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Analysis and comments on Traveling Through The Dark by William Stafford

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Comment 19 of 309, added on November 12th, 2010 at 8:42 PM.
analysis


When a person unexpectedly faces a crisis which tests his
moral sensitivity, he is forced to make a choice. Some of these choices, he
might not want to make but is forced to because they could either be very
important, or they could be less significant. Even though some choices
might not make that much of a difference in the world, they can still
affect us, and the things around us. In “Travelling Through The Dark”,
William Stanford takes us through a series of events which occur at a
specific time and place, and uses these events to explain human’s disregard
for nature. He brings us into a situation which involves a moral dilemma,
including man and technology versus nature, while using these events to
justify the decision that follows.
We are put right into a scenario which describes a
specific situation at a specific location, when a man finds a dead deer on
the edge of a road. The term “dark” ( 1 ) creates a certain atmosphere, one
which is uncertain and filled with suspense and danger. This darkness
symbolizes the unknown and the uncertainty of what lies ahead. He stops
when he sees the deer laying on the edge of the Wilson River Road, and
thoughts come to his mind immediately.” It is usually best to roll them
into the canyon”(2-3) here he thinks about a number of options he has, as
he could either simply just drive on and act like he didn’t see anything or
he could intervene. Driving on would be very convenient for him as he
wouldn’t have to deal with the situation, but that is egoistic, while
intervening would be altruistic and would show that he has concern for
other people. He thinks further “that road is narrow; to swerve might make
more dead”. Swerving is dangerous because in trying to swerve, a car might
lose control and fall into the canyon causing loss of human lives. The
narrator then decides to intervene.
By glow of the tail- light I stumbled back of the car
And stood by the heap, a doe, a recent killing;
She had stiffened already, almost cold.
I dragged her off; she was large in the belly.
About. (5-8)
Here we can see that he is bold and considerate as he jumps out of his car
and pulls the dead animal to the side. It just recently died, meaning the
animal is still fresh and he could probably chop it up and use it for meat.
That is utilitarianism right there and there is nothing wrong with making
due with what life gives you as it is totally legal. But as he feels the
warmth in its belly, he realizes that the animal is pregnant and its faun
is still alive. He then pauses and asks himself a number of questions.
Could it be saved? If he finally gets the baby out of the womb would it
make any difference? Could the child survive in the wild with no mother to
guide it? He then continues by saying “waiting, alive, still, never to be
born” (9-10) Waiting makes the fawn seem more alive than it actually is.
Its like the fawn is peacefully waiting for the decision for whether it
will live or die. The narrator did think hard for a while but he also uses
the words never to be born, which indicates that his mind was made up from
the word go. He thought about it so that if ever in the future he felt
sorrow or guilt for the fawn he could say to himself at least I thought
about it. He isn’t thinking about what to do, he is making an excuse for
himself. Also, the hesitation might be seen as a sign of consideration, as
he thinks of what is the best thing to do that will be of benefit for most
people at that time. “Lowered parking lights” here the car symbolizes
technology and the fact that the lights lower, the car engine roars and its
exhaust turns red, shows that there is need for him to hurry and move on.
So he has to make a choice between technology and nature as in wasting more
time, the car engine could die down and he would be stuck. The narrator
further mentions “The wilderness” which simply tells us that he was alone
at that time in a secluded place where not too many people came by. In the
end of the poem, to swerve means to go around, to go off your path. It may
not be by choice but everyone encounters a situation in life where they
must stop and make a choice, they must swerve, go around, take another
path. Here he thinks about a decision he is about to make for the entire
human race and he feels like it is the right decision at that time, so he
pushes the dead animal into the canyon. This means he is killing a life to
protect the life of another.
Stanford’s use of words, images and scenes here explains to
us that sometimes, in spite of our best impulses and desires, we are unable
to change the course of life or death. Our intentions and noble impulses
often fail to achieve the things we desire, and in recognizing that truth
we can resign ourselves to the inevitable.


alem from United Kingdom
Comment 18 of 309, added on November 9th, 2009 at 4:31 AM.

