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Explication of Traveling in the Dark Essay

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In life there are many circumstances where one is faced with a dilemma, a situation where a person can truly discover which direction their moral compass really points. In those moments, choices are made that can either lead one to the place they always knew they were headed or someone can find out their motives are not as pure as they originally thought. In William Stafford’s Traveling through the dark the narrator is faced with one of those circumstances dealing with morality where a decision must be made regarding a dead carcass. Initially, the narrator has no qualms about what should be done about the deer, but upon further inspection he realizes that there is more to the deer than meets the eye. As the title suggest, the narrator is making his way down a “dark” road alone with little light to guide him along. By choosing the word “dark” and other compelling word selections, Stafford builds an environment of doubt and confusion in the narrator’s choices throughout the poem: his choice to stop, his choice to roll the deer into the river, and ultimately his choice of human life.
In the first stanza, the narrator describes the setting in which the poem takes place. He is driving along “traveling through the dark” (1). This line also serves as the title of the poem. The scene in which it all takes places is on the edge of a dark road. The darkness relates to the uncertainty of what is yet to come. Broadly speaking, what is to come in life and more specifically the fate of the dead deer. The narrator notices the dead dear, its position on the “edge of the Wilson River road”. The element of a dead deer on the roadside seemed trite to the narrator as if it happened quite often. “It is usually best to roll them into the canyon” (3), ...


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...e deer was carrying. With only a few moments of weakness the narrator makes the decision to get rid of the deer. On the surface that is what this poem is about. The author, William Strafford, masks the real meaning of the poem with his particular word choices and use of connotation versus denotation. This poem speaks on the importance of human life against the life of the nature around us. In both cases, life can throw you any sort of curveball and how you chose to handle those curves defines the type of person you are. The deer met life’s curveball when the car crashed into her, ending her life. The narrator’s curveball was his decision whether or not to leave the deer on the side of the road or to remove it, potentially saving the lives of other drivers. This poem shows that for the greater good, sometimes the sacrifice of one live must occur to save many others.



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