Stafford Essay

This essay has a total of 1336 words and 5 pages.

Stafford

William Stafford's "Traveling Through the Dark" is beautifully written poem that expresses
one of life's most challenging aspects. It is the story of a man's solitary struggle to
deal with a tragic event that he encounters.

Driving down a narrow mountain road, "Traveling Through the Dark," the narrator of the
poem encounters a deer. This line might fool the reader into believing the poem has a
happy theme; after all, a deer is a beautiful creature that most people associate with
nature or freedom. The first word of the second line, however, reverses this belief. The
deer is actually "dead on the edge of the Wilson River Road." The traveler decides to send
the deer over the edge of the canyon, because "to swerve might make more dead." This line
indicates that if he fails or "swerves" in his decision, the deer could cause an accident
on the narrow road that might cost more lives.

The narrator armed with this purpose, proceeds with his unfortunate task. He approaches
the deer and observes that it is a recent killing. He drags her off to the side of the
road, noting that she is "large in the belly." The narrator soon discovers that the deer
is pregnant, and that her fawn is still alive. At this moment he hesitates, distraught
over the decision he knows he must make.

Faced by the implications of this decision, the narrator considers his surroundings: his
car stares ahead into the darkness with its lowered parking lights, purring its steady
engine; he stands "in the glare of the warm exhaust turning red," and can "hear the
wilderness listen." All of these describe the anxiety he feels about his responsibility.
The personified car is expectantly awaiting his decision, eager to get moving again. The
wilderness takes on human abilities also, silently witnessing the outcome it knows must
be, but wishing it was otherwise. As the narrator ponders all of this, the taillights of
the car illuminate him in their red light. This is reflective of the heightened emotions
he is experiencing, but also brings to mind the bloody fate of the deer and her unborn
fawn. The narrator thinks "hard for us all" and proceeds with the task he had committed to
since the beginning. He pushes the deer and her unborn fawn over the edge into the river.

There is much more to "Traveling Through the Dark" than its literal story. The title,
along with the story itself, suggests man's disregard for nature. Humans seem to travel
through life like a horse with blinders on, oblivious to the consequences or implications
of their actions. The driver who killed the deer is an example of this theme. He was also
traveling through the dark, as the deer was a "recent killing." The fact that he left it
in the middle of the road, with no further thought for it or anyone else behind him,
implies his immoral or dark nature.

The main theme of the poem however, is the sadness and misfortune that accompany us on our
journey through life. The Wilson River Road, in which the events of the poem take place,
is symbolic of the road of life that we all travel upon. The darkness and the setting of
the poem point to the seclusion and indecision that we experience when dealing with life's
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