expect and look out for a virtuous ending.

Although I was expecting a happy ending, I was pleasantly surprised at the weight this poem carried. The way the plot took the two sisters down a progression of any good relationship was something you hardly find in a traditional story. The two main characters progress from participating in a reckless hobby “evening by evening” of watching the goblins “Laura bow’d her head to hear, Lizzie veil’d her blushes” (lines 34-35). The line between harmless pastimes and danger begin to blur and the sisters become divided by choice. Lizzie runs, “in each ear, shut eyes and ran” while Laura stays, “curious Laura chose to linger” (lines 68-69). The divide grows wider and deeper as the consequences of these actions begin to set in. Laura starts to go mad over the fruit she has eaten, while Lizzie starts to unhinge over her older sister’s loss of sanity. There is a great part that highlights the gravity of this divide that says “one content, one sick in part” (line 212). The insanity drives the sisters to this next huge step in their relationship where Lizzie sacrifices all she can in order to save her sister. Something about the strength and motivation Lizzie has to save her sister is captured so well in my favorite lines of this poem, “one may lead a horse to water, twenty cannot make him drink” (lines 422-423). Lizzie is able to save Laura and the relationship progresses to the eventual reunion between the sisters. Reading this, I got the strong message that a sister will be there no matter what. Not only will she be there, but also she will be there to save you when you most need it.

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