Deliberate Ambivalence of Robert Frost's Poem

Excerpt from Poem :

Finally, the sestet ends with a question about whether any moral lessons can be learned from this little scene in nature: "[w]hat but design of darkness to appall/if design govern in a thing so small." In other words, the speaker is asking whether he should even try to draw any conclusions from the spider's destruction of the beautiful moth.

The final lines of the poem not only call into question the beneficence of nature; they also call into question the ability of human beings to draw lessons from nature. (Bagby, pp. 73-74). Ultimately, the poem raises questions about the Darwinian metaphor more than it does about the Darwinian theory. (Hass, p. 62). Frost is trying to suggest that there is a limit to what human beings can learn from nature and to their ability to draw their own moral lessons from it.

In the final analysis, "Design" is a poem that embraces skepticism. It presents an ambivalent natural scene and
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emphasizes the irreducible ambivalence of the natural struggle in which some creatures devour and destroy others. Rather than resolve that ambivalence and reach some tidy moral conclusion, Frost embraces it and uses it to raise the more abstract question about whether human beings should rely entirely on nature to answer their moral questions and metaphysical doubts.

Works Cited

Bagby, George F. Frost and the Book of Nature. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1993.

Burt, Stephen & Mikics, David. The Art of the Sonnet. Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. 2010.

Cramer, Jeffrey S. Robert Frost Among His Poems: A Literary Companion to the Poet's Own Biographical Contexts and Associations. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., Inc., 1996.

Frost, Robert. "Design," Rpt. In the Norton Introduction to Literature. Ed. Allison Booth, et al. Shorter 9th ed. W.W. Norton & Company. New York, 2005. 810.

Hass, Robert Bernard. Going by Contraries: Robert Frost's Conflict with Science. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 2002.

Holder, Rodney D.…

Sources Used in Documents:

Works Cited

Bagby, George F. Frost and the Book of Nature. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1993.

Burt, Stephen & Mikics, David. The Art of the Sonnet. Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. 2010.

Cramer, Jeffrey S. Robert Frost Among His Poems: A Literary Companion to the Poet's Own Biographical Contexts and Associations. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., Inc., 1996.

Frost, Robert. "Design," Rpt. In the Norton Introduction to Literature. Ed. Allison Booth, et al. Shorter 9th ed. W.W. Norton & Company. New York, 2005. 810.

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