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 blatantly graphic, yet honest. By giving detailed descriptions of the dead doe, Stafford almost creates a sickening feeling within the reader. In the second stanza, Stafford's diction conjures a graphic image of the carcass with words like "stiffened", "cold" and referring to the carcass as a "heap". The language itself conveys the carcass as though it had never lived before, but instead, always remained dead.
As mentioned in the title and the first line, "Traveling Through the Dark", the darkness creates a tense and disoriented setting, for the narrator is confused on what exactly to do with the carcass. The darkness can also symbolize the insensitivity of man towards nature, a moral darkness. The syntax of the first line is also interesting in that it is not told that the deer is dead until the beginning of the second line, so the poem may start off almost as a happy one until discovered that the deer is in fact dead. The word "dead" is used to kick off the second line, which creates a thud-like sound when read aloud.
The third stanza introduces the fawn within the doe, a sharp contrast between the scene of darkness and death with life and birth. However, this concept of birth and life is nothing to be celebrated,...