Robert Frost’s, “Design” Essay

1056 words - 4 pages

Robert Frost’s “Design” is a poem of finding natural cruelty in the serenity of nature, a melody of understanding. Upon reading the first line, not unlike the whole poem, a joke in tone, rhythm is building up an image that grows into something else. In “Design”, the joking discovery progresses gradually through a sequence of conflicting images. . Frost uses imagery, allegory, and characterization to accomplish what could only be described as an American emblem poem. This essay will analyze Frost’s “Design”, interpreting the underlying message and overall theme Frost may have been trying to convey.
To begin with, the title refers to the idea, as William James writes in Pragmatism, "God's existence has from time immemorial been held to be proved by certain natural facts.... Such mutual fitting of things diverse in origin argued design, it was held; and the designer was always treated as a man-loving deity” (James, ne).
At first, the cheerfully perceptive stroller on backcountry roads: “I found a dimpled…” (593) the iambic lilt supplements a tone of pleasurable astonishment. With the introduction of “spider”, he betrays himself, and in “fat” and “white”, the dimpled insect appears less amiable. Additionally, in the next line, “On a white heal-all…” the verse is suggestive of innocence and fortification (Frost, 593). The white heal-all, which for the most part is a light blue flower, is how Frost suggests the purity of the situation.
Subsequently, the spider, “holding up a moth” draws out the evil or cruelty, which is nature. Frost accents this in the subsequent verse, “Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth” (Frost, 593). His play on words here is prodigious, “a white piece of satin cloth” (Frost, 593) this stanza demonstrates serenity, and beauty. Correspondingly, satin, is a pure, smooth cloth, contrasted against the color white to highlight its purity, makes this verse seem pure. Consequently, the word “rigid” that Frost adds to the verse changes the symbolism of the moth. Rigid, symbolizing a possible rigor mortis, overtly frozen in time the moths tranquility changes to an evil representation of the spiders nature. In the next three lines, Frost gives away his joke, but he does it facetiously, again through a sequence of conflicting images and play on words.
Correspondingly, in the next four lines the iambic quality must be analyzed in prodigious detail. Firstly, “Assorted characters of death and blight” (Frost, 593) Frost’s avowable takes on a singsong quality in this statement. He increases this effect with the next couplet, “Mixed and ready” (593) this changes the tone from vexed to more carefree, but the word “right” hangs on the witticism of “rite”, as the poet mixes his “witches broth”. Some analysts write, witches broth is suggestive of the “Weird Sisters, Shakespeare’s most evil images of evil” (na, el). Frosts adding of tranquil syllables increases and allays the following stanza to assuage the viciousness being communicated: “A...

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