"Eat me, drink me, love me":
The Consumable Female Body in
Christina Rossetti's Goblin Market
MARY WILSON CARPENTER
ALICE FALLS DOWN THE RABBIT-HOLE SHE BEHAVES, AS NANCY
Armstrong has pointed out, like a typical shopper - picking out
and then putting back a jar of orange marmalade from the shelves of the
rabbit-hole.1 Later, she discovers that objects in Wonderland tend to come
inscribed with such unsubtle advertising ploys as "eat me" or "drink me."
Noting that all Alice's troubles seem to "begin and end with her mouth,"
Armstrong relates Alice's dilemma to "a new moment in the history of desire,"
a moment when the burgeoning "consumer culture" based on British
imperialism changed the nature of middle-class English femininity (p. 17).
Alice in Wonderland (1865) demonstrates the logic that links the colonial
venture to the appetite of a little girl through the image of a "double-bodied
woman" - a conflation of non-European women with European prostitutes
and madwomen, all three of which were thought to exhibit the same features
of face and genitals and, more crucially, to display the disfiguring results of
unrestrained "appetite."2 Victorian consumer culture both produced objects
of desire and dictated that little Alices must learn to control their desires, in
imagined contrast to women of the "dark continents" and prostitutes on the
dark streets of their own cities.
So runs Armstrong's persuasive reading of a Victorian "children's"
classic known to as many adults as children. Christina Rossetti's poem,
Goblin Market, first published in 1 862, suggests its location in the same intersection
of imperialist culture and consumer capitalism that Armstrong
elucidates for Alice in Wonderland.3O pening with the sensuous advertisement
of exotic fruits hawked by goblin men to innocent young women,
Rossetti's poem presents an explicitly articulated image of a marketplace in
which female "appetite" is at stake. But whereas in Carroll's...