Rossetti's Feminism

2231 WordsOct 8, 19999 Pages
The Victorian period marked the first traces of progress in the feminist movement, and poet Christina Rossetti embraced the advancement as her own long-established principles slowly became publicly acceptable. Her poem "Goblin Market" comments on the institutions in Victorian society that she and her feminist contemporaries wished to see altered, creating modern female heroines to carry out its messages. The goblins serve as malicious male figures to tempt the innocent heroines, sisters Laura and Lizzie, to corruption. According to the Victorian definition, a gentleman "never takes unfair advantage . . . or insinuates evil which he dare not say out," and possesses, among other qualities, the ability to avoid all suspicion and…show more content…
The Victorians would view this degradation as Laura's just desserts, theorizing that, singularly for women, "the sexualized imaginative world is infinitely attractive but sterile and destructive, and those who commit themselves to longing for it waste away in gloom and frustration, cut off from natural human life" (Mermin 288). This societal doctrine required upper-class ladies to remain virginal and pristine, turning them into possessions and consequently causing a repression of passions, a sentiment disputed by Rossetti in her allegorical work. Rossetti's feminist commentary on her society's male-dominated culture would not be complete without a feminine hero, or two. Rossetti recognized the lack of heroines in English literature; although female protagonists existed in small numbers, "they [had] no outlet for heroic action. They [were] constrained by the gender-roles into which a male-dominated society has placed them" (Phillips 1). Rossetti develops two heroines in Laura and Lizzie, to serve as a defiant smirk in the face of the evil male population represented by the goblins. Not only do her heroes overcome the explicitly male vices they encounter, but they do so while proving that sexual expression does not necessarily mean the end for a woman, and they do so with no help but each other's. In Rossetti's society, women are "limited to observation, but [Rossetti's characters] still carr[y] on a woman-centered
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