Design of Darkness": a Study of Frost's "Design

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Robert Frost outlines an ironic and disturbing situation involving a flower, a spider, and a moth in his poem "Design". The poem's text suggests the possibility of an absence of a god, but does no more than simply beg the question, for Frost's speaker does not offer the answer. By examining the events of the poem in the first stanza and the speaker's annotative second stanza, we arrive at the notion that perhaps the world is in disarray, and uncontrolled by a higher being.

The first stanza sets the scene as an ironic and unsettling one, containing gruesome images which seem to replace the notion of chastity with that of evil. The speaker launches the reader right into the action without warning in the first line, which reads "I found a dimpled spider, fat and white" (Frost line 1). The tone is personal, as though he were speaking to himself aloud, attempting to understand something. Also in the first line, he mentions that the spider is white, which is odd considering most spiders are of dark colors. "[D]impled […,] fat and white" sounds familiar to how one would describe an infant (1), implying the spider's innocence. Frost's spider sits "[o]n a white heal-all" (2), which is an herb that was thought to cure diseases and other sicknesses, and is characteristically not white, but blue. Again, the plant's color reveals its purity, and perhaps even its perfection. The purpose of the plant's mention in the poem is to be the ironic stage for what is soon to occur. To complete the image, the speaker declares that this white spider on a white plant "hold[s] up a moth / [l]ike a white piece of rigid satin cloth" (2-3). White again, the moth also represents innocence, just as the spider and heal-all do. This model is ironic: an innocent spider on an innocent heal-all holds up an innocent dead moth. The simile in which the speaker describes the moth, "[l]ike a white piece of satin cloth" (3), refers to a piece of a torn wedding dress, symbolizing the vulnerability of...
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