How does the poem “The Spider and the Fly” by Mary Botham Howitt depict black humour?
Mary Howitt’s poem “The Spider and the Fly” is a fable in verse presenting a rather dark topic in a light manner. We all have a ‘spider sense’ or our instinct warning us when something doesn’t seem quite right. In many cases, we ignore that instinctive warning of danger and eventually get into trouble. This is a feeling that can’t be easily explained but it is worth regarding.
In the poem, the Fly also sensed the danger at the very beginning, and that is why she maintained her reply in negative in the first three occasions when the cunning Spider invited her to his parlour with the temptation of seeing the pretty things there, resting on his little bed or offering her good food. “Oh no, no” was the reply that she repeated thrice. But, finally she got carried away hearing the flattering words of the wily Spider and ignored her own instinct. That is how she moved towards the danger and eventually lost her life to the Spider.
Here in this poem, the poetess highlights the importance of regarding that stay-safe instinct of our mind. She also warns us against getting carried away with the feeling of vanity at someone’s flattery with evil intention. These things are quite serious in our life and can even lead to the highest grade of danger like death.
Now, with the intention of warning the readers against paying heed to the flattery of an evil counsellor and teaching them about how important paying heed to our sixth sense is, the poetess could have written a broad essay or even a story representing a plot and characters from real life. But she doesn’t. Just because this is a dark topic, doesn’t mean that our approach has to be dark too. She therefore chooses to deliver the same message through a very simple humorous tale featuring two trifle creatures like fly and spider, making it suitable for children, and that too, in the form of verse.
So, we see, Mary Howitt makes us look at a serious topic through not-so-serious eyes. Though someone’s death is a serious thing and should evoke pity, the Fly’s death has been made to look more agreeable in the readers’ eyes by the lighthearted and amusing tone of the story told in the poem. And, that is exactly what a black comedy (or, dark comedy) is supposed to do. That is why Mary Howitt’s poem “The Spider and the Fly” can be regarded as a black comedy.