Traveling through the Dark

William Stafford

In this eloquent poem, Stafford tells the story of a driver and decision. The driver, who is the speaker in the story, is driving a mountain road at night. He comes upon a dead deer. He stops and gets out of the car, confident that he should roll the animal over the edge of the cliff into the canyon in order to clear the road for other drivers; " It is usually best to roll them into the canyon: that road is narrow; to swerve might make more dead."

However, when he gets to the deer and touches it, he finds that there is an unborn fawn that is still alive; "… her side was warm; her fawn lay there waiting, alive, still, never to be born." The man then seems to have doubts about what is the right thing to do. Should he do what he first thought-push the deer over the cliff to avoid more accidents? Or is there any way to try and save the fawn? "Beside that mountain road I hesitated." He ultimately decides to push the doe off the cliff.

The message that this poem seems to bring is of the age-old conflict between nature and technology. This becomes apparent when Stafford brings in the part about the car. The reader understands that the car symbolizes man's world, technology.

Apparent also, is that the car seems to take on living characteristics; " The car aimed ahead its lowered parking lights; under the hood purred the steady engine…" even though the car also brought upon death for the animal.

Obvious too, is the deer symbolizing nature. The fact that a car killed the deer is perhaps Stafford's message… that technology will eventually triumph over nature. This is shown through the actions of the speaker. He clearly sympathizes with the fawn, but he clearly understands that a car killed the foe and her baby. Furthermore, he accepts that the safety of other drivers depend on the action that he ultimately takes… a decision which points at the side he believes he needs to protect at that moment… society and man, not nature.