Traveling Through The Dark By William Stafford

On realizing that the deer was pregnant he “hesitated” because he had make a decision on whether he should save the unborn fawn that was still alive in the stomach of the deer. It made him think that she was pregnant and her fawn was waiting inside. He was filled with pity and was unwilling to do anything. The parking lights of the car were on and the engine was making a low continuous sound as if it was expressing its pleasure. Its exhaust fume was warm and red, and the poet was standing there.

d travel agency

  • This symbolizes humans being caught in the struggle between technology and mankind.
  • The steady engine purred as if the car was quite content.
  • Frost calls the poem “the road Not Taken” to suggest that once a choice is made between two equal choices, the tendency is to dwell on the choice not made.
  • The road is very narrow, and it is customary for people of the neighborhood to push dead deer into the river.

In addition, the poem suggests a possible resolution of the conflict between nature and mankind. The last two lines of “Traveling through the Dark” represent the solution to the problem of nature damage. Man has to accept things as they are instead of worrying about the problem. On the one hand, the speaker pushes the female deer over the edge of the river and frees it from derision. On the other hand, the death of the helpless animal represents hopelessness of the world and man’s insensibility.

Poem Analysis

Many poets choose to speak through a created voice, or persona, but one senses in this poem that Stafford is speaking directly from his own experience. By sharing his personal experience so vividly, Stafford gives it an immediacy, authority, and power that helps one make it a part of one’s own. The driver thinks hard for everyone, and the reader has to think hard too. The swerving is a momentary change of thought but in the end the driver does the one thing he knew he had to do from the moment he stopped for that deer.

William Stafford uses different techniques to convey the theme of technology gaining control over mankind and turning mankind against nature and destroying the same. The doe has been killed by some other car in the first place. The car represents technology while the doe is nature. The poet has however used vivid imagery and strong symbolism to support the theme of the poem and each element has its own purpose in the poem. William Stafford’s ‘Traveling through the Dark’ describes the rise in importance of technology and fall of nature in society. The speaker starts the poem by describing how he saw a deer on the side of the road and decided to stop and roll the body off and out of the way.

Traveling Through The Dark Analysis

By saying the exhaust is turning red is referencing the death of the deer and is symbolic of blood. The car is personified and is portrayed as a weapon “the car aimed ahead”, “under the hood purred the steady engine” suggests that an animal has been killed. “The warm exhaust turning red” portrays blood and death.

How can one prepare oneself to deal with the unexpected? To act rather than to ignore, suggests Stafford—to be a participant rather than merely an observer, because physical situations can provide the context for moral and ethical choices. Death is never an easy or pleasant matter, and William Bradford’s “Traveling through the Dark” is a perfect embodiment of how difficult it can be.

Stanza Four

He felt as if the cry in the wilderness was being heard. After thinking seriously, he pushed her into the river. Stanza 4 focuses on the unbearable conflict between the narrator’s willingness to do what is good and the necessity to do what is right and what is always done in such cases. The road is very narrow, and it is customary for people of the neighborhood to push dead deer into the river.


Stafford wasnt thinking about what to do, he was making an excuse for himself. Notice the use of the word warm it denotes medium temperature but it conotes comfort. Note also the gothic setting the classic lonely dark highway. Notice all of the end-stopped lines these emphasize the final word look at dead and cold. The tone seems almost indifferent to me an almost creepy seperation from feelings for the death of the baby and mother. Although the poem has no formal rhythm it follows a pattern of rise and fall.

This gives the entire series of events a feeling of repetition and normalcy. Waiting makes the fawn seem more alive than it actually is. Its like the fawn is peacefully waiting for the decision for whether it will live or die.

The answer reveals itself in not the content of the poem, but in that which is not easily discernible. What I mean is, the structure of the poem is purposeful and not spontaneous or based on a rhythm. In my opinion, this almost explicitly shows that the dear is alive in the first line, and dead in the second.