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Analysis and comments on Design by Robert Frost

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Comment 22 of 562, added on May 13th, 2008 at 8:51 PM.

This poem means innocence of a child. He wonders how things work and why
things appears the way they do.

allen from Canada
Comment 21 of 562, added on February 7th, 2008 at 2:41 AM.

Honestly, I do not see "God's" design in this as some previous comments
have mentioned. Based on the contextual evidence, or the literal lines on
the poem, I have yet to see any biblical allusions aside from, perhaps, the
title of "Design." It's almost stretching it to say that there is anything
biblical in this poem when nothing of the sort is mentioned in the lines.
Because of this, I'm not quite sure I can agree that Frost is criticizing
God.

What I found was that the speaker of this poem was questioning "what
design" would cause such events to happen. The heal-all, which is a flower
that is /supposed/ to be blue, is white. Not only that, but it concealed a
spider, which is usually thought of to be black or some other color. The
spider, which seems to have evil connotations, is the color of purity and
innocence: white. The fact that this discolored flower hid a strangely
colored spider is strange enough. The fact that a white moth, thinking that
it would be concealed by the whiteness of the heal-all, is killed by a
spider already hidden in that flower is horribly ironic.

The speaker then questions what "design" there is that could cause all this
to happen. The timing is almost too perfect for the heal-all to change its
color into white, the spider to be white, and for a white moth to come
over. The poem line "...witches' broth" connotes that he believes that some
sort of otherworldy, dark magic could've made such events occur. But he is
unsure as to what exactly this design is. He questions it because it is so
out of place. In the ending lines "What but design of darkness to appall?-
If design govern in a thing so small" he continues to question what design
of darkness could work even in something so small like this event. What
"design" made the flower white, "brought the kindred spider to that
height," and "steered the white moth" there all at the same time? The
speaker questions what dark design there is that could govern in something
so small as well as in other things.

Anonymous
Comment 20 of 562, added on September 9th, 2007 at 9:52 PM.

It appears that Robert Frost is challenging the “argument from design” with
respect to it’s use as proof of God’s existence. Frost seems to ask the
question why a benevolent, loving god would design the world the way it is
with the existence of evil and darkness, as represented by the spider’s
mindless pursuit of the helpless moth. He sees this “designed” behavior as
arising from an appalling darkness, if indeed design
does govern in a thing so small. By the same token, one might ask why we
humans will bash a cow in the head with a maul in order to kill it and eat
its delectable carcass! There is no denying that survival of the most fit
is an operating principle in nature, and asking why God chose such an order
is as hopeless as asking why there was such a thing as a singularity before
space, matter and time came into being with the theoretical “Big Bang.” It
appears that we poets will be asking unanswerable questions as long as
there is life, and its beauty and enigma that inspires great poetry!



art chapman from United States
Comment 19 of 562, added on May 27th, 2007 at 4:42 PM.

what do u think this poem means? what was robert frost trying to convey to
us when he wrote this? is it supposed to be about good and evil, nature
and the food chain, or what? i have always wondered so someone please help
me out...thanks

Tim Cusick from United States
Comment 18 of 562, added on May 1st, 2007 at 4:01 AM.

Very nice and meaningful poem, really enhoyed it. The repeated use of
'white' conveys a lot of meaning.

Tituba from Barbados
Comment 17 of 562, added on April 7th, 2007 at 2:58 AM.

Mary, "the way-side blue and innocent heal-all" is the flower "Brunella."
(I tried including a link to it here but it triggered the spam filter.)

He is marveling over having found an aberrant one that is white. It may
afford depper metaphors, but trust me -- he wonders why it's white and not
blue.

ea
Comment 16 of 562, added on April 6th, 2007 at 4:48 PM.

" The wayside blue and innocent heal-all"? This complex sentence to me says
even if every living thing stays on the right path, life itself makes us do
wrong to something or someone. Therefore every living thing needs to be
forgivin. No matter the kind of living creature.

Mary from United States
Comment 15 of 562, added on March 28th, 2006 at 6:16 AM.

The meaning of white shifts from a pure, innocent and good one to that of a
darker side. The spider being white is of little relative significance as
compared to the flower being white and the moth being described as a white
piece of rigid satin cloth. The heal-all does not occur naturally; a
genetic defect is present. The poet also asks "what did that flower have to
do with being white", which is ironic because flowers, like humans, cannot
change their colour on the outside. The white satin is connotated to the
motif of death, as it is found in coffins.

On a more personal note, I did truly enjoy the poem. The question as to the
designer's nature is rather open to the reader to interpret, and the reader
is provocated to think because if the disturbing nature of the event
rendered. However, some may see this simply as nature in its course
(predatory relationships) and dismiss it, but as for me, I find it
interesting to wonder about this philosophical and hypothetical theme of
design.

Chua Hsieh Wen from Singapore
Comment 14 of 562, added on February 5th, 2006 at 6:05 PM.

the poem is about god and his greater plan. It is a paradoxical poem. The
first stanza is explaining the spider and the heal-all and everything as
white. The second stanza is a series of questions. if you'll notice the
line that mentions "...darkness could appall" there is the sudden mention
of darkness. The white spider is simple, and doing nothing wrong, but he
is part of the darker plan. He cannot control himself; it lies in God.



emily from United States
Comment 13 of 562, added on January 17th, 2006 at 5:24 PM.

I think that those views are all good, but when I read the poem I got a bit
of a different perspective about it. When I read the line
What had that flower to do with being white,
I sat there and asked myself what did the flower to do with being white,
why does he ask this?--then I thought
hey maybe it's all in the design... the spider's design, the spider's evil
design....I think that it was the spider's design/plan to go to the white
flower, because the spider himself was white (therefore the spider was
camoflauged)and he knew that the white flower was rare and attractive to
the moth so there was more chance of the moth going to that flower.I think
that thats what the flower had to do with being white.
and I think that in the lines
What but design of darkness to appall?--
If design govern in a thing so small.
It seems like he's saying if such design govern in a thing so small (as a
spider), just think of the evil design that could exist in greater things.
Thats just what came to mind when I read it.

Marrah from United States

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Information about Design

Poet: Robert Frost
Poem: Design
Volume: A Further Range
Year: 1936
Added: Feb 20 2003
Viewed: 2557 times
Poem of the Day: Sep 14 2006


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