Travelling Through the Dark by William Stafford

Living in a modern world people often have to face with a number of moral and ethical dilemmas that disclose their readiness to act. Each person, sooner or later, will have to make an important choice and take responsibility for an essential decision. The problem is that the choices and decisions we make do not only affect our moral ideals, but also the world surrounding us.

With regard to this, William Stafford’s poem called Travelling through the Dark metaphorical discloses the importance of taking actions rather than observing, which is especially important in unexpected situations. Otherwise, ignorance and failure to make an immediate decision can be fraught with serious consequences and, therefore, acting correctly and in accordance with moral and ethical implications is a duty of each individual in the world.

The poem is a metaphorical disclosure of the necessity to take immediate actions rather than observe. Hence, the poet discloses person’s attitude to the essence of morale and its importance while making very difficult choices (Mendelson and Bryfonski 461). Though the plot is quite simple for understanding, it enables readers conceive how a person acts and behaves while encountering challenging situations as well as what the speaker feels while depriving deer of life.

Hence, when the stops the car to check what was wrong, he realizes that the situation was far more complicated than he expected. Although he first thinks that “it is usually bet to roll them into the canyon: that road is narrow”, but his further reflections prove that he is not indifferent to what happened (Stafford 936, line 3).

The speaker did not neglect the tragedy and thought over the way to act correctly in this situation and find the morally justified solution. In particular, he tries to justify his decision to put the deer aside the road as this can safe more lives: “that road is narrow, to swerve might make more dead” (Stafford 936 line 4). However, he immediately withdrew this idea and started thinking of more ethically right alternatives.

Making a choice is always a real challenge for the speaker leading him to the analysis of the meaning of darkness, which is often associated with uncertainty, ambiguity, and the unknown.

Perhaps, this metaphorical representation of future and life creates even more hesitations and doubts toward the rightfulness of all human actions in terms of morale and ethics (Mendelson and Bryfonski 462) Hence, when the speaker finds a dead deer, the first thought that occurs to his mind is “to roll them into the canyon” (Stafford 936 line 3). At the same moment, hesitation comes to forth to rescue the situation.

The state of ambiguity is also recognized by the speaker which also provides the readers with a sign moral consideration: “Beside the mountain road I hesitated” (Stafford 936 line 12).

This hesitation also reveals the idea that a person is ready to provide help and act morally. In the poem, the speaker is in the front of an important decision that the audience expects from him to do: “around our group I could hear the wilderness listen” (Stafford 936 line 16). However, he realizes that swerving is really risky because a car might fall into the canyon causing more human deaths.

In the poem, Stafford does not only reflect on moral dilemmas and significance of human resolute actions and participation, but on person’s moral duty to preserve life. Therefore, people often tend to take actions rather to observe, specifically when it is a matter of life and death.

When the speaker decides to interfere, he expresses his readiness and moral duty to help: “By glow of the tail-light I stumbled back of the car and stood by the heap, a doe, recent killing; She had stiffened already, almost cold. I dragged her off; she was large in the belly” (Stafford 936 lines 4-8). Here, the speaker is bold enough to get out of his car and pull the dead deer aside. In addition, the author’s realization of the importance of life is followed by guilty consciousness that is concealed in his attempt to check whether the deer is alive.

The speaker realizes that the dear is about to deliver a fawn, but he realizes that he can do nothing but make a difficult choice: “her fawn lay there waiting alive, still, never to be born” (Stafford 936, lines 10-11). Hence, the very thinking of the possibility to save a life serves the speaker as an excuse of for his refusal to help. Despite his difficult choice, the speaker still realizes the sacredness of life.

After a thorough analysis of the poem, it is possible to deeper understand the role of human deeds as well as their readiness to participate rather than to observe. The topic presented in the poem contributes greatly to realizing the essence of human live as well as the way it is affected both by nature and civilized world.

More importantly, it also reveals the situations immediate decisions and actions are signifiers of morally justified choice. In the poem, the speaker did not ignore the situation and decides to act immediately in accordance with moral and ethical decisions.

Works Cited

Mendelson, Ed. Phyllis Carmel, and Dedria Bryfonski. William Stafford (1914-).
Contemporary Literary Criticism. Detroit: Gale Research, 1977.

Stafford, William. Travelling Through the Dark. in Literature, Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. ed. X. J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. UK: Longman, 2006.