'Design' by Robert Lee Frost

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I found a dimpled spider, fat and white,
On a white heal-all, holding up a moth
Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth--
Assorted characters of death and blight
Mixed ready to begin the morning right,
Like the ingredients of a witches' broth--
A snow-drop spider, a flower like a froth,
And dead wings carried like a paper kite.

What had that flower to do with being white,
The wayside blue and innocent heal-all?
What brought the kindred spider to that height,
Then steered the white moth thither in the night?
What but design of darkness to appall?--
If design govern in a thing so small.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Poetry Analysis: Design by Robert Frost

Are you a fan of nature? Do you find yourself in awe of the beauty of the world around you? If so, then Robert Frost's poem "Design" is a must-read for you!

"Design" is one of Frost's most famous and celebrated poems. It was first published in his 1936 collection A Further Range, and has since become a staple of American poetry. The poem explores the idea of fate and the role it plays in our lives and in the world around us.

Overview of the Poem

The poem is a fourteen-line sonnet, which is a traditional form of poetry that originated in Italy. Sonnets are typically written in iambic pentameter, which means that each line has ten syllables and follows a specific pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables.

"Design" is actually a variation on the traditional sonnet form. Instead of following the usual rhyme scheme of ABAB CDCD EFEF GG, Frost uses a unique pattern of rhymes: ABBA CDDC EFG EFG. This deviation from the norm gives the poem a sense of individuality and originality.

The poem begins with the speaker describing a scene in nature: a spider has caught a moth and is holding it in its web. The speaker observes the scene and wonders about the significance of this event. Is it just a random occurrence, or is there a deeper meaning behind it?

The speaker then goes on to describe the physical characteristics of the spider and the moth. He notes that the spider is white and has a "dimpled" body, while the moth is "white" as well, but has "hair" on its body. These descriptions create a vivid image in the reader's mind and help to set the tone of the poem.

In the final six lines of the poem, the speaker reflects on the significance of this scene. He wonders if there is some greater purpose behind it, or if it is simply a "design" of nature. The poem ends on an ambiguous note, with the speaker suggesting that there is no easy answer to this question.

Themes and Interpretation

The central theme of "Design" is the idea of fate and the role it plays in our lives. The poem explores the concept of a predetermined "design" that governs the natural world and our place in it.

The speaker of the poem is fascinated by the scene of the spider and the moth. He wonders if this is just a random event, or if there is a deeper meaning behind it. The spider and the moth are both white, which could suggest that they are two sides of the same coin. The spider represents death and destruction, while the moth represents life and beauty.

The poem raises questions about the nature of God and the universe. Is there a greater purpose behind the spider catching the moth, or is it simply a matter of chance? The speaker seems to suggest that there is no easy answer to this question. The universe is a complex and mysterious place, and we may never fully understand it.

Another interpretation of the poem is that it is a commentary on the human condition. The spider and the moth could represent two different aspects of human nature: our desire for life and beauty, and our fear of death and destruction. The poem suggests that these two forces are constantly at odds with each other, and that we must learn to find a balance between them.

Literary Techniques

One of the most striking literary techniques used in "Design" is imagery. Frost uses detailed descriptions of the spider and the moth to create a vivid picture in the reader's mind. The spider is described as having a "dimpled" body, while the moth is "hairy." These descriptions help to create a sense of realism and make the scene feel more tangible.

Another important literary technique used in the poem is alliteration. Frost uses alliteration to create a musical quality to the poem. For example, in the first line, the words "white" and "weeds" are both alliterative, creating a pleasing sound and rhythm.

The use of rhyme is also an important technique in "Design." Frost's unique rhyme scheme creates a sense of individuality and helps to reinforce the tone of the poem. The poem also uses enjambment, which means that the lines do not end with punctuation. This creates a sense of flow and movement, and helps to keep the poem from feeling too stagnant or static.


