A Comparison Between “Traveling through the dark” and “A Noiseless, Patient Spider”
William Stafford’s "Traveling through the dark" is beautifully written poem that expresses one of life’s most challenging aspects. It is the story of a man’s solitary struggle to deal with a tragic event that he encounters.
Driving down a narrow mountain road, “Traveling through the dark,” the narrator of the poem encounters a deer. This line might fool the reader into believing the poem has a happy theme however, the first word of the second line reverses this belief. The deer is actually “dead on the edge of the Wilson River Road” (2, 911). The traveler decides to send the deer over the edge of the canyon, because “to swerve might make more dead” (4, 911). This line indicates that if he fails or “swerves” in his decision, the deer could cause an accident on the narrow road that might cost more lives.
The narrator proceeds with his unfortunate task. He approaches the deer and observes that it is a recent killing. He drags her off to the side of the road, noting that she is “large in the belly” (8, 911). The narrator soon discovers that the deer is pregnant, and that her fawn is still alive. At this moment he hesitates, distraught over the decision he knows he must make.
Faced by the implications of this decision, the narrator considers his surroundings: his car stares ahead into the darkness with its lowered parking lights, purring its steady engine; he stands “in the glare of the warm exhaust turning red,” (15, 912) and can “hear the wilderness listen” (16, 911). All of these describe the anxiety he feels about his responsibility. The personified car is expectantly awaiting his decision, eager to get moving again. The wilderness takes on human abilities also, silently witnessing the outcome it knows must be, but wishing it was otherwise. As the narrator ponders all of this, the taillights of the car illuminate him in their red light. This is reflective of the heightened emotions he is experiencing, but also brings to mind the bloody fate of the deer and her unborn fawn. The narrator thinks “hard for us all” (17,912) and proceeds with the task he had committed to since the beginning. He pushes the deer and her unborn fawn over the edge into the river.
There is much more to “Traveling through the dark” than its literal story. The title, along with the story itself, suggests man’s disregard for nature. Humans seem to travel through life like a horse with blinders on, oblivious to the consequences or implications of their actions. The driver who killed the deer is an example of this theme. He was also traveling through the dark, as the deer was a “recent killing.” The fact that he left it in the middle of the road, with no further thought for it or anyone else behind him, implies his immoral or dark nature.
The main theme of the poem however, is the sadness and misfortune that accompany us on our journey through life....