Synopsis of The Spider and the Fly by Mary Botham Howitt 

About the Poet Mary Botham  Howitt 

Mary Botham Howitt (1799-1888) was born in Gloucestershire. She was educated at home and read widely. She is widely known for her children's book 'The Spider and The Fly'. Her noted works focusing on subjects like various histories of America and Magic children's stories and poems, translation of works by Hans Christian Anderson, original novels and a two-volume autobiography.

Theme of the Poem The Spider and the Fly

'The Spider and The Fly' is a fable about a fly that first appeared in Howitt's collection Sketches of Natural History (1834), a series of poems to educate children about the realities of the world. This poem educates its little audience about not to be lured into temptation and flattery by the wily and shrewd predators who abound in society. Howitt uses a parable to tell the poem where the Fly and the Spider behave like human beings; where the spider is metaphorically representing wily people who exist in the society. A poem can stir all of the senses, and the subject matter of a poem can range from being comical to being sad.

Summary of the Poem The Spider and the Fly

'The Spider and The Fly written by Mary Howitt demonstrates the differences between people in the world. The poem illustrates how the differences demonstrated by Howitt impact decisions and influence people. The reader of this poem could be of any age because of the wise use of animals as characters. In the guise of a story, Howitt delivers a message and a warning to her readers.

The poem is based on the usual lives of a Spider and a Fly at the Spider's lair. The title of the poem is straightforwardly describing the protagonist of the poetry. The theme is making wise decisions and analyzing every decision'. Often wise decisions are promptly made but they are not analyzed and acted upon. There is another idea that the poet is trying to illuminate to have strong will power and never pay heed to evil counselors.

Critical Analysis of The Spider and the Fly

The Spider and The Fly is a narrative poem written by Mary Howitt, personifying the Spider and the Fly as human beings.

The first stanza begins with a warm invitation to the Fly by the Spider to his den, a parlour donned with luxury. The way to the Spider's parlour is through an exquisite winding staircase. The line 'The way into my parlour is up a winding stair', is illustrates the use of imagery.

The Spider throughout the poem is a representation of evils in the world and how these evils hide behind flattery and kind words, on the other hand, the Fly is very naive, prone to flattery, innocent and has a weak resolute.

The Spider continues to exhibit his traits in the second stanza and continues to describe the features of his luxurious den to trap the Fly in its den. The Fly can be seen relying only on the facts and evidence she believes in and makes wise decisions as said in the poem "for I've often heard it said/They never, never wake again, who sleep upon your bed!"

The Spider is seen to be suggestive and continues to suggest charming ideas of the luxury of his den in the third stanza.

The Spider changes its strategy and starts praising the 'gauzy' wings and 'brilliant' eyes of the Fly. The Fly gives a deaf eye to what the Spider said.
Finally, the Fly gets lured by the Spider's flattering words and fell in its trap.

'Up jumped the cunning Spider, and fiercely held her fast. 
He dragged her up his winding stair, into his dismal den, 
Within his little parlor -- but she ne'er came out again!'

The mood of the poem is sad as it tells how a Fly dies giving into flattery but the poet uses imagery, rhythm, and repetition to make it sound upbeat for young children.


winding - having a spiral form;
weary - tired, exhausted;
pantry - place where food is stored:
gauzy - thin and transparent;
ubtle - delicate and detailed;
hither - to this place;
wily - shrewd:
flitting - passing quickly from one place to the other;
aloft - at or to a great height:
hue - colour or shade:
dismal - disappointed, gloomy;
counsellor - a person who suggests or aides someone in situations. 
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