Comparing Two Poets
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 ...view middle of the document...
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 tragedies. Many people feel as confused as the narrator as he was "stumbling back of the car" in his attempt to do the right thing. In his moment of decision, though, the only company the narrator had was the silent and unheeding world around him. Unfortunately, many situations we must face in life are like this. People are not always around to help us through hard times, and most tragedies, such as death, are obstacles that we must overcome individually. As described in the poem though, death is an inevitability that we cannot change, and therefore should not deter us from our path. Like the narrator's car staring toward the road, anxious about moving on, we all are eager to put these events behind us and continue on with life. This last aspect is symbolized by the river in the poem that runs adjacent to the road. As we push life's obstacles off to the side, they fall into this symbolic river and are swept farther and farther away from us by the current of time, allowing us to continue on our way.
William Stafford does an excellent job of holding to his objective in this poem. His style of story telling kept his main theme at focus, and did not allow the more emotional aspects to take over. His story gives clarification to the overwhelming and chaotic nature of life. We must learn to deal with tragedies such as death, as they are unavoidable. These events do have an everlasting effect on us, but they should not deter us from our natural course.
One might think that the...