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Travelling Through the Dark


Submitted By gilbreezy
Words 1170
Pages 5
Robert Hodge
Professor Kathryn Hinds
English 1102
13 April 2015 Traveling through the Dark
By William E. Stafford

Traveling through the dark I found a deer dead on the edge of the Wilson River road.
It is usually best to roll them into the canyon: that road is narrow; to swerve might make more dead.

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.

My fingers touching her side brought me the reason— her side was warm; her fawn lay there waiting, alive, still, never to be born.
Beside that mountain road I hesitated.

The car aimed ahead its lowered parking lights; under the hood purred the steady engine.
I stood in the glare of the warm exhaust turning red; around our group I could hear the wilderness listen.

I thought hard for us all—my only swerving—, then pushed her over the edge into the river.

Traveling through the Dark is one of Stafford's most frequently anthologized poems. This poem dramatizes the conflict between human’s man-made creations, and all the harm it does to nature. The more humans embrace technology, the more the environment diminishes as a result of human and animal conflict. In its most vague outline the poem runs through the theme of confrontation between technology and mother earth (otherwise known as life or nature). The poem is free verse and is a narrative description of the poet's journey down a road at night that leads to his discovery of a doe, a victim of an earlier collision with another automobile. In the poem, there are many thoughts and ideas that come to mind when one thinks about the meaning or purpose of the poem and questions about the thoughts the persona is trying to portray. Most likely the persona’s audience is any driver or anyone who has experienced an event like this in their life due to human invention and creation. Or perhaps it could be an audience that may experience an event like this in the future. The persona accomplishes this by giving them the best direction on what to do in the event that they are stuck in the same predicament, conflicted with a solution. The persona never notes directly that the deer was killed by car, but by the narrative he gives, it is as if he just stumbled upon a car smashed deer, dead in its tracks. The persona appears troubled by the matter, although he is probably an ordinary old man, who has experienced many different but similar traumatic losses in his life. That is hinted through his voice and attitude while narrating to the reader. The persona tone is like the occurrence is something he sees every day, and is very distraught about. His attitude is that of someone who has come to accept the matter, as if their heart is calloused over. He makes great use of imagery and makes the reader visualize what he is talking about in the poem.
The persona starts off explaining in line one of the first stanza that he had been traveling down a dark road and had stumbled upon a deer, “Traveling through the dark I found a deer dear on the edge of the Wilson River”( Stafford 1,2). He proceeds to say that because of the presence of a dead carcass on the road, the best thing to do was to, “roll them into the canyon: that road is narrow: to swerve might make more dead” (Stafford 3, 4). This shows that since one death has already occurred because of human made technological innovation, why not throw the dead carcass into the canyon in order to save another life, by preventing someone from not swerving off the road. The use of alliteration is evidence in line 4 that says, “might make more dead” (Stafford 4).
The persona begins to explain the scenery by describing the things around him. He starts with the car while also noting that the deer is pregnant, cold, and stiffened due to death. Also while describing the car and deer in line five and six he uses imagery and a metaphor for the deer “By glow (imagery) of the tail-light I stumbled back of the car and stood by the heap (metaphor), a doe, a recent killing” (Stafford 5, 6). Through the use of imagery with his words and phrases he really helps the reader get in touch with the use of our five senses, (touch, smell, sight, and hearing). The tone he uses in the next two lines 7 and 8 are very blunt giving the impression that he is used to such like a sight, and is deeply saddened by the fact. He sees that not only the deer, but also the fawn suffered a loss of life from this incident. Earlier in the poem, the author again uses imagery, “her side was warm; her fawn lay there waiting," (Stafford 10). By him referring to how the deer felt to Stafford's touch, it helps engage the reader to feel as if they are right there on the scene. It draws the reader further into the poem. The line also makes them feel more sympathetic towards the dead doe. "Alive, still never to be born" (Stafford 11), is a denotation meaning something without sound or movement, while also being a connotation such as: babies, calm, night or death.
The persona then further proceeds to give an in depth description of everything that is going on around him, “The car aimed ahead its lowered parking lights; under the hood purred the steady engine” (Stafford 13, 14). The persona makes good use of personification in these lines by saying the engine “purred”, therefore giving it animalistic qualities. He uses imagery in the next line by using the words, “warm exhaust turning red” (Stafford 15), therefore helping the reader get in touch with their sense of touch and sight. He concludes with the last line saying that he pushes her over the edge into the river leaving you really thinking about the importance of the life of everything living.
With all his use of imagery the persona helps to passage the message in the poem about the confliction between natural life and machines. He helps the reader feel as if they are in the action and feel the hurt and sorrow that he feels for what our society has come to. He states all these things that his senses are acknowledging through imagery because he is in shock because of such a surreal moment of death right before his eyes. All he is aware of is his five senses and that is what really gives this poem the power to grab the reader’s attention.

Works Cited
Stafford, William. "Traveling Through the Dark." John Schlib, John Clifford. Making Literature Matter. Boston: Bedford/ St.Martin's, 1960. 1033. Print.

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