In Mary Botham Howitt’s poem “The Spider and the Fly” why is the Fly described as a “poor foolish thing” and the Spider as “cunning Spider” and “wily”?
In Mary Howitt’s poetic fable “The Spider and the Fly“, the poetess highlights the theme of flattery and its effects on us by depicting how a foolish Fly fell prey to the seductive and flattering words of an evil-minded cunning Spider. Though the Fly was clever enough to refuse the Spider’s invitation into his parlour towards the beginning, she finally got carried away when the Spider praised her calling her ‘sweet’, ‘witty’ and ‘wise’ and praised her beautiful wings and bright eyes.
While the invitation to see the ‘many pretty things’ the Spider had in his parlour, the temptation of taking rest in his ‘little bed’ with fine and thin sheets and pretty curtains drawn around, or his ‘warm affection’ and offer of good food at his store — nothing could attract the Fly, flattery could — the best plan the Spider had kept for the last. After hearing the admiring words about herself in the Spider’s lips, the Fly could not resist herself any longer. She was now lost in thought of her own beauty, forgetting the surroundings.
Thinking only of her brilliant eyes, and green and purple hue;
Thinking only of her crested head …
The Spider was already certain that he had successfully flattered the foolish Fly into believing his words. That is why he had gone into his den once to make a subtle web and to set his table ready ‘to dine upon the Fly’. This way the Spider won the game and the Fly lost out. She finally fell prey to the Spider and never came out again.
The Spider won not out of his luck, but it was a result of his experience and wily ways that he could successfully trap the Fly. And the Fly, though resisted for some time, finally got into the trap, not because she did not know the consequences of stepping into the Spider’s parlour, but because she failed to resist herself to flattery and foolishly submitted herself to the Spider. This is why the Fly is called “the poor foolish thing” and the Spider is termed as ‘cunning’ and ‘wily’.