When looking at a poem it is unwise to make more of something than the poem
gives any indication. There is no suggestion that the details of the story
being told are any more than what they are in fact. This is an actual
account of an experience the poet has had. He offers much in the poem to
flesh out the reality of the moment he describes. The road and river are
real places in the Pacific northwest where Stafford lived. The encounter
with the deer, while far from common, occurs with enough regularity that
there would be no need to question its basis in fact. There should be no
suggestion that the person whose vehicle hit the deer did so with any
intent or without remorse. Such accicents result in significant damage to
vehicles and sometimes to the driver or passengers as well. Such an
incident would be a sudden, adrenaline filled moment that would leave a
driver dazed and upset, perhaps the reason they drove off without removing
the carcass from the traffic lane. The writer stops to perform the
unfinished task as a good citizen of the road, rather like offering help to
someone trying to change a tire. The death of the animal came because it
was in the wrong place at the wrong time. It could have been startled by a
sound and leapt into the path of the oncoming car, or perhaps the car came
around a bend and took the forageing animal by surprise. Such things
happen.
But there are sometimes moments in the midst of the ordinary wich transcend
the ordinary and bring us to a place we would never have imagined. This is
the point of the poem. When Stafford writes- Beside the mountain road I
hesitated, he wants us to ask why. What has stopped him in his intended
path? We discover that he is brought short in his plan by the realization
that there is still life, an unborn fawn, present in this cold carcass. It
is good to consider at this point that Stafford was a conscientous objecter
during WW II, a war that could be easily argued as being both just and
necessary. His belief in the sacredness of life was so strong that he could
not participate in that or any war. His view of the value of life no doubt
influenced his actions as he stood in the weak illumination of car lights
at the edge of a steep embankment. He follows this hesitation by saying- "I
thought hard for all of us- my only swerving. The reader is invited here to
speculate about those thoughts and in that speculation, guided by his final
action, is the heart and soul of the poem. No doubt he considered the
possibility of cutting the doe open and freeing the life inside of her, but
recognized that there was no practical way to nurture this fawn, even if it
was mature enough to survive outside the mother. The truth is that
sometimes, in spite of our best impulses and fervent desires, we are unable
to change the course of life or death. Our good intentions and noble
impulses often fail to achieve the things we desire, and in recognizing
that truth we can resign ourselves to the inevitable. If we are looking for
a symbolic way to understand the poem it could be that the above truth is
the darkness through which we travel. While this conclusion my be
unsatisfactory to some, it is pointless to force our agenda on the poem and
try to make it go to places it has not invited us to take it.

Brad Owens from United States
Comment 17 of 309, added on April 13th, 2009 at 9:51 AM.

I loved this poem, but just read it without thought at first. Now I am
really glad I read these comments by people a generation younger than me,
because I now see much more symbolism displayed there. The only two things
I could add to this is that the center stanza seems to show the decision -
making period to me, either yes, or no. And after reading the more
universal comments this poem reminded me of "Sophie's Choice" about a woman
who has to choose about whether to give up her boy or her girl when
captured by the Nazis. Thank you so much for the opportunity to post.
This was an old movie, Merryl Streep. Anyone seen it?

sally from United Kingdom
Comment 16 of 309, added on March 26th, 2009 at 3:50 PM.

I think this poem shows mans natural disregard for life and nature seeing
as the pregnant deer was killed and just left in the road like that. The
persona in the poem seems to be a very compassionate person in the way he
touches her side. His ultimate decision to push the deer into the river is
a desicion he felt he needed to make not just for himself but for all of
mankind when he says'I thought hard for us all'. I think Stafford brought
out mans disfunctional relationship with nature.

