‘The decadent movement in 1890s London, Rossetti

‘The seduction of imaginative emotion is frequently an inducement to sin.’In light of this statement, compare and contrast the presentation of transgressive desire in Goblin Market and The Picture of Dorian Gray.Although Goblin Market and The Picture of Dorian Gray ultimately present opposing outcomes, they both examine the consequence of obsessive desire in the Victorian era; Wilde and Rossetti depict environments with varying social context and thus opposing influence on the protagonists’ ideals. Whilst Wilde presents a rational character progressively corrupted by the influence of glorified aesthetic standards within the context of the decadent movement in 1890s London, Rossetti portrays a fantasy setting where the desirability of a marketplace is immediately laid out as damaging. Laura and Lizzie are used as commonplace examples of typical Victorian women – a comment on how the capacity to redeem may be brought about by isolating the two main characters from a typical Victorian setting. This evidences the effect of circumstance, establishing the idea that the transgression of desire is often a reflection of the nature of the text’s surrounding central characters and cultural condition. ‘Imaginative emotion’ is often incited by external influences that carry fundamentally antagonistic motivations: Wilde’s portrayal of Lord Henry’s cultural authority and esteem and Rossetti’s portrayal of the ‘market’ are principal examples of the implicit destructive influences of both text’s settings, despite being disguised in desirable conditions.From the start of the poem, Rossetti creates an idealized image of fruit which – acting as a physical manifestation of desire – is revered by Laura: ‘apples and quinces; lemons and oranges; plump unpecked cherries; melons and raspberries’. The use of dactylic and trochaic feet acts as an imitation of street-vendors, corroborating the idea that the goblin salesmen are embodied in the comparably simplistic image of fruit – although the perceptible contrast between their infatuation with Laura and the neutral image of plants may hint at the market’s deceptive nature. This subversion of traditional Victorian rhyme schemes clouds the expectation of a ‘fairytale’ ambience, instead alienating the reader, and obscuring the traditionally optimistic tone. By immediately testifying to the transgressive nature of desire, Rossetti implies the duplicitousness of the market is an inherent part of the circumstance she has created; the ambiguous moral tone lies in Laura’s subservience to malignant impulse, rather than a constitutional attribute of the goblins. This surfaces in the ending, where Laura is redeemed, inverting the attraction of street-vendors, since Rossetti’s depiction acts rather to criticise Laura’s naive infatuation with the market: relentless desire (regardless of circumstance) is presented as intrinsically flawed. Rossetti’s sexual history is analogous to this: her refusal to marry James Collinson and subsequently James Cayley reflects her criticism of needless conformity to impulse, inducing the underlying sense of the danger of powerlessness in a sexual setting. This establishes the suggestion that grounding obsessive desire in external ideals is fundamentally unattainable, since Rossetti strengthens the argument for sexual profanity as a means of maintaining individuality, and not reliance on others.Similarly, Lord Henry and Basil – characters defined primarily by their antagonistic influence on Dorian – personify Wilde’s exploration of Victorian social boundaries. Wilde allies Henry’s embodiment of both cultural intellect and poisonous influence to Dorian’s progressive willingness to transgress ethical boundaries in pursuit of shallow desires. This set up of Henry as an allegorical image of the need to occupy fashionable circles is used to show the damaging effect of conforming to or seeking social influence, since Wilde employs Dorian as representative of the social yearning for youth, beauty and innocence. There is no inherent corruption to Dorian’s character when he is introduced to the reader, so instead he can be seen as a model for the influence of Victorian devotion to hollow ideals: ‘She is very clever; too clever for a woman,’ ‘it is the feet of clay that make the gold of the image precious.’ This portrayal of the mislead imbalance of male and female intellect manifests the  sense of social necessity to female relationships (subverting contemporary romantic ideas), whilst the dichotomy of ‘gold’ and ‘clay’ acts to glorify Dorian’s image. Wilde’s idolization shows the dangers of expectations to succumb to the flawless image of the protagonist’s sex – challenging the implicit Victorian hierarchy. By perverting innocent desire, this echoes Goblin Market, where the harmful influence of overwhelming sexual temptation serves as an image of the adverse effects of grounding desire in the approval of the opposite sex, despite an opposed female perspective. However, both texts strengthen circumstantial influence by showing the adverse effects of redemption in Goblin Market (a measure of Lizzie’s angelic presence and redeeming influence) and Dorian Gray, where the shallow influence of Henry pervades Wilde’s illustration of Dorian’s progressively transgressive search for aesthetic ideals.Frequently bleak and supernatural Victorian literary conventions are employed in both Goblin Market and The Picture of Dorian Gray to underline the association between states of being which act as foundations of desire to immoral action; Rossetti uses the diverse characters of Lizzie and Laura to accentuate the parallel between Laura’s impulsive manner and the violence that ensues, whereas Wilde paints the distinctly different ideas of beauty and death as equally characteristic of Victorian London. Rossetti’s unvarnished portrayal of the market alongside sexual imagery deepens the similarities of ‘goblins’ and men: ‘maids heard the goblins cry’. The domestic undertones and hints of instinctive subservience conveyed in ‘maid’ set up women as solely seeking the sexuality of ‘fruit’, whilst drawing on the images of goblins as objects of desire. Rossetti extends this by substantiating the underlying corruption of the ‘sweetness of the fruit’: ‘sweet to tongue and sound to eye’. The use of sibilance in the adjectives ‘sweet’ and ‘sound’ act to undertake the narrative perspective, necessitating the sexual image of a ‘tongue’ and ‘eye’. This image of sexual promiscuity reinforces the poem’s theocratic core through it’s condemnation of sensuous or mislead desire – a notion underscored by its parable form. This is embodied in Rossetti’s set up of Lizzie, who’s role as an agent of redemption elevates her character, encouraging a celestial and angelic tone. This religious theme is equally put across in the juxtaposition of Laura and Lizzie to Adam and Eve, expressing how Rossetti’s perversion of desirability is a depiction of the symbolic inducement to sin which is an innate part of ‘goblin market’, as opposed to a comment on the fundamentally evil nature of Laura’s impulse. This identifies the extent to which ‘the seduction of imaginative emotion’, is laid out as something that circumstantially draws the characters to sin; Rossetti primarily focuses on the hostility of progressive Victorian culture rather than the innate flaws of her central protagonists’ compulsive natures.Wilde uses Dorian’s relationship with Sybil to forewarn the reader of the dangers of maintaining a relationship that’s established on the transgression of class boundaries. The contrast between Dorian’s fascination with Sybil’s death on stage and their vivid romance backstage is mirrored in Wilde’s set up of Sybil as a Shakespearean heroine. The alliance of Sybil’s beauty and role as a tragic hero is analogous to her portrayal in the novel: Wilde evokes the idea that Sybil’s objectification and Dorian’s shallow expression of romantic desire establishes the naivety of obsessive fixation on aestheticism in the Victorian era. Wilde uses Lord Henry to imprint Sybil’s youth and beauty as mislead symbols of necessity. However, Dorian’s portrait sustains the shallowness of his hollow ideals by acting as a visual insight into the hypocrisy of his desire to stay youthful. This idea sustains the suggestion that Dorian’s ambitions are unattainable, since even the permanence of art is a visual insight into the destructiveness of reality; in this way Dorian’s beauty is a constant reminder of the moral transgression of his soul.Rossetti and Wilde further substantiate the connection between desire and damaging influences by characterizing objects of desire through nuanced descriptions of underlying intent. The repeated use of ‘goblin men’ underlines the naturally ill-meaning connotations of ‘men’ in the poem; Rosetti’s use of subtext to describe the market, goblin men, and central protagonists lays out an obvious distinction between ‘right’ and ‘wrong’: something characteristic of Victorian parable. Rossetti employs this description of the market as a figurative dress of buying and selling: ‘one like a wombat prowled obtuse and furry; one like a ratel tumbled hurry-scurry’. Rossetti’s use of simplistic language – ‘hurry-scurry’ – hints at the inherent intellectual divide between women and men in the poem, whilst the predatorial connotations of ‘prowled’ parallels ‘ratel’ and ‘wombat’ in depicting the unpredictable and unrestrained nature of the market. This subverts ‘salesmen’ (a profession which Rosetti uses as an image of temptation and desire) testifying to their underlying manipulation. Hence Rossetti uses the idea of ‘goblins’ to address the threat of blind desire for materialistic improvement. This theme is further explored in the dichotomous portrayal of a synthetic market embedded in vast natural landscape – a notion indicative of the corrupt materialistic tendencies of a progressive Victorian society during the industrial revolution.