Traveling through the Dark by William Stafford is essentially a short poem that was written based on personal experience. The poem starts out with an unnamed, anonymous character which is also the narrator of the poem as he tells of a haunting but sad memory in first person. The story begins by telling of how a cautious traveler in the night comes across a dying deer but with an unborn child waiting to be born. What the traveler chooses to do with the deer and her child is a conflict that will decide their fate. The poem is a ‘sentimental poem’ that is both a memory from the past and a lesson of morals by Stafford that draws the reader in and makes them ponder; “what would I do if I were in this situation?” Being written in first person, Stafford puts the reader into the traveler’s position and by this, the reader can experience what is happening as if it were them in the situation.
The short poem begins with a traveler driving along a narrow road by the Wilson River in Oregon, United States. He stumbles upon a dead doe on the road and with good intentions, tries to move it out of the way for safe travel of future drivers. He realises that the doe is pregnant with an unborn child and this is where the traveler comes into internal conflict with himself. He hesitates with the choices of helping other drivers by tossing the doe with an unborn fawn into the water or saving it as if he knew how to. In the end, the traveler does not save the doe and tosses it into the river.