Plan or Chance?: The Meaning of Life in Robert Frost's "Design"

Plan or Chance?: The Meaning of Life in Robert Frost's "Design"

Shakespeare once wrote, "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players." Clearly, this line suggests that life is only a series of unreal scenes put on by people. However, beneath this simple understanding of Shakespeare's statement lie issues surrounding whether the "players" are actually in control of the scenes they play. The "merely" is problematic: Does Shakespeare mean "merely" as "only" or as "simply?" Is he suggesting that the players who act out life's dramas are under the direction of a higher power or plan, that they are simply puppets on the stage of life? This basic philosophical issue, ...

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that creates the central tension of the poem. While almost every word and its placement, every punctuation mark and image works to produce this tension, ultimately Frost offers no resolution of the tension. Although the title and many elements in the poem suggest that Frost sees life as an experience that is controlled and designed by a cruel being--much like the perspective Virginia Woolf offers in her essay "Old Mrs. Grey, I ultimately believe that the poem remains ambiguous. Good or bad, design or fluke, Frost builds this poem not to offer his readers an easy answer about life. Instead he sets up a multi-faceted argument about life which his readers have to resolve, if they can, for themselves.
The poem begins simply enough. In the first three lines, Frost tells his readers a story about finding a white spider sitting on a white flower. In the spider's arms is a white moth, which readers find out later is dead. What draws the audience's more serious attention to this ...

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"design" in the poem suggests that some other entity or force has specifically created the white heal-all, the white spider, and the white moth and has brought them together for a particular purpose. Design seems to be Frost's initial answer to his own questions not just because "Design" is the title of the poem, thereby being the first impression readers receive when reading the poem, but because of the elaborate design of the poem itself. "Design" is a strict Petrarchan sonnet. It has iambic pentameter and a very limited rhyme scheme, abbaabbaacaacc, in which there are only three different rhymes. It is clearly divided into an octet and sestet in which Frost sets up the situation ...

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Plan or Chance?: The Meaning of Life in Robert Frost's "Design". (2013, October 31). Retrieved January 16, 2021, from
"Plan or Chance?: The Meaning of Life in Robert Frost's "Design".", 31 Oct. 2013. Web. 16 Jan. 2021. <>
"Plan or Chance?: The Meaning of Life in Robert Frost's "Design"." October 31, 2013. Accessed January 16, 2021.
"Plan or Chance?: The Meaning of Life in Robert Frost's "Design"." October 31, 2013. Accessed January 16, 2021.
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Added: 10/31/2013 07:55:46 PM
Submitted By: joyandfiesta
Category: Poetry & Poets
Type: Premium Paper
Words: 1745
Pages: 7

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