Symbols in Goblin Market

Colors: Colors that represent pure minerals, such as silver and gold, are often associated with virtuous qualities. The sisters with their golden hair and white dresses symbolize chastity and purity. Laura in particular is depicted as white and golden since she symbolizes a Christ-like figure in the redemption story line.

The Goblin Fruits: The goblins’ apples and fruits symbolize the biblical fruit in the story of Adam and Eve. In that biblical tale, the devil tempts Eve with a fruit that will give her knowledge, and after she and Adam eat it, then fall from grace. Other fruits that hold significant meaning are the pomegranates which are supposed to symbolize damning temptation and feature prominently in the Greek tale of how Persephone is forced to live in the Underworld with the god of death, Hades.

Symbols Examples in Goblin Market :

Goblin Market 7

"White and golden..."   (Goblin Market )

The colors Rossetti uses to describe Lizzie are important. White and gold symbolize purity and divinity. Angels are often depicted in these colors, draped in white robes and graced by a floating golden halo above their heads. Lizzie is depicted this way because of her continued purity, even when confronted with temptations of the goblins and their delicious but wicked fruit.

"In earliest Winter time..."   (Goblin Market )

Winter is a classic poetic symbol for old age and death. Jeanie’s improper actions brought on an “early winter,” which aged her prematurely.

"doves..."   (Goblin Market )

In Christian theology, doves symbolize peace and heavenly harmony. Laura hears “doves’ in the voices of the goblins. However, the reader should not take this as a sign of the goblins’ internal goodness. This is instead a sign that Laura is blind to the dangers of these goblins. Much like Eve was tricked into believing the serpent was virtuous in the biblical story of the Garden of Eden, Laura is tricked into seeing the goblins as friendly.

"merchant man..."   (Goblin Market )

Notice how the depiction of the goblins shifts throughout the poem. They begin as mythological monsters, then become male goblins, then become “merchant men.” This progression advances the metaphorical reading of this poem as a Victorian allegory against sexual temptation and the preservation of one’s chastity. In this way, the goblins represent men tempting women into sexual deviance.

"golden head..."   (Goblin Market )

Throughout the poem, gold is a symbol for godliness and purity. In Christian imagery, golden halos are painted on saints and other holy people. Heaven is thought to be populated by angels so gloriously beautiful that they appear in a golden beam of light. The “golden hair” of these sisters shows that they are pure and that they belong in the Garden of Eden.

"All ripe together..."   (Goblin Market )

Given the religious symbolism of apples and the Christian imagery throughout the poem, the seemingly eternal nature of this fruit could be read as an allusion to the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden.

"Apples..."   (Goblin Market )

In Western Culture, “apples” allude to the story of Adam and Eve. In the Biblical story of Genesis, God grants Adam and Eve dominion over all of Eden, a paradisiacal garden where there is no time or strife. The only thing he forbids them from doing is eating from the Tree of Knowledge. When Satan tricks Eve into eating an apple from the tree, Adam and Eve are cast out of the garden and condemned to mortality.