Poetry Analysis: "Design" by Robert Frost

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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.

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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...