Goblin Market: A Marxist Perspective

Dear Upper Sixth,

Here are my thoughts on Goblin Market from a Marxist perspective. They are far from complete, but should give you something with which to get started.







AQA Spec B: Integrating AO1 and AO2

When you first begin to use critical theories such as Marxism in your essays, AO2 can easily be forgotten. You are having SUCH a nice time considering all the ways in which Marxist theory can be used to interpret a text, that you forget all about caesura and assonance.

The following extract is from ‘Eveline’, a short story from James Joyce’s brilliant Dubliners.

One time there used to be a field there in which they used to play every evening with other people’s children. Then a man from Belfast bought the field and built houses in it – not like their little brown houses but bright brick houses with shining roofs.


Here is an example of how you could comment on this paragraph using both interpretation (AO1) and analysis (AO2):


Here , the field, suggestive of a natural state of communal existence and the freedom to play / rest after the day’s labours, is ‘bought’ and ‘bright brick’ houses are ‘built’ on it by ‘a man from Belfast’. What was once the setting for human interaction and creativity is sacrificed at the altar of Capitalism. The use of the indefinite article serves to keep the ‘man’ anonymous; he represents the landowning class (or bourgeoisie) and his coming from Belfast – centre of industry and commerce – further emphasises this. The alliteration of b sounds creates a harsh effect, hinting at the heartlessness and lack of remorse for his actions.


Have a go at writing a paragraph like the one above from other extracts from ‘Eveline’.


Three LITB4 essays, just for fun.

They’re also for half-term homework. But for fun, too.

Complete at least TWO of the following essays by Tuesday 4th November. Click on the title of the poem for a link to the text.

1. ‘Goblin Market depicts the triumph of its protagonists over the capitalist market. It is a paean to consumer power.’ To what extent do you agree with this interpretation of the poem?

2. ‘It is with the male partner that power resides within price relationships, and therefore in society at large.’ To what extent is this the case in D. H. Lawrence’s Last Words to Miriam?

3. ‘Carol Ann Duffy’s use of metaphor in Valentine presents love as a uniquely destructive force.’ How far do you consider this interpretation of the poem to be true?

Moving on up the Bands: LITB1 AO2

"If only I could stare at those woods a bit longer," thought Robert. "They are so lovely."
“If only I could stare at those woods a bit longer,” thought Robert. “They are so lovely.”

Here be the notes from today’s lesson on Frost’s ‘Stopping by Woods’. Just a note: the responses are cumulative. (You’d need to all 3 things to get a Band 6…)

The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

Band 4: In these lines, Frost appeals to us to listen closely; what can we hear? Only two things: the sound of the wind and the sound of the snow falling. The first is a more common sound – it would be impossible for us to hear the sound of snowflakes falling – precisely because they are ‘downy’, they make no sound. (You are explaining the quotation.)

Band 5: The sibilant sounds contribute to the sense of silence Frost describes here. Like the sounds of the wind and snow, they are soft. Similarly, the alliteration of the voiceless ‘only other’ lends a hollow, spacious quality to the sound. The metre creates movement across the lines; the enjambement: ‘sweep / of’ allows the iambic tetrameter to remain unbroken, building the pace towards the end of the stanza. It is almost as if the poem is brought to a sudden halt at the end: ‘flake’ suddenly stops the rhythm, abruptly. The harsh ‘k’ consonant emphasises this, and the A rhyme with ‘shake’ and ‘mistake’ lends the line a sense of closure, as if it has finally reached its destiny. (Here, you are analysing the quotation.)

Band 6: In this way, Frost creates a ‘sense of sound’ (his own phrase), whereby the sounds of the lines capture something of their content. The halting feeling at the end of this verse is precisely the feeling of ‘stopping’ in the title. The hollowness of ‘only other’ emphasises the importance of space – we must make space in our lives for contemplation. (Finally, you are evaluating the quotation.)

How does Hosseini begin the story of ‘The Kite Runner’?

The novel’s opening establishes a highly personal, intimate first person narrative voice that has distinctive qualities. It is very much a speaking voice, with fragmented sentences (‘Because the past claws its way out’) that lend it an informal, conversational quality. It is also serious and reflective in tone: ‘I became what I am today…’ and ‘I thought of the life I had lived…’ are pensive, perhaps heavy. We may sense a cathartic quality beneath the surface of the language, as if the narrator is somehow cleansing himself of past events through the act of storytelling.

Secondly, there are a number of unanswered questions posed by the beginning, most obviously: What was it that happened on that day in the winter of 1975? How did it ‘change everything’? The answers are hinted at; we can infer from the ‘overcast’ and ‘frigid’ weather that it was a negative experience, and the mention of a ‘past of unatoned sins’ hints at a guilty act, a shameful ‘sin’ of unspeakable nature. We must continue reading to find out the precise nature of this sin.

In terms of setting, it is clear that we are in the real world – references to actual places such as ‘Golden Gate Park’ in ‘San Francisco’ make this clear. It is not explicitly stated, but we may well deduce that the past events of the winter of 1975 occurred in either Kabul or Pakistan, as someone called ‘Rahim Khan’, calling from Pakistan, is depicted as synonymous with ‘my past of unatoned sins.’ The two settings are interesting; readers may well detect a tension between the East and West, or, more specifically, make connections with the recent conflict between America and Afghanistan.

There is a gap of 26 years between the ‘today’ of the narrative’s frame and the events that form the main plot. This considerably lengthy period of time may lead us to presume that the novel will tell the story of those 26 years, and to deduce that the narrator – if 12 years old in 1975 – is now 38 as he tells it.

Other characters are mentioned briefly – we are told that Rahim Khan is a ‘friend’ and that Hassan is (was?) ‘the hare-lipped kite runner’. Who exactly Baba is remains unclear for now. Interestingly, there are the voices of both Rahim Khan on the telephone in the present and Hassan ‘whispering’ from the past. Both have a memorable, haunting quality, as if their speakers are communicating from a far away time and place.

Finally, the ‘kite runner’ of the novel’s title is revealed, and the image of the kites in the sky acts as the catalyst for Amir’s memories. They are depicted as vivid and free – ‘high above the trees’ and ‘floating side by side’, hinting at some of the novel’s key themes of childhood, freedom and friendship.


Upper Sixth! LITB4 Coursework Idea…

Two great things are happening tomorrow.
1. It’s payday.
2. The shortlisted poems for the T.S. Eliot Poetry Prize will be announced.

This made me think, why don’t you have a look at them and see what you think? And whilst you’re at it, why don’t you consider them using some of the ideas in Section C of the the Critical Anthology? Could make for a very interesting coursework essay…

Click on the link below (tomorrow) for the lowdown…

T. S. Poetry Prize – Shortlist