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"Woodchucks" and "Traveling Through the Dark" Comparison

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Conflict is a key factor presented in life whether we try to avoid it or not. In most cases the battle is fought against yourself. In the poems “Woodchucks” by Maxine Kumin and “Traveling through the Dark” by William Stafford, the poets both focus on animals and self confrontation in humans. Descriptive language and the overall theme provides the reader with the insight necessary to understand the speaker’s psychology as they are driven beyond the boundaries of what’s morally right and wrong. Kumin’s speaker is primarily concerned with the execution of animals while Stafford’s speaker is concerned with the salvation of animals. The speaker in Stafford’s poem also has a worried toned toward the tragedy of the dead deer’s unborn fawn that “lay there waiting, alive, still, never to be born.” Proving to be a moral dilemma, the speaker comes with the choice of leaving the deer in the road or if it’s “best to roll them into the canyon.” However, who is it best for, the deer or man? While Traveling through the Dark,” deals with the difficulty of finding the right path, “Woodchucks” explores the dehumanization of man when he can begin to justify mass extermination to himself and his conscience. Rather than a specific comparison to one event in history, this is an overall commentary on the effect hatred has on the soul of any human being. Both the human beings in each poem internally struggle with the morality in themselves. “Woodchucks” reflects society and what hatred can do and how it can destroy the human left in man, but “Traveling through the dark” reflects society as well. Stafford shows that people tend to live in the evil they committed in their past and carry it on into the future instead of focusing on the positive they have done. Humans can hardly make time to search for the goodness that would erase all the wrong done in a man’s life, so how can one care for the doe or fawn. Most of the time they are only noticed when the paths collide accidentally. This is due to the fact that there are so many things to occupy a person’s time and engage their mind. The conflict between wilderness versus technology proves to be a major theme in the poem, while “Woodchucks” directs the reader’s attention more towards wilderness versus man. Both poems convey the implication that animals are burdensome; the woodchucks the vegetable patch, flowers, etc, and the dead deer acts as an obstacle in the middle of the road. Each poem is written in first person to portray a biased standpoint of the matter and show the psychological thinking of right and wrong in both speakers.

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