AS English Literature – Unit 1- AQA – Poetry anthology – Christina Rossetti

This was an unfinished draft of an answer to a practice exam question from Section B of the current AQA AS English Literature exam paper. This paper is called Aspects of Narrative. In Section B of the AQA paper, you will be given the option of two 42 marker questions and you will need to pick one to answer in the recommended time of one hour.

This was my unfinished attempt at answering one of the past paper Section B questions so I thought it may be helpful to share as it does explore popular ideas and interpretations on this aspect of her poems:


Write about the significance of the way Christina Rossetti has used places

In Christina Rossetti’s poems, places have often been used to convey to the reader the time-period and the mood in which her poems are set. Additionally, her poems can also be read to interpret the place as a symbol.

For instance, Goblin Market – made evident from the title – is set in a market that sells goods. The physical setting in the poem and much of the language “longed to buy” refers to buying and selling in the market. Rossetti may have designed the poem such to separate Lizzie and Laura into choosing between the domestic, more socially accepted life in Victorian society for women and the commercial life where women were traded as goods to be exchanged in the market rather than businesswomen of their own right. This interpretation also coincides with Rossetti’s interest in fallen women and the Victorian concern about prostitution as a social evil because Laura exchanges her “precious golden lock” for the goblin men’s fruit. The golden hair of the heroine is commonly associated with the beauty and purity of the fair maiden moreover; “precious” suggests that the heroine’s value to Victorian society and value in the “market” lies in these qualities. Thus, by exchanging her purity i.e. her virginity, for the forbidden fruit, Laura has been permanently stripped bare of her maiden status, out of wedlock, because her virtue has been tainted by strange goblin men. Thereafter, her inability to hear the goblin’s cry “Come buy, come buy” emphasises the depreciation of Laura’s worth in the marriage “market” as she has failed to meet the standards set by Victorian society and is now set aside as an outcast; a fallen woman.

Contrastingly, the title The Convent Threshold is used metaphorically rather than as a physical location, to display the persona’s struggle to choose between her lover and the love of God as she stands in the doorway between both. Although, interpreted literally, the poem can be set with the persona as most probably a nun, standing on the doorway of convent.




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