William Stafford's Traveling Through the Dark Essay

William Stafford's Traveling Through the Dark Essay

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Profound Meaning in William Stafford's Traveling Through the Dark


The power of the poet is not only to convey an everyday scene into a literary portrait of words, but also to interweave this scene into an underlying theme. The only tool the poet has to wield is the word. Through a careful placement and selection of words, the poet can hopefully make his point clear, but not blatantly obvious. Common themes of poems are life, death, or the conflicting forces thereto. This theme could never possibly be overused because of the endless and limitless ways of portraying life or death through the use of different words.

In William Stafford's "Traveling Through the Dark", there are conflicting themes between birth and death, man and nature, and ultimately creation and destruction. It would take several years for a fully grown doe to develop, but it would only take a few seconds for that doe to be killed. Using the tools of the poet, Stafford vividly illustrates a scene in which man has completely destroyed and felt no remorse for a product of nature. This disrespect would only lead the driver to travel through the moral darkness of insensitivity and desecration towards nature.

There it lay. A dead doe in middle of the road. The previous driver obviously had not thought twice after hitting the deer and had no sincerity towards nature nor the decency to at least move the carcass off the narrow road. The deer lay in the road, unburied, uncared for, unmourned, and untended. Ironically, if the carcass had remained on the road, it might have meant the taking of the life of another driver as Stafford stated in line 4: "that road is narrow; to swerve might make more dead".

The tone of this poem is one of sadness, but also blata...


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...le impact of a car, lasting no longer than a few seconds. With few moral decisions made, the only road that lies as a result, is the road to death and ultimate degradation of society and nature both. In Stafford's poem, it was only the duty of the narrator to roll the carcass off the road and into the river, this duty fulfilled was only provoked by the lack of duty of another.

Through the use of several poetic techniques, Stafford describes in a few words what would take somebody hundreds of words to describe. The brutal and harsh theme of his poem is supported by vivid images and symbols, which spotlight the situation at hand. By applying a common situation like an incidence of road-kill to all of human-kind's view towards nature, Stafford finished with a simple situation with a profound meaning.

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Stafford, William. "Traveling through the Dark"

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