Vanessa from United States
Comment 15 of 309, added on January 6th, 2009 at 10:08 PM.

thankyou for posting your own opinions because i got a lotsssssss of help
from this for high school. I am 14 too as brian on top #2
thankyou very very very much guys


yeh from United States
Comment 14 of 309, added on March 31st, 2008 at 11:00 AM.

Okay, so I came to the conclusion that the driver could be interpreted as
Adolf Hitler. The fawn could be intrepreted as the Jewish people. This is
from the perspective of Adolf Hitler, so Adolf Hitler comes to God (deer).
It is a narrow road, meaning Adolf Hilter has a very narrow perspective.
The engine purrs at one point, The nazis passion for waht they are doing,
the front lights dim. Adolf Hitlers narrow perspective becomes narrower.
Exhaust turns red, they used torture methods of that kind, and also the
battle became bloodier. Hilter hesitates, a moral battle of some kind,
finally decides that the jewish people killed there God, cannot survive on
there own, and nor could Adolf help them in any way.
Of course i don't believe any of this, but Hitler could have

Brian from United States
Comment 13 of 309, added on January 5th, 2008 at 7:11 PM.

viewing all the comments i just read helped me to understand the poem more
and i got some answers as well from these comments for my homework
assignment and i think this is a pretty good idea for students like me
cause im only 14 in high skool and this was a big help for me so thanks ill
be back when i need help with my other poems lol bye now

nish from Saint Kitts and Nevis
Comment 12 of 309, added on January 29th, 2007 at 7:41 AM.

Traveling Through the Dark is a deeply emotive poem which presents a deep
and true meaning. The title, firstly, could be understoodas a journey into
no light. The word 'dark' could be understood as no light, gloom,
difficulty of finding the right path. Stafford, throughout the poem makes
a link between Nature and human beings. He is faced with the decision of
throwing the doe over the edge of the cliff. He is saddened however by the
fact that the doe is pregnant and the fawn (baby deer) will not live. He
has to make a choice. . He eventually rools the deer into the canyon. The
'I' in the poem had to roll the deer over the edge as the deer could cause
other accidents. In order to save one life, another must be sacrificed. The
moods of the poem include: sadness, despair. The tone is contemplative. The
rhythm is slow due to punctuation which evokes the person's feelings. The
figurative devices used include, personification (L.16 wilderness listen)
pun (L. 17. swerving), oxymoron (L. 11. alive, still never to be born) and
alliteration (L.4 might make more).

Rani from Jamaica
Comment 11 of 309, added on February 13th, 2006 at 6:23 PM.

The main tones highlighted in this poem is "dark" which signifies death,
negativity,& loneliness.It's major theme is human nature.

The persona finds a dead doe on a heap by the roadside and out his care and
love for nature he stops to see the deer.On touching the side of the doe
the persona realizes that the doe is pregnant and the fawn is still alive
inside waiting to be born.

The persona became hesitant because now he has to make a more difficult
choice of wether the mother would want her fawn to live or die.As his
audience wait in anticipation of his next move. The persona pushed the doe
over the edge into the river.

This poem could best be renamed as "Man of Nature" or "Never to be born".

In conclusion while travelling through the dark a carefull driver, who
loves nature, found a dead doe which was pregnant but her fawn was never to
be born.

sher from Jamaica
Comment 10 of 309, added on October 27th, 2005 at 7:52 PM.

This poem is exactly what the title suggest. It is about life. The darkness
is our future, which we cannot see. The deer did not "see" the car which
hit, before the fact. This is just as humans do not know the future and
get "hit by cars" all the time (ie. Hurrican Katrina,9/11). This is the
swerving he did for all of us. The deer represents death/life. The car
helps bring out the image of piercing through the darkness with limited
vision in front of us.

Nodnarb Eloop from United States

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Information about Traveling Through The Dark

Poet: William Stafford
Poem: Traveling Through The Dark
Added: Feb 20 2003
Viewed: 2067 times
Poem of the Day: Feb 14 2007


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