Summary Of The Poem Design By Robert Frost

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The poem “Design” by Robert Frost is brilliantly crafted, with heavy questions woven into flowing descriptions. This poem initially seems innocuous. In the first stanza, Frost playfully recounts an image of a white spider holding a white moth on a white flower. In the next stanza, he asks a series of rhetorical questions wondering whether the strange scene was a coincidence or part of a design. In a span of 14 lines, Frost manages to turn what seems like a discovery on a morning walk into a contemplation into the nature of existence. Upon closer analysis, the simple poem reveals hidden ironies within the imagery and subtle tone changes in the stanzas. The irony and tone shifts Robert Frost incorporates into his “Design” raises questions about …show more content…
Robert Frost adds irony to imagery to further the philosophical impact of the poem. The first image Frost conjures is of a morning find: a “snow-drop” spider (line 7) holding up a dead moth on a white heal-all” (line 2). The heal-all flower was “self-heal [praised] by Renaissance herbalists for healing wounds” and was used by many Western herbalists, American Indian groups, and Chinese herbalists as a panacea (Hobbs). Ironically, this “heal all” flower was not able to heal the moth and becomes the location of “death and blight” (line 4). The inability of the “heal-all” to heal all emphasizes the helplessness of the flower in the face of a governing design. Additionally, the spider, moth, and flower are all white, the color of purity and innocence. Since they are characters part of a scene of “death and blight” (line 4), their coloring is …show more content…
“Design” starts out with a light-hearted tone that gives a nursery-rhyme feel to the poem. The first line “I found a dimpled spider, fat and white,” sounds childlike and playful. The next lines “On a white heal-all, holding up a moth/ Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth--” (line 2-3) sobers the tone of the poem with the morbid comparison of the moth to rigid satin cloth. The phrases “Assorted characters of death and blight” (line 4) and “ready to begin the morning right” (line 5) in the next two lines lighten the mood of the poem again by adding a whimsical and joking feel to the poem. The tone turns mysterious with the comparison of the spider, moth, and flower to “ingredients of a witches’ broth” (line 6). In the last lines of the first stanza, the tone shifts back to serious with further descriptions of the characters and another dark image of “dead wings carried like a paper kite” (line 8). The fluctuations from light to dark tone in the first stanza keep the reader engaged in the poem, as well as give the reader a view of both the positive and negative sides to the scene. Also, the shifts evoke a mix of feelings from the reader, such as curiosity, bewilderment, admiration, and sadness. These conflicting emotions stimulate the reader and make them more interested in the poem. The second stanza begins with a series of rhetorical questions asking why

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