Historical Context in Goblin Market
Victorian-era expectations: In the early Victorian era, there were strict rules and expectations about sexuality. Women were considered weak, innocent, and naive with little to no sexual appetite or inclinations. In contrast, men were at fault for incidents pertaining to indiscretion and blamed for taking advantage of the fragility of women. Later in the Victorian era, the rules and expectations changed. Now, women were at fault for enticing men, who were simply acting on their innate sexual desires. One thing stayed consistent throughout the era: chastity was extremely important. A woman’s chastity was thought to be the most important thing, and those who were not pure and chaste were looked down upon in society.
Rossetti’s Inspiration: There are two proposed ideas for inspiration for this text. In 1859, Rossetti began volunteering at St. Mary Magdalene’s Penitentiary, a refuge and charitable institution dedicated to “fallen women,” where she worked with women who were engaged in deviant sexual acts. Another possible source of inspiration comes from the poem’s dedication, “To M. F. R.” These are the initials of Rossetti’s sister, Mary, who reportedly helped her avoid eloping with a married man.