The Spider and The Fly Analysis by Mary Howitt


“The spider and the fly” reveals the story of a cunning spider that allures a naive fly with his devious words and finally makes her fall into his trap. The spider tries to convince the fly to step into his home. He tries to entice her with the promise of showing her some pretty things in his home. He offers her a comfortable bed. He tries to deceive her by faking concern for the fly’s weariness. He tries to befriend the fly by cordially welcoming her to his pantry. However, the fly is smart enough not to fall into his trap. She repeatedly dismisses him by telling him that she is aware of what happens to the victims that enter his trap.

The spider then attempts to please her vanity by calling her wings beautiful and her eyes bright and shiny. He flatters the fly in order to trick her. He even suggests the fly have a look at her own beauty in his home. The fly is flattered by his deceiving gestures and plans on visiting the spider again. And when the fly comes back to the spider, he catches her instantly. The poem ends with a small message to all the children. The poet cautions the children against flattery by evil counselors. She asks them to take a lesson from the fly’s foolishness resulting in her tragic end and warns them not to be deceived by false flattery.

 Tone of “The spider and the Fly” by Mary Botham Howitt

 “The spider and the fly” is a fable written by Mary Botham Howitt. The predominant tone of the poem is one of flattery and deception. This poem tells the story of a cunning spider who entices a little fly with his tricky words to fall into his trap. This fable depicts a very prominent and common folly of human beings- the flaw of being easily convinced by false flattery. In this poem, the cunning spider employs a number of ways to allure the fly into his home. He cordially invites the fly into his ‘parlour’ to show her pretty things, offers her a comfortable bed and good food to eat. Failing to tempt the fly with all these, the spider uses the strongest weapon he has that is sure to take her down.  He indulges in fake flattery of the fly. The traps the naive fly through the seduction of flattery. No matter how dedicated the fly was about not entering the spider’s evil trap, she succumbed in the end as the spider artfully deceives her to step into his home.

The fly repeatedly states that she does not intend to see this home as she has heard the tales of the victims that were subjected to his evilness and cruelty. However, being an exceptionally good predator with a lot of experience, the spider is sure that the fly will definitely melt at his false praises. He exclaims- “How handsome are your gauzy wings, how brilliant are your eyes!” He also says that he wishes to make the fly aware of her own beauty by offering her a looking-glass to look at herself and appreciate her own beauty. The fly becomes softer on this suggestion and thanks to the cunning fly. However, her vanity and foolishness become the end for her. The poet warns and advises people not to pay heed to false flattery and enticements and learn from the fly’s mistake. This tone of falsehood, deception, and meanness that the poem embodies is also representative of the miseries of the beings that are silly enough to fall for that evilness.

Poetic devices in “The spider and the fly” by Mary Botham Howitt

1. Simile –
A simile is a figure of speech in which a likeness between two different things is stated explicitly, using the words ‘as’ or ‘like’. For instance,
“Your eyes are like the diamond bright, but mine are dull as lead.”
Here, the fly’s eyes have been compared to a diamond and the spider’s eyes to lead.

2. Anaphora –
It is a figure of speech in which there is a deliberate repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of a sequence of sentences, paragraphs, and lines. For instance,
“How handsome are your gauzy wings, how brilliant are your eyes!”

3.Repetition –
It is a word, phrase, sentence or a poetical line repeated to emphasize its significance in the text. For instance, “O no, no,” said the little fly, “for I’ve often heard it said,
They never, never wake again, who sleep upon your bed.

The use of the phrase ‘O no, no’ and ‘never, never’ emphasizes on the fly’s firm dedication to not enter the spider’s web.

4. Alliteration –
The close repetition of consonant sounds, usually at the beginning of words, is called alliteration. For instance,
fiercely held her fat”
dismal d

5. Assonance – It is the repetition of similar vowel sounds. For instance,
“’Tis the prettiest little parlor– (‘i’ sound is repeated here)

The Spider and The Fly : Structure and Rhyme Scheme

The poem The Spider and The Fly consist of seven stanzas out of which the first four stanzas are composed of six lines each, the next two stanzas have eight lines each and the final stanza comprises of four lines. It is a fable that tells the story of a cunning spider that deceives a silly fly through flattery. It is written in verse form.

The first four stanzas follow the same rhyme scheme, i.e., AABBCC. The rhyme scheme of the fourth and the fifth stanza goes like AABBCCDD. And finally, the last stanza has the rhyme scheme of AABB.
For instance, in the first stanza, ‘fly’ rhymes with ‘spy’, ‘stair’ rhymes with ‘there’ and, ‘vain’ rhymes with ‘again’.

“Will you walk into my parlor?” said the spider to the fly;
“’Tis the prettiest little parlor that ever you did spy.
The way into my parlor is up a winding stair,
And I have many pretty things to show when you are there.”
“O no, no,” said the little fly, “to ask me is in vain,
For who goes up your winding stair can ne’er come down again.”

Again in the fifth stanza, ‘den’ rhymes with ‘again’, ‘sly’ rhymes with ‘fly’, ‘sing’ rhymes with ‘wing’, and ‘head’ rhymes with ‘lead’.

The spider turned him round about, and went into his den,
For well he knew the silly fly would soon be back again:
So he wove a subtle web, in a little corner sly,
And set his table ready to dine upon the fly.
Then he came out to his door again and merrily did sing
“Come hither, hither, pretty fly, with the pearl and silver wing:
Your robes are green and purple; there’s a crest upon your head;
Your eyes are like the diamond bright, but mine are dull as lead.”

Again, in the final stanza, ‘read’ rhymes with ‘heed’ and ‘eye’ rhymes with ‘fly’.

And now, dear little children, who may this story read,
To idle, silly, flattering words, I pray you ne’er give heed;
Unto an evil counselor close heart, and ear, and eye,
And take a lesson from this tale of the Spider and the Fly.

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