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Design by Robert Frost

The poem ôDesignö by Robert Frost (p. 1) illustrates the metaphysical deliberations of a speaker who watches a ôwhite spiderö kill a ôwhite mothö on a ôwhite heal-all.ö Basically grim in tone, the speaker comes to the conclusion that if there is a purposive ôdesignö in the world by a higher power or deity, then that deity must be vengeful and evil. As Laurence Perrine (p. 16) argues, the speaker is ôentertaining the possibility that the deity, the Creator, the æGreat DesignerÆ is not beneficent but maleficent û a possibility which he finds appalling.ö Yet the speaker imagines an even worse horror than a vengeful and oppressive Designer, a world in which there is nothing but randomness and no meaningful design exists.

The concepts of manÆs isolation and search for meaning in the universe are often elements included in the poetry of Robert Frost. In a number of such poems, Frost uses nature as a mirror for reflection in which the meaning of human nature is often question against the backdrop of a silent universe. One of FrostÆs poems that clearly demonstrates these themes and his incorporation of nature is Design. The poem demonstrates FrostÆs typically short lyrical form of fourteen lines and two stanzas. In the poem, the speaker watches a spider kill an insect in a macabre natural dance of death that appears to the speaker to embody all of the ôingredients of a witchesÆ brothö (Frost, p. 1).

In the poem, the speaker wonders if the universe is designed by a higher power and, if so, what nature such a power might exhibit. From his observations of nature, the speaker comes to believe that if there is a higher power who implements a master design on the universe, then this ôDesignerö must not be a good force. As Carter (p. 23) notes of FrostÆs portrayal of this deity, it is an ôoppressive and vengeful deity, if not an evil oneäa God who would reduce a human being to isolation a


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Design by Robert Frost. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 01:43, April 02, 2023, from