"Design" is a powerful and thought-provoking poem that explores the nature of fate and the universe. The poem raises important questions about the role of God and the significance of the natural world. The spider and the moth are used as symbols to represent the struggle between life and death, and the poem suggests that this struggle is an integral part of the human condition.

Frost's use of imagery, alliteration, and rhyme make the poem a joy to read and help to create a sense of musicality and rhythm. The unique rhyme scheme and use of enjambment help to set the poem apart from traditional sonnets and give it a sense of individuality.

Overall, "Design" is a masterpiece of American poetry and one that deserves to be read and studied by anyone interested in the beauty and complexity of the natural world.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Robert Lee Frost is one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century, and his poem "Design" is a classic example of his mastery of the craft. This poem is a complex and thought-provoking exploration of the nature of existence, and it has captivated readers for generations.

At its core, "Design" is a meditation on the problem of evil. The poem begins with a description of a spider that has caught a moth in its web. The speaker of the poem muses on the fact that the spider and the moth are both part of God's creation, and wonders why God would allow such a cruel and violent act to occur.

The poem then takes a turn, as the speaker notices a flower nearby that has been infected with a disease. The flower is white, but it has been marked with spots of red, which the speaker describes as "a kind of belated justice done." This observation leads the speaker to question whether the spider's act of violence might also be a form of justice, and whether the disease that has infected the flower might be a punishment for some unknown sin.

The final stanza of the poem is perhaps the most enigmatic. The speaker asks whether the fact that the spider, the moth, and the diseased flower are all part of the same creation is evidence of a "design of darkness to appall." In other words, is the existence of evil and suffering in the world proof that God is either malevolent or indifferent to human suffering?

There are many possible interpretations of this poem, and it is likely that each reader will take something different away from it. However, there are a few key themes and motifs that are worth exploring in more detail.

One of the most striking aspects of "Design" is its use of imagery. Frost is a master of vivid and evocative language, and he uses this skill to great effect in this poem. The spider and the moth are described in detail, with the spider's "fat and white" body and the moth's "rigid satin clothed" wings. The diseased flower is similarly vivid, with its "petals shriveled" and its "brownish spider web" of fungus.

These images are not just there for their own sake, however. They serve a larger purpose in the poem, which is to create a sense of unease and discomfort in the reader. The spider and the moth are both beautiful and terrifying, and the diseased flower is a poignant reminder of the fragility of life. By juxtaposing these images with the idea of a benevolent God, Frost forces the reader to confront the uncomfortable truth that the world is not always a safe or fair place.

Another important theme in "Design" is the idea of justice. The speaker of the poem is clearly troubled by the fact that the spider has killed the moth, and he wonders whether this act might be a form of divine justice. Similarly, he sees the spots of red on the diseased flower as a kind of punishment for some unknown sin. These observations suggest that the speaker is struggling to make sense of the world around him, and is searching for some kind of moral order in the chaos of existence.

This theme of justice is closely tied to the larger question of theodicy, or the problem of evil. The speaker of the poem is clearly wrestling with the idea that a benevolent God could allow such cruelty and suffering to exist in the world. He wonders whether the spider's act of violence might be evidence of a malevolent or indifferent God, and whether the diseased flower might be a sign that the universe is fundamentally flawed.

Finally, it is worth noting the structure of the poem itself. "Design" is a sonnet, which is a highly structured form of poetry that consists of 14 lines and a specific rhyme scheme. Frost uses this form to great effect, creating a sense of order and symmetry that stands in contrast to the chaotic and unpredictable world he is describing. The poem is divided into three quatrains and a final couplet, with each section building on the previous one to create a sense of momentum and urgency.

In conclusion, "Design" is a powerful and thought-provoking poem that explores some of the most fundamental questions of human existence. Through its vivid imagery, its themes of justice and theodicy, and its carefully crafted structure, Frost creates a work of art that is both beautiful and unsettling. This poem is a testament to the power of poetry to capture the complexity and mystery of the human experience, and it is sure to continue to captivate readers for generations to come.

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