compare and contrast woodchucks and traveling through the dark

In the works by William Stafford and Maxine Kumin “Traveling Through the Dark” and “Woodchucks”, each poet illustrates death of animals and the impacts humans have on it. “Woodchucks” creates a perspective of war between man and animal, the plot quickly escalates into something deadly. On the other hand, “Traveling Through the Dark” Is simply between a man and an innocent deer, showing respect to animals. The language and tone, imagery, and themes in these poems help the readers understand what’s going through the minds of these two very different individuals.

The poem “Traveling Through the Dark” deals with man vs. nature. The experience described is concrete. He describes a deer, lifeless on the ground and his dilemma on whether or not he should push it off the road, sparing other people’s lives, or keep it on the road. The speaker has a genuinely sincere relationship with this deer. The poem’s tone is compassionate and also depressing at the same time. The speaker feels deeply bad for the deer, who is an innocent bystander of human technology and our carelessness towards nature. The language in this poem suggests he wants to be forgiven for this accident, and he’s paying his respect for this stiffened, cold deer. He is trying to justify himself by comparing the deer to a women, by mentioning that the deer was pregnant with an unborn fawn.

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The speaker’s afraid to admit that the deer is pregnant though, by not outright saying it. The speaker puts it in a way that we can digest, it would be harder for us to digest that the deer is indeed pregnant. He uses the personification of the wilderness listening, “I stood in the glare of the warm exhaust turning red; / around our group I could hear the wilderness listen” (line 15). It’s almost as if he’s waiting for an answer from the wilderness on what he should do. He also personified the car in lines thirteen and fourteen, comparing the car to man. The car has the ability to kill again. So this makes his decision clearer. He decides to push the deer, and her unborn child off into the canyon, to save the lives of many other passersby that may encounter this road they’re on.

In comparison to William Stafford, Maxine uses opposite language and tone.

The tone is very irritating and hateful toward the woodchucks. She’s so fixated on getting revenge on the animals that “took over the vegetable” and are “beheading the carrots”. Kind of like they’re taking the food right out of the character’s mouth. The fact that they’re intruding seemingly justifies the fact that the character’s trying to exterminate the woodchucks. The speaker uses the term “Darwinian” in line sixteen. Darwinism is the assumption that conflict between groups in society leads to social progress as superior groups outcompete inferior ones. So the speaker thinks that they’re more superior than the woodchucks, that only the speaker should be getting the food. The speaker uses this to justify himself, comparing this battle to the “Nazi way”. The speaker uses metaphors. Comparing theirself to a killer, “the murderer inside me rose up hard, / the hawkeye killer came on stage forthwith” (lines 23-24).

Both writers use imagery in their poems. William Stafford in “Traveling Through the Dark” uses your sense of sight and touch in his poem. “Traveling through the dark I found a deer / dead on the edge of the Wilson River road” (lines 1-2). You can picture the image of him driving on a road and hitting a deer. The “narrow” road on a “canyon” shows you that the decision he has to make is vital, for its so narrow, someone else might hit the deer.

The deer “stiffened” and “almost cold” shows you that it is on the verge of dying. He uses sense of touch by stating that he “touched her side”, she was “large in the belly”, meaning she was pregnant, you can almost feel it, with a fawn still inside, waiting to be born. This can make you connect with the story a little more. What if it were a person, pregnant? He ended up pushing her off the edge into the river. This is a sad ending, you can see the deer tumbling down, and picture the speaker getting emotional from it..

On the other hand, “Woodchucks” creates harsh imagery, if you’re not the type to kill innocent animals. The speaker taps into your sense of sight, touch, smell, and sound. All throughout the poem you can see a chase between the human and nature. “no worse for the cyanide than we for our cigarettes” brings out your sense of smell, smelling the cyanide and comparing it to our cigarettes. “to feel of the .22” literally. The speaker can make you feel the .22, and hear the bullets shooting out of the nose of the gun, hitting the woodchucks, killing them… The speaker waiting for the last one, dreaming of it, finally getting ahold of the woodchuck.

This all leads up to the theme. The themes in both poems deal with “Man vs. Nature”, just in a dissimilar way. In “Woodchucks”, the war between man and nature is a constant battle could be the theme here. “Revenge is a kind of wild justice, which the more man’s nature runs to, the more ought law to weed it out” (Francis Bacon Sr). This refers to the speaker’s revenge on the woodchucks, and how it is in our nature to rightfully protect what is ours. In “Traveling Through the Dark” it’s more of “technology of humanity vs. nature”. A car, made by man, kills a deer, and it ultimately is man who has to suffer with the consequences of killing. “It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity” (Albert Einstein). This leaves us with the intersection of man, technology and nature and what to do when that happens. Man and technology are infiltrating on the wilderness and causing harm, which also applies to “Woodchucks”.

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