Explain in detail the summary of the poem "The Spider and the Fly" by Mary Howitt.

Expert Answers
edcon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In stanza one, the spider does its best to entice the fly into its parlor with the promise of pretty things to see. The fly refuses and says it will never visit, because it knows whoever goes there is never seen again.

In stanza two, the spider tries a different tactic, offering the fly a pretty and comfortable place to sleep. Again, the fly refuses, citing the disappearance of others who have accepted this offer.

In stanza three, the spider asks what it can do to prove its motives are pure; it offers lovely food to the fly, but once again, the fly refuses, saying it has heard about the spider's pantry and isn't interested.

In stanza four, the spider tries to flatter the fly by praising its appearance and inviting it in to look into a mirror.  Though flattered, the fly refuses—but leaves the door open a bit by implying "some other time." 

In stanza five, the spider knows it has won and begins preparations to feast on the fly.  After setting a clever trap, it again appeals to the fly's vanity and praises its beauty compared to the spider's less appealing appearance.

In stanza six, the vain fly comes by to hear more blandishments about its beauty, and the spider strikes, taking the fly into its parlor, from which it never emerges.

In stanza seven, the narrator speaks directly to readers with an imperative: never fall for the flattery of a predator—learn from this fable of the spider and the fly.

amarang9 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the first stanza of "The Spider and the Fly," the spider tries to convince the fly to come up to his parlour (web), but the fly replies that those who do so never return. 

In the second stanza, the spider tries to convince the fly how comfortable his bed is, but the fly responds that those who sleep on his bed never wake again. 

In the third stanza, the spider proclaims his affection for the fly and offers what he has in his pantry, but the fly doesn't wish to see it. 

In the fourth stanza, the spider offers flattery and a chance for the fly to look upon herself in his mirror. The fly is flattered and says she'll call on him another day. 

In the fifth stanza, the spider knows the fly was flattered, so he prepares for her arrival, believing that the fly has begun to trust him. When she returns, he flatters her again to seal the deal. 

In the sixth stanza, still enamored with the spider's flattery, the fly gets closer and closer until the spider captures her. 

The final stanza is spoken directly to the listener, in this case it is children. The poem is a lesson that some use flattery simply as a way to get what they want or to seduce other people. Although this is a general lesson intended for children, this poem has been interpreted as a cautionary tale for women not to be seduced by manipulative men. 

Further Reading:

Unlock This Answer Now

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question