Explain the theme of "The Spider and The Fly" by Mary Howitt.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that Howitt herself details the theme at the end of her poem.  Once she has finished telling the narrative of the spider and the fly, she breaks from the poetic storytelling and offers up a type of warning as a moral or theme to conclude the poem:

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 counsellor, close heart and ear and eye,      And take a lesson from this tale, of the Spider and the Fly.

It is here where the theme becomes strongest displayed.  The weakness to succumb to flattery and false praise could be one's undoing.  If we consider how such words play on our ego, causing us to embrace what could be disastrous, the theme of limiting individual pride becomes the driving theme of the poem.  The spider is able to "weave a web" to ensnare the fly because of the superficial praise heaped on it.  When the fly gives in to this praise, believing it as truth, the fly is destroyed.  In this, there is the theme of not giving in to tempting words of praise and adulation, no matter how seductive they may be.


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