Goblins, however, were certainly on Dickinson’s mind, as we can see from one of her letters from August of 1862 in which she recounts a story she was told as a child about goblins.
Daneen Wardrop makes the most thorough examination of the goblin in her book Emily Dickinson’s Gothic: Goblin with a Gauge.
Wardrop notes the “subcluster of goblin poems,” seeing them “as the denominator of all [Dickinson’s] gothic” and uses the goblin as a “presiding antiprotagonist” of her investigation of Dickinson’s Gothic imagery (3).
The image of the frightful goblins, whether persisting from the childhood threats or presented in other poems and stories Dickinson read, was significant enough to become part of Dickinson’s poetic repertoire, and she enlists the goblin as a supporting character in poems that depict extreme psychological torment.
The terrifying creatures of her poems stand in stark contrast to the harmless goblins invoked to warn young Dickinson of the forest’s dangers.
The poet Christina Rossetti uses goblins as the main antagonists in her poem “Goblin Market,” which tells the story of two women threatened and tricked by the deceptive creatures.
Though “Goblin Market” was published in 1862, the same year Dickinson wrote her own goblin poems, we do not know for sure if Dickinson ever read Rossetti’s poem.It appears adjectivally in “If you were coming in the fall” (Fr 356) and “Did you ever stand in a cavern’s mouth” (Fr 619), but the goblin also makes more significant appearances as the personification of a fright that harasses the speakers of “The Soul has Bandaged moments—” (Fr 360), “It would never be Common – more – I said –” (Fr 388), “‘Twas like a Maelstrom, with a notch” (Fr 425), and “I think to Live – may be a Bliss” (Fr 757).Though the goblin’s appearance is scattered across six different fascicles, R. Franklin dates all the goblin poems as written in the same year of 1862.The goblin is not the only image or diction they share.Collectively, the four poems record what Maria O’Malley describes as the “sequential reactions of the soul to a traumatic moment: paralysis, escape, and reincarceration” (70).Wardrop interprets the goblin as Dickinson’s “gothic villain” (71), performing “the roles of father/Father/lover/Master/-lawyer/Death/surgeon/editor/critic/rapist” (84). Brantley takes a less multifaceted reading and instead sees the assaulting goblin of “The Soul has Bandaged moments” (Fr 360) as “the usurping Goblin of death” that separates the two lovers (37).David Cody reads the same poem as Dickinson’s response to Harriet E.As the speaker crosses an eerie, misty meadow, he describes the laugh of a loon “that seemed to mock some goblin tryst” (8).Lowell uses the goblin as one of many images to conjure up a frightening landscape that would fit in many a fairy tale or myth.We seek critical essays by undergraduates from institutions of all kinds, focusing on Dickinson’s poems or letters. To submit an essay for the prize, copies of articles as anonymous word attachments were sent, plus a cover letter with contact information to the following address by May 1, 2015: [email protected] essays were distributed electronically to a panel of nationally recognized scholars for judging, and Rebekah Davis, a senior English major at Seattle Pacific University, is our first undergraduate essay prize winner.