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Analysis and comments on Traveling Through The Dark by William Stafford

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Comment 9 of 309, added on October 17th, 2005 at 4:00 PM.

Though William Stafford wrote of the ordinary life of man and the
experiences of the every day life, I found a more complicated meaning
inside this poem. I saw that as the narrator as 'traveling through the dark
I found a deer dead on the edge of the Wilson River road.' I felt as if the
deer represented an effort that was made but destroyed by humans
(represented by the car). I am very big on symbolism and I saw: Car=public/
human cruelty; Deer= fallen attempt of something; Fawn= surviving hope
of the product of the effort; Dark night= a bad situation or struggle.
As the narrator first starts to dispose of the carrion (decaying flesh) he
feels the fawn inside and he realizes that it will not survive with it's
mother dead. The narrator is given the chance of rescuing the dying hope,
but as William describes "The car aimed its lowered parking lights; under
the hood purred the steady engine. I stood in the glare of the warm exhaust
truning red around our group I could hear the wilderness listen." I see the
description of the car as the waiting of human kind to go ahead and dispose
of the carcus and return to its normal route, while the wilderness is
listening to see if the human will help it. After much thought, the
narrator chooses to dispose of the deer. This is symbolic to human
ignorance in that he was given the choice and did not take advantage of the
situation of saving a hope. The Swerving mentioned in the first stanza
(...to swerve might make more dead.) is described as his swerving at the
last stanza (--my only swerving--). The swerve that the narrator recognizes
in his action may lead to (as teh irony calls for) the downfall or 'more
dead' that he may inflict upon himself. It is a very descriptive poem that
does have deeper meaning if you look for it. This is just my interpretation
of it.

Lauren from United States
Comment 8 of 309, added on September 19th, 2005 at 9:45 PM.

I believe this poem was an excellent choice to read in my English II Honors
class. I think this poem was very explanatory, and most poems are not.
This did not cause any confusion, and made a very good resource to work off
of. This poem was a good subject, since this happens in real life, and was
very visual to read. This poem had a sense of compassion and hurt since a
baby doe was not born due to his mother being hit by a car. I enjoyed
writing about this poem, and would definately want to do it again.

Kyla Johanson from United States
Comment 7 of 309, added on September 19th, 2005 at 9:35 PM.

I feel that the poem was strong and very descriptive toward the drivers
thoughts and feelings for the dead deer. It wasn't very sad because thats
what happens sometimes in life and wilderness...accidents! But I think that
the driver made the right decision to knock the deer off the edge because
the deer was dead and so then it would not get run over or cause any
accidents to any other drivers who would pass by it and not see it... I
think that it was the best thing to do....

TylerTui. from United States
Comment 6 of 309, added on June 19th, 2005 at 1:41 PM.

i think that he is cruel to do such a thing he should have called an animal
reascue agency because they would have come and take it away and probably
cut the fawn out of the doe's stomach

Gracie from United States
Comment 5 of 309, added on June 3rd, 2005 at 9:38 AM.

Traveling Through the Dark though seemingly straightforward and "literal"
questions that of the value of life and to a lesser extent the treatment of
death. Clearly this individual isn't instinctively an inhumane individual "
my fingers touching her side brought me the reason her side was warm: her
faun lay there waiting" as well as others instances where the individual
contemplates the next move. He weighs in on the fact that" she was large in
the belly" and whatever was inside was 'alive". The average, ego driven,
self centered individual would not have taken the time to notice these
things instead the deer being "lesser" than him would have been more that
happy "to roll it into the canyon".

Stafford through his creative use of language and detailed description,
seemingly hints at and seeks to highlight human nature at it's best
especially when there is no one else there only "the wilderness".

Clearly the persona is of the opinion that one death especially that of an
animal should not cause the death of another and so though compassionate he
joins the masses, that majority of the society who at some point or another
have come across a deer or other animal of the wild along a narrow road and
has done what they have and "pushed her over into the edge of the river".

Mickel-Ann from Jamaica
Comment 4 of 309, added on April 12th, 2005 at 6:33 PM.

He is traveling at night, or through the dark, on a narrow road, when he
finds a dead doe on the side of the road. He says,” It is usually best to
roll them into the canyon: that road is narrow, to swerve might make more
dead.” So, of course, he gets out of his car to roll it into the canyon. He
notices that it is a doe and she is pregnant. Her body is stiff and cold,
but he touches her stomach and it is warm. Now, he has realized that the
fawn is alive, but never to be born. He sits there thinking of weather or
not to roll her and her unborn fawn into the canyon. He has to make a
choice: roll the doe and her unborn fawn into the canyon, or leave them
there. If he leaves them there, the baby might have a chance of being born,
but it could also cause someone to swerve and wreck or die. Eventually, he
pushes her over the edge into the river.
I think that this poem is about making choices. Some choices we don’t
want to make, we have to; such as in the poem. The choices we make can be
very important, or they can 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 the poem, he had to make the
decision of weather or not to push the deer into the canyon. He does
because it could affect the people. If he had left it, someone might have
to swerve around it, and they might wreck and get injured or even die. If
he had left it, the animals would be affected too. Some might want to eat
it and get hit. I think he made the right decision. This poem has a good
message behind it- make the decisions you think are not only good for you,
but for everything else it might affect.

