Poetry Analysis: "Design" By Robert Frost

1259 words - 5 pages

English 102: Introduction to Literature (University of Maine at Augusta, USA)Instructions from professor: Write an essay (at least 3 pages) - Analyze one stanza of the poem, focusing on its meaning and on the way the details of the stanza contribute to its meaning. Discuss what this stanza contributes to the poem as a whole.==========Body of essay=========Robert Frost's poem, "Design," is about the hardships of everyday life and the fact that God or some greater being has created nature to work in a coordinated manner from the tiniest insect up to the most powerful of mankind. It also implies that man should take a hard look at how he cares for his own kind as well as for the total environment, and that he might be "appalled" at what he sees, leading his conscience to dictate behavioral changes.The speaker of this poem is an unknown narrator, who could be male or female, describing a quick encounter with a hungry spider. In the first stanza, the speaker seems to be addressing the reader, telling the story. However, the second stanza (separated from the first by a blank line or thoughtful pause) is more introspective, and the speaker, while thinking to himself, has shifted his focus to the flower's responsibility in the setting and is trying to make sense of the part of nature he has observed. The spider is "holding up a moth" as if to show to the world that he is dominant; he has defeated his prey and is proud of it. The moth is described as "a white piece of rigid satin cloth," suggesting not only the rigidity of a now-dead insect, but also his resistance to the spider's attack. At the same time, the moth is delicate and soft, conversely suggesting that he may not have had the physical strength to ward off the spider's attack and that his death was imminent. How much of a victory is it when a physically stronger being kills another who could not possibly have won the fight? It may be a physical victory - the spider has killed his dinner - but there exists an underlying question of moral victory, which is a strictly human phenomenon. This concept parallels human behavior at all ages when the strong bully the weak.The title, "Design," and reference to it in the final line indicate that a higher power has set up nature (and our human culture) to govern behavior so that the strong will survive. This is the way things are meant to be. The tone of the first stanza (eight lines of this 14-line sonnet) is one of pride. The speaker relates to the struggle of the spider that has performed his duty to survive in an environment of predators and prey. The spider stands on a plant called a "heal-all," yet the death of the moth cannot possibly be healed. He carries the dead moth back to his lair effortlessly "like a paper kite," reiterating the delicacy and lightweight nature of the prey and the ease of the kill.The speaker describes the disorganized mix of creatures that begin their day by intermingling "like the ingredients of a witches' broth." A witches'...

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