What Is the Theme of “Design” by Robert Frost?

The theme of “Design” by Robert Frost is a philosophical questioning of God’s role as creator in designing the functions of nature, according to Humanities 360’s Kerry Michael Wood. During the 1920s, one of the biggest arguments in support of God’s existence was that nature testified to a greater intelligence through its design.

Other poets, such as Bryant in his poem “To a Waterfowl,” use nature as evidence of God as creator and designer. Bryant’s poem is reassuring; meanwhile, Frost’s theme in “Design” is more skeptical in nature. A running theme throughout much of Frost’s poetry, states Ken Sanes, is a joking with and questioning of God.

According to S. Spachman, another theme-constructing device Frost employs is the blurring of traditional connotations on words such as “white.” Through the new context of this word, Frost questions what is good or bad and light and dark. Frost also questions what makes the “characters” in the poem act as they do. Is it an evil God? The poem appears to suggest a dark force at work, until the last line. The last line brings in the elements of doubt and the question of design with the carefully picked words “if” and “small”: “If design govern in a thing so small” (line 14).