Strange Desings Essay, Research Paper
In the poem ?Design?, by Robert Frost, the speaker tries to convey a message of some protruding evil that occurs in everyday life. The poem is designed to make the reader see different signs of small evils in our lives. Then the poet brings all the information about evil together to pose his master point, that there is an evil design that hangs in and is part of our everyday world. This evil deign is in everything we know, for it is a force of nature just like many other things. Just as every piece of matter is made up of atoms, our world and life are made up of parts of evil that sometimes manifest themselves for no reason accept that there is evil and that evil manifests itself during life.
The speaker of this poem starts the poem out with a contrast. He is looking at a ?dimpled spider, fat and white, on a white heal-all, holding up a moth?(1-2). First above all people usually expect spiders to be black, so the fact that the author describes a white spider is a bit peculiar. White usually stands for something virtuous and pure, not evil or deadly. But so far the image that we have is this white spider on the white heal-all plant. Then the speaker gives us another image on the heal-all, the dangling moth that is the spider?s newest prey. The speaker offsets the image of a moth with a comma to first convey the image of the almost cute spider (fat, dimpled, and white) on a plant called a heal-all. Then he destroys that image by showing the reader the whole scene (the – 1 -dangling moth), but not until the comma. Therefore the speaker was deliberately trying
to show the reader that things are not as they appear for the once friendly looking spider we now know to be deadly.
In the third line the poem sets up a simile of the moth dangling ?like a white piece of rigid satin cloth?. Once again the speaker is playing on our subconscious definition of the term white. By describing the moth as a piece of white, rigid satin cloth the speaker is playing on the point that people usually associate white with innocent. So our image is of the white innocent moth being like rigid satin. Now I?m no fashion expert, but it does seem like an oxymoron to have rigid satin, for satin is usually smooth. This oxymoron is probably there to show that the only way a moth could be hanging like a rigid piece of satin was if that moth was dead (for moth?s wings could be seen as satin-esque and they would definitely be rigid were the moth already dead). So the dead moth is the innocent victim in this situation. Also moths are known to eat clothing like satin so that shows that even the innocent victim moth is a little bit evil. This example shows that the speaker wants the reader to know that evil can and does permeate everything and everyone. Then the poem is hit with a dash after the simile to show a break in thought leading up to the next image.
On line four the speaker starts getting a little bit darker. The speaker is talking about ?assorted characters of death and blight/ mixed ready to begin the morning right?(4-5). Here the assorted characters of death and blight have been the three characters of our poem, the heal-all, the spider, and the moth. They all have their own significant part to play in this evil design of death and destruction. The moth is the victim, the spider the assailant and the heal-all is the bystander who is forced to take a
part in the evil killing. When you mix these assorted characters of death together you get the situation we have in the poem. But what really is this situation? Is the spider killing the moth because the moth is threatening the spider?s kingdom? No, as line five points out the spider is just killing the moth because then he will be able to begin the morning right. In simpler terms everybody needs breakfast, but the speaker is asking at what price is breakfast less than a meal and more like evil? The speaker next describes the spiders breakfast ?like the ingredients of a witches? broth-?(6). This simile is in the poem to describe the spiders breakfast less like my bowl of Wheaties and more like a witches broth containing frog?s eyes, toad?s toes and so on (although the speaker never actually says what?s in the witches? brew we have a decent idea.). The spider is thus, in the speakers eyes, not as much eating breakfast as being somewhat evil. The speaker is trying to convey the point that evil exists in everyday life everywhere you could look, even in something as simple as breakfast.
The speaker then ends the octet with a two lined metaphor, ?a snow-drop spider, a flower like a froth, / and dead wings carried like a paper kite?(7-8). The snow dropped spider is once again reaffirming the spider?s color (white) and that colors connotation (pure innocence and virtue). This is to show the reader that even though the speaker was just describing the spider as evil, the question is not that cut and dry for evil and good intermix all the time. The frosty flower is a metaphor for two things. First the heal-all?s color is brought back into play (white) for it?s associative meaning (innocence). Even though the heal-all is violet-blue the term frothy makes the reader think white. Secondly, as opposed to just calling the flower white the speaker describes it as frothy to give the
image of foamy frost like the type that would cling to a beer can. The image of froth can also be seen as a blanket of froth (the way that froth blankets a beer can) on the flower to protect the innocent flower from the evil deeds being done on top of it. This metaphor thus shows how anything can have evil attached to it. Finally, the moth is described as having dead wings like a paper kite. Paper kites are inanimate and thus the wings would not move freely on their own. This principle also holds true for dead moths; since the moths are dead they cannot move their wings. This picture of the dead moth assures the reader some evil has taken place as the dead moth is awaiting what the spider has in store for him.
To start the sestet the speaker poses the greater question why, ?what had that flower to do with being white, / the wayside blue and innocent heal-all?(9-10). The heal-all flower is violet-blue, but here is described the attributes of being white. The speaker assigns the color white to the heal-all to show the reader the heal-all?s true colors even in the sticky situation that it is in. The speaker describes the flower as wayside blue for it?s exterior is blue, but on the inside the flower is innocent white. That is why the speaker uses the word wayside, to show that even though the flower looks blue, that is not its strongest color, the blue is the recessive color in this mixture for the flower?s innocence shines. The speaker is now assessing the possibility that the innocent white flower might also be not so innocent just because of one reason. The spider came to the flower for this deed maybe there really was a reason why that we just can?t see. Maybe that reason is that evil persists in the world everywhere, even in the innocent and blameless. The speaker wants us to see that evil is everywhere in our world.
Next the speaker is analyzing what brought the spider and the moth to the heal-all, ?What brought that kindred spider to that height, / then steered the white moth thither in the night??(11-12). The speaker is trying to see why both the assailant spider and the victim moth both approached the indifferent flower. Why would these three different entities converge all at the same time at the same place for some dubious gathering? The speaker answers this question and backs up my thesis in the last two lines of the sestet, ?what but design of darkness to appall?- / if design govern in a thing so small?(13-14). The reason why the spider, moth, and flower were to meet for this dubious occasion is that there is evil in this world. It?s just like oxygen or water, evil is a cornerstone to our world. Evil permeates everyday life just because it is almost like a force of nature, it can be seen anywhere in anything at a given time. When the speaker says ?what but design of darkness to appall?(13) he is actually saying that the design of darkness that appalls us is everywhere and in everything we do. He then finishes that thought by saying if an evil design can govern itself in a thing as small as a spider then evil must be real. Evil must not only be real but it also must be everywhere and in everything if it can manifest itself in something as small and insignificant as a spider. Thus evil is a force we all must not only live with, but we must also be able to see and point out in all things including ourselves.
The final conclusion that the speaker is trying to convey is that evil permeates our lives. Everywhere we look, in everything we do, evil is a force of nature beside and inside us. It is one of the inescapable flaws of our humanity and, in things as small as spiders or as large as human atrocities, evil is lingering.