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A Considerable Speck
Transcript of A Considerable Speck
The narrator, while writing on a sheet of white paper, saw a ‘mite’ run across the page. He first thought of stabbing it, then realized it is intelligent, and instead let the scared ‘mite’ rest. Then the narrator tells us he didn’t save the mite because of a general principle of equal kindness, but because it had done him no harm. He ends the poem by saying he is glad to find signs of intelligence in any form on pieces of paper.
The mite's movements are described as "racing wildly" (11), while it runs "with terror" (19). These descriptions create visual imagery of the mite running frantically across the sheet of paper.
The diction employed in this poem is designed to contrast Frost from his Collectivist opponents, because he is calm and collected in his decision making while they are frantic and indecisive. He calls the mite "poor" (27), describes it as "cower[ing]" (22), and has a general tone of ridicule and inferiority of the mite.
The diction and images of the mite tie to common perceptions of Collectivism, where the followers run around aimlessly, with a sole intention of survival.
A major theme of this poem is the belief in Collectivism, which Frost directly alludes to by satirizing the regimenting love traditional of Collectivism on line 25. Frost was a devout Individualist, and he viewed Collectivism as an antithesis to the American way- the belief that we determine our own destiny. To Frost, we are each our own poet, and he views Collectivists as merely mites on our paper.
Another theme prevalent in A Considerable Speck is the theme of omnipotence. Frost repeatedly personifies the writer as being in control of what becomes of the mite, therefore alluding that he is in control and overpowers the critics of his work. This is particularly accurate because this poem was written during Frost's prime when he was virtually untouchable by criticism.
This poem is written as a single stanza, so the shifts are made evident by the breaks in rhyme scheme. Largely in Iambic pentameter with some anapestic intrusions, it is split into three verses: after lines 6 and 29.
Verse 1: Has an AABBCC rhyme scheme, using heroic couplets to reinforce the view that he is omnipotent and a hero.
Verse 2: Has no defined scheme although it partially mirrors a Petrarchan sonnet. The combination of traditional and modern structures is evident in this verse as the rhyme scheme is used to imitate the mite's frantic running. Interestingly, such as in line 8, some lines are not rhymed. This can be attributed to Frost's desire to de-romanticize the Collectivist reputation. Further, this is where Frost declares that he makes decisions honestly, not for reputation.
Verse 3: Returns to heroic couplet form again defining the poet as being on a higher moral ground than the mite.
Tone and Shifts
In the first section of the poem, Frost uses a sort of whimsical tone while he is describing the mite.
"With inclinations it could call its own."(9)
"Then paused again and either drank or smelt," (13)
The tone becomes more arrogant right around where the second verse begins.
"Cower down in desperation to accept, Whatever I accorded it of fate." (22-23)
"I let it lie there till I hope it slept."(29)
In line 18 the meter shifts from the iambs that the majority of the poem is, to having an anapestic foot. This upset in meter draws the readers attention to a shift in the poem. The poem stops describing the mite as much as it was and it starts to show the narrator beginning to feel like he can control the mite.
"A Considerable Speck"
Analysis by Thomas Kenyon and Ryan Anderson
A speck that would have been beneath my sight
On any but a paper sheet so white
Set off across what I had written there.
And I had idly poised my pen in air
To stop it with a period of ink
When something strange about it made me think.
This was no dust speck by my breathing blown,
But unmistakably a living mite
With inclinations it could call its own.
It paused as with suspicion of my pen,
And then came racing wildly on again
To where my manuscript was not yet dry;
Then paused again and either drank or smelt,
With loathing, for again it turned to fly.
Plainly with an intelligence I dealt.
It seemed too tiny to have room for feet,
Yet must have had a set of them complete
To express how much it didn't want to die.
It ran with terror and with cunning crept,
It faltered: I could see it hesitate;
Then in the middle of the open sheet
Cower down in desperation to accept
Whatever I accorded it of fate.
I have none of the tenderer-than-thou
Collectivistic regimenting love
With which the modern world is being swept.
But this poor microscopic item now!
Since it was nothing I knew evil of
I let it lie there till I hope it slept.
I have a mind myself and recognize
Mind when I meet with it in any guise
No one can know how glad I am to find
On any sheet the least display of mind.
Does the narrator reflect Frost’s own opinion? It is entirely plausible that Frost is mocking the haughty stance and the moral high ground of the narrator. The narrator ends the poem with a self-congratulating statement: “I have a mind myself and recognize Mind when I meet with it in any guise” (30), and yet he failed to recognize the mite for what it was for a considerable time. He never would have noticed it if his paper wasn’t so blank.
Symbols and Literary Features
Personifying the bug:“It paused as with suspicion of my pen” and “With loathing for again it turned to fly”. The writer talks about the mite as if it had emotions and conscious reasoning. Demonstrated by the use of personification, the mite stands for more than a simple creature, which makes it a symbol. The mite perhaps stands for living things that people perceive as inconsequential. As the title suggests, the size of the bug has no connection to its importance.
Oxymoron: "A Considerable Speck"
Irony: The writer leaves the speck alone because it's so rare to find any indication of intelligence on a sheet of paper
The mite stands for living things that people perceive as inconsequential. As the title suggests, the size of the being has no connection to its importance.
The mite could also symbolize critics of Frosts work because he views them as largely unimportant to his career
When I read this poem I thought that this poem could have some interesting implications. It made me think that humanity can be symbolized by both the mite and the narrator. For example, on a macrocosmic level, we are nothing more than a mite in the grand scheme of the universe and there is the potential that there are beings much more intelligent than we could ever begin to fathom. At the same time, compared to things on earth like ants there is nothing more powerful than we are.