Design by Robert Frost

Essay by kayleighblackburnUniversity, Bachelor'sA, January 2008

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The poem “Design” is a sonnet which is broken up into two stanzas written in iambic pentameter, one an octave and one a sestet.

The poem begins with the poet showing a strange natural coincidence in the first three lines, with a white spider sitting on a white flower holding a white moth. The coincidence appears in that not only are they all white, but that spiders are normally black, and that the flower in question, a “heal-all” is usually blue or violet. The rarity of the flower and the spider suggest mutation, which shows that nature cannot be controlled. Therefore, immediately God’s design in nature can be questioned, as can His power.

The rhyme scheme in this poem contrasts the seriousness of the topic, as a chiasmus is used in the first stanza, which is rhythmic and lighthearted.

In the first line, the spider is described as being “dimpled… fat and white”.

These adjectives connote the idea of a baby, which in turn connotes innocence. This links to the symbolism found in the colour white, which again holds syntagmatic meanings of innocent and purity. These repeated ideas are juxtaposed throughout the poem with “assorted characters of death and blight”, “a witches broth”. However, the darker side of these images is again contrasted with their context; “characters” gives the idea of a story, as do the images of witches. In this way, a fairy-tale tone is created. Similarily, the ideas of the baby are contrasted with the idea of the spider, as spiders are traditionally menacing especially in the fairy tale genre e.g. Little Miss Muffet. However, the description “fat and white” is also antithetical when placed next to “dimpled”, and create images of maggots, or slovenliness. Again linking to the idea of the baby or child, the idea...