When reading a poem for the first time, it is fairly easy to view it on a literal level.
Nonetheless, after analyzing the purpose, tone, word choice, and figures of speech and how they
simultaneously work together, the reader is hit with a whole new perception of the poem.
William Stafford's "Traveling through the Dark" holds this characteristic. The poem is about a
man driving on a narrow road at night and his internal conflict triggered by an encounter with a
dead deer along the road. He immediately leaves his car and walks toward the deer with the
intention of rolling it "into the canyon." However, when he discovers that this deer has an unborn
fawn, the man is struck with an instant conflict. Does he push the deer off into the
canyon? Or does he leave it alone and save the fawn while endangering the lives of
others that will travel this narrow road?
Stafford uses a man's simple confrontation with a deer as an instrument for conveying a
deeper message about nature. He comes across a dead deer, and without hesitation, plans to push
it into the canyon. This clearly indicates that the speaker holds no emotions whatsoever for the
deer. Then, a conversational tone is thrown into the mix. The narrator is sharing and guiding the
readers through his experience. He gives advice in line four, "It is usually best to roll them into
the canyon." This supports his informal attitude and establishes a relationship with the reader in
hopes of allowing the reader to feel the way he does.
Several symbolic elements emphasize the theme of Traveling through the Dark, all within the
last three stanzas of the poem. The first symbol, an unborn fawn. The fawn represents the future
of nature in the changing world. Although the mother, or nature in present time, has been killed
the fawn still waits "alive, still, never to be born" (11). The fawn waits in hope that it will live to breathe air,...
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