This theme seems like a heavy-hitter, what with the big "ism" and all, but existentialism really boils down to a school of thought based on the idea of existence itself—not existence in our minds, but our living, breathing selves. In "Design," Frost examines life as he finds it in the physical world and wonders about all the big questions: Why are we here? Where did we come from? Were we made this way? Those aren't exactly multiple choice, kids.
Questions About Philosophical Viewpoints: Existentialism
In the first stanza, why does this scene spark the speaker to wonder about his existence?
What is the effect on the reader of the series of questions in stanza two?
What does the very last word of the poem say about the speaker's view of himself and the world?
What does the poem's structure and design suggest about the possibility of a higher Intelligence at work in the world?
Chew on This
Frost is right on the edge of two extremes (and we don't mean a couple of these guys). Either the world is random and meaningless, or it is planned-out and harshly cruel.
Our physical existence confirms what we already knew: appalling things happen and humans simply have to live in the midst of it. Tough jerky, gang.