Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti

Chapter 16 of How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster — click on the link for chapter 16, and read that chapter only. Don’t read the name of the chapter before reading the story because it might influence your interpretation before you’ve even started reading, and that would be boring.
It’s that dreaded time in English class. Time to read some poetry! For some students, poetry is the most difficult style of literature to analyze because it’s the style that tends to least resemble everyday speech. It’s a shame that so many students view poetry as “distant” or “boring,” though. Once you learn to understand and appreciate poetry, it’s like developing a taste for gourmet, smelly French cheese. Your palette has matured, and those Kraft cheese singles just won’t do anymore; they taste like plastic to you now.

Our first poem, Goblin Market, is a long one; I’d say it’s more of a short story written in verse. The key here would be to read it first on the literal level. Just try to understand what’s happening in the plot of the story from verse to verse. Once you’ve worked out what happens in a literal sense, you can begin analyzing (inferential/interpretive level). Consider deeper meanings, symbolism, use of language, etc. Goblin Market was published in 1862, which is the same era as A Doll’s House, but the author is English rather than Norwegian.

As with all of the literature we’ve read so far, do NOT look up any information on the poem for your discussion posts. The entire idea is for you to discuss what you think it all means and to exchange ideas with each other, supporting your theories with evidence from only the poem itself. There is no one right answer anyway when it comes to literature. Multiple interpretations are possible.

Once you’ve read the poem and the Foster chapter, respond to the following questions:

Provide a basic summary of what happens in the poem (just on a literal level).
Do you think that the goblins represent anything in particular in this poem? If so, what … and why do you think that?
List 2 separate lines of the poem that you feel include some sexual imagery and break down the language to help others understand the sexual imagery you’re referring to. Try to find lines that none of the other students have used yet. (Once again, this is the inferential/interpretive level.)
What are some of the themes of this poem? What do you think it’s about deep down? What is the author trying to tell us? (This questions is asking you to look at the bigger picture on an evaluative level.)

 

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