Tori from United States
Comment 3 of 309, added on April 9th, 2005 at 9:24 AM.

A superficial view of life’s problems is often the easiest way to exist.
‘Swerving’, or deviating from that view often pushes against the current of
common thought. This experience can be troubling because it forces a
person to think independently. In William Stafford’s poem Traveling
through the dark the author is untroubled when he finds a dead deer on the
side of a canyon road. He accepts it as a common experience, stating “it
is usually best to roll them into the canyon.” He then immediately warns
us that “to swerve (or to think more deeply about something) might make
more dead”
Though initially this may seem like a semi-twisted poem by a man with
nothing better to do than to write about his experiences about road kill.
If you take a deeper look into the poem, as the poet satirically advises us
not to do, you will see that the poet has many meanings in the poem, some
intended and some un-intended. At the beginning of the poem when he first
finds the deer it is really no big deal and there is no thinking necessary,
all that needs t be done is the normal, conformist thing. Then we see that
there are different circumstances than normal, the doe that has been killed
has a baby still living inside of it. This forces us to try and actually
think about things, or as the poet puts it, we have to ‘swerve’.
Then after the deer is dumped into the river, with the baby still in it we
are forced to begin to think about why the speaker would just kill an
innocent baby. Could it have been saved? If he had been able to get the
baby out of the womb would it have made any difference? Could the child
have made it in the wild with no mother to guide it? While I do believe
that the speaker does the right thing in getting rid of the deer so that no
one else will be troubled by it, I think that he gets rid of it for the
wrong reason. Although the poem actually states “I thought hard for us
all” we really don’t get the feeling that he has thought about the
consequences for everyone, even though he tries to convince himself that he
has. All he really wants to do is get back to the safety and warmth of his
car and go back to not thinking about things while just doing the routine
The poet seems to be mocking this behavior. It seems he is saying that
most of the time you can follow the usual way that things are done because
there are people who have been there before you and they have done the
thinking and found the best easiest way so now you don’t have to. This
actually seems to be the way that Stafford (the poet) functioned in life.
While he was known for his generally accepting attitude and conformist
views he still thought for himself when things became important. For
example he was a conscientious objector during World War Two.
His way of looking at life may be the easiest way of all ways to look at
life; you do what everyone else does unless it is a matter of importance.
The problem with this is how do you know when something is a matter of
importance? Does it become important if you can benefit from it? Does it
become important when other peoples lives or feelings are at stake?
According to this poem it becomes important when it is convenient to you.
The speaker wants to get back into his car so he stops thinking about the
baby and just does what he always does.
Isn’t this the easiest way to go about life? We just do things to our
benefit and only help people when it is convenient for us. In all truth it
is the easiest way. As long as you can convince other people that you
actually care about what happens to them, even though you don’t. Then they
will help you when you are in distress. Although this may be the easiest
way to go about life, especially if your goal in life is to just get
through life, it is not necessarily the best way. The simple truth is that
it becomes very difficult to lead a full life while just conforming to
common thought or thinking on your own too much. If you just conform to
common thought you would lose your individuality sooner or later. If you
just think for yourself, refusing always to conform to common thought
you’re going to get a lot of people angry with you who think you are an
idiot. For example, you cannot say that you think Charles Dickens or
William Shakespeare were bad writers because they don’t hold your attention
well. On things like that it is best to just conform even if you can’t
understand why they are great authors so that people won’t think of you as
The simple truth is that everyone, regardless of whether they will admit it
or not, needs people in their lives to have a full and enjoyable life.
This poem may not be telling us that directly, but it does tell us that we
need to think for ourselves while conforming in some areas also, and we can
draw our own conclusions about why this would be a good thing to do.

Luke from United States
Comment 2 of 309, added on March 23rd, 2005 at 12:32 PM.

This poem is an analysis of nature. In order for nature to reproduce,
humans have to help support and upkeep the living of nature. Nature fights
against itself not people. We as humans have to take care of nature not
kill it, or abandon it. This poem is a significant example of how humans
are destroying nature. Someone shot a deer and killed it leaving it there
with no hope. William Stafford did an excellent job of defying

Ashley from United States
Comment 1 of 309, added on January 27th, 2005 at 6:26 PM.

I thought that this poem was nice, it was fulfilling. It was about a man
who found a dead pregnant doe on the side of the road and didn't know what
to do. I am sure that we all can relate to this, whether it was passing by
a deer or hitting a deer. Very personal poem. - I love it!

Alana 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: 2530 times
Poem of the Day: Feb 14 2007

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