Oh What a Web We Weave

Robert Frost’s poem “Design” is a unique poem that really captured my attention. It is written in the emblematic structure, with a description in the first stanza and a turn to meditation in the last stanza. 

There are many things that can be discussed about this poem but what I found most interesting were Frost’s descriptions. He crafted this poem so that all of the descriptions lead from one thing to another; he starts out with the spider on the heal-all holding the moth, then describes them all together “assorted characters of death and blight”, and finishes up the first stanza by tying things and descriptions together “a snow-drop spider, a flower like a froth, / and dead wings carried like a paper kite.” By doing this the reader of the poem can really picture the image Frost is trying to get at, especially with his use of similes. The first one is comparing the dead moth in the spider’s mouth to “a white piece of rigid satin cloth”. Satin is often looked at as something that is very elegant and soft; by placing “rigid” in front in front of “satin” this typical image is challenged and makes the reader almost feel sorry for the moth. The next simile compares the entire actions of the moth being caught and eaten in the early morning to “the ingredients of a witches’ broth”. I thought this was a very interesting comparison because, separately, each one thing (that being the spider, the moth, and/or the different ingredients) is not that special, but once combined they create something very unique, amusing, and impressive. By comparing the flower to a froth is simply Frost’s way of presenting this image. His final simile compares the moth’s wings to “a paper kite”. Both things are fragile, thin, lifeless, and float softly against the wind. On a side note it is interesting to point out that the three main objects in this stanza are all described to be white, a color of purity, light, and innocence; which pretty much sums up the feeling of the entire action of the spider sitting on a flower eating a moth for breakfast.

Frost then turns to the meditation part of his poem. He abandons his use of similes to use the power of questions. While the firststanza is very set and to the point, the second stanza makes the reader focus on each individual image that was previously mentioned.  Thus turn works very well in this poem. Frost doesn’t loose the power of his images, he just describes them in a different way. Without this turn, to me the poem would become boring. If Frost just kept describing this spider and his actions I would sooner-or-later be asking “so what?”. But by turing to the mediation Frost really grabbed my attention. His last line, “If design govern in a thing so small” really brought it home for me. Not many people take the time out to just sit and look at a spider. And in his last line, Frost is also talking about how the spider’s web is the main reason for the entire action he describes. We all know how intricate and beautiful a spider web is, but yet its size is not much to talk about.

Another interesting thing to point out about the turn in this poem is the rhyme scheme. The first stanza has an ABBA  rhyme scheme(repeated once for an 8 line stanza); the second an ABAABB rhyme scheme. This turn effects the way the poem is read in a very positive way. By having the rhymes spaced out it does not take away from the poem (such as being a distraction, having forced rhymes, etc). Each rhyme adds to the poem as a whole.

One Response to “Oh What a Web We Weave”

  1. That’s an interesting point that you made about the turn in rhyme scheme. To be quite honest, I didn’t even notice it changed when I was reading it. I like that he did that, because it adds to the emphasis of the turn. I just can’t believe I missed it, with how much time I spent looking at the rhyme scheme. Next time I should probably analyze the whole poem, instead of just assuming it’s the same throughout lol

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