Importance of Control in Stafford's Traveling Through the Dark
In William Stafford's "Traveling Through the Dark," the narrator encounters a dead deer on the edge of the road. He knows that the safe and proper course of action is to push the deer into the canyon, but when he finds that the doe was near giving birth before she died, he hesitates to kill the unborn fawn. Stafford's central idea in the poem revolves around the decision the narrator makes to sacrifice the deer in order to clear the road of obstacles, so that others who drive on the dark, narrow road won't have to swerve.
The image of the deer evokes sympathy and compassion from the reader because the image isn't merely that of a dead animal. The second stanza describes the dead deer as the reader would expect. The narrator "stood by the heap, a doe, a recent killing; / she had stiffened already, almost cold." The lifeless deer, merely a heap of animal recently killed on the road, seems ready to be pushed into the canyon, but the next stanza reverses the image of the deer. The narrator approaches the deer and notices from up close that "her side was warm; her fawn lay there waiting, / alive, still, never to be born." The previous observation that the deer is lifeless and cold enhances the feeling that the baby's life is slowly being extinguished. The fawn is alive, but still, and unable to move or live without help. Through the image of the deer, the reader can sympathize with the deer and understand the narrator's hesitation at rolling the mother off the cliff and killing the baby.
The scene surrounding the narrator during his hesitation conveys the sorrow and regret of having to choose death for the fawn. Stafford describes the whole scene:
The car aimed ahead its lowered parking lights;
under the hood purred the steady engine.
I stood in the glare of the warm exhaust turning red;
around our group I could hear the wilderness listen.
During this moment of silence, nature awaits the decision of the narrator. The stanza...