Interpretations of Robert Frost's Poem, "Design"
The poem "Design" explores whether the events in nature are simply random occurrences or part of a larger plan by God, and if there's a force that dominates and controls our very existence. On that point both Jere K Huzzard and Everett Carter aggress on. They differ in their interpretations of the poem's ending and what they think Frost wanted to convey with his vague ending. Both agree that the last line of the poem was written in an undefined way with purpose on Frost's side. But each critic poses his own ideas regarding what is the meaning of that line. While Carter examines the whole poem in order to answer this question, Huzzard chose to focus only on the last two lines.
The heart of Frost's poem is a picture, which is described in the octave. We are introduced to three creatures the narrator happened to come across: "a dimpled spider, fat and white" (line 1), a white flower, and, held up by the spider, a white moth. Each creature is introduced separately, but all three are later on mixed together in the speaker's eyes, to demonstrate the rarity of their assembly. Carter refers to this description as ironic, ironies that nature presents to man. He sees the irony in the fact that the three creatures are described in a way that one wouldn't depict them normally, and their association with innocence. The spider is dimpled and fat, implying the sweet innocence of a young child, and it's unusually white. The flower is a heal-all, chosen specifically and ironically to invoke images of healing, of medicine. In the poem, however, the heal-all is responsible, in a way, to the moth's death. And like the spider, the usually blue or purple flower is white. The unusual whiteness is repeated in the ordinarily grey moth, viewed as "a white piece of rigid satin cloth" (line 3).
Carter refers to the white color not as a representation of purity and innocence, but as a symbol of evil or nothingness. This is supported in the poem by the description of the moth as a "rigid satin cloth." The satin cloth can be seen like a bridal dress, suggestions of good, but the negativity of "rigid" implies perhaps on the lining of a coffin where a rigid body would lie. In the second part of the octave the speaker describes the scene again. He compares the scene and the assorted characters to "a witch's broth" (line 6), and Carter claims that this part introduces ironies regarding the observer's feelings towards the scene he saw. The speaker views those characters as "assorted characters of death and blight" (line 4). But they are there to "begin the morning right" (line 5) - a positive saying which you wouldn't exact to hear associated with death and blight. This juxtaposing of "blight" and "right" emphasizes the irony. How can the morning be "right" if the scene culminate in death?
In the sestet, we are presented with three questions regarding the scene in the octave. According to Carter, a simple reading...