Although ambiguous, I believe Rossetti creates the message of the internal struggle that women of the Victorian era felt through the use of symbolic representation. Women, as part of the Victorian society, were required to follow and submit to the typical role of what was expected of them. Rossetti uses Laura to convey the battle of refraining from exploration of natural human desires and the consequences that could follow such weakness to temptation.
Both sisters do everything in their power to resist the goblin men’s fruit, yet “curious Laura chose to linger” and eventually fell into temptation (69). The indulgence to the forbidden fruit that was “sweeter than honey” symbolizes the attempt to repress sexual desire and the end result of losing innocence (129). Because Laura fell short of the expectation that society had for women, Rossetti illustrates the consequences that Victorian women would be required to confront as a result of the premature transition to adulthood. Almost as a warning, it is explained that such indulgence can lead to a “knocking at Death’s door,” which could potentially be interpreted as the loss of a woman’s worth (321). In other words, Victorian women will be poisoned and deemed as worthless if they give into natural desire too early. Laura represents a Victorian woman who acts on internal struggle by challenging society’s/men’s expectations with nonconformity and self-exploration.
Lizzie, on the other hand, represents the struggle of Victorian women by submitting to the expectations of society. The use of violent language as she enters into the Market, such as “elbowed and jostled her”, symbolizes the double standard that was extremely prevalent in such times (400). Although women were expected to remain pure and intact with their youth, the goblins represent the Victorian men as they “squeezed their fruits against her mouth to make her eat” (407). The point is that men were allowed to do what they wanted with women, indulge in oppression, luxuriate in temptation- you name it. The unjust truth of the contrasting standard made the internal struggle real for these women.
I find it interesting that men are never even confronted in the work, leading me to presume that Rossetti is attempting to illustrate that all eyes were constantly on the women, watching their every move. In contrast, men had the liberty to act on anything they desired and their indiscretions were often overlooked. The dichotomy between Lizzie and Lauren’s actions regarding the strict rules of Victorian women shows the ubiquitous strife that females endured regarding temptation and oppression from men in Victorian society.