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Writing About Poems of Faith and Doubt

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Robert Frost uses an immense amount of figurative language to illustrate a nature scene in his poem, Design. His scene simply depicts a spider perched on a flower, capturing and taking life from a moth. Frost uses descriptive language to describe the white spider, on the rare "white heal-all" flower, explicitly preying on a white moth. Contrastingly, this scene happens during the night, symbolizing not only physical darkness, but the metaphorical darkness of death. While this scene portrays something rather small, it can be inferred that it is implicitly about something much larger. Using vivid imagery, extended metaphor, similes, along with a cold tone, Frost creates a piece that can be interpreted as either the design of the natural word working in a small setting, or as the designing force of the universe at work.

Through gothic imagery this poetic scene expresses deathly pallor. Frost uses words like "dimpled" and "fat" to describe the external appearance of the spider, suggesting that the spider does not lack the essentials of life. While this scene seems normal, Frost incorporates subjective adjectives, like "rigid" in line three, signifying unpleasantness. Further, it is peculiar that the spider, the flower, and the moth are all white. In lines four and six, Frost writes "assorted characters of death and blight" and "like ingredients of a witches' broth" to show that for this death scene to play out these three characters must come together. Frost refers to the spider as the "witch" and his actions are displayed as methodical, but done for evil pleasure and satisfaction. It is in these lines that the tone is set rather cold and dark. The closing lines of the first stanza reading "a snow-drop spider, a flower like a froth" and "dead wings carried like a paper kite" take advantage of simile to reinforce the idea that the spider's actions and intentions are of a wicked nature. Frost manipulates and uses the image of this white spider on a "white heal-all" flower, preying on the white moth, as a metaphor for the malevolence corrupting the world that is hypothetically created by a heavenly figure.

Robert Frost uses his small scene as a message for a bigger picture. He is effective in portraying a microscopic view of an outcome in nature that can be thought to have been "designed" to happen by some higher power, or creator, or simply because of predestination. Frost's poem questions the actions played out by the spider. It is through these questions like, "what brought the kindred spider to that height, then steered the white moth thither in the night?" and "what but design of darkness to appall?" that the underlying meaning of this poem is revealed (lines 11-13). Initially, the spider is represented by the color white, a color most commonly associated with innocence,



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