Compare and Contrast Essay In the poems “Traveling Through the Dark” and “Woodchucks” man must make a decision about nature in the most inconvenient ways. In “Traveling Through the Dark” the narrator is faced with, literally, a life or death situation, whereas in “Woodchucks” the narrator is faced under the Darwinian belief about killing. Both poems reveal the interpersonal relationship between man and animal as well as the moral dilemma that man faces with nature.
However, through the use of narration, vivid imagery, and personification, the poets show one speaker’s sympathetic attitude towards the animals while the other speaker has an adversarial attitude toward them. Stafford’s poem, “Traveling Through the Dark,” deals with the moral dilemma that the speaker faces with himself and nature. The attitude of the speaker is objective towards the deceased deer at the beginning of the poem; near the end of the poem the author shows the speakers shift from objective to sympathetic.
This is noted through the narration of the poem and the images that the poet creates. The poet objectively reports that the man was just “traveling through the dark” and happened to find a deer. However, the detail about the specific road “Wilson River road” indicates that this incident is more than just a casual encounter. The image in the second stanza “the heap” shows the speakers distant relationship to the dead animal. In fact, the poet states he “dragged her off” the road, matter of fact, because he knew on occasions such as this “it is usually best to roll them off the canyon. His attitude begins to shift in stanza three when he says “Beside that mountain road I hesitated. ” Here, the author begins to show the moral dilemma that the speaker faces with himself and nature. After this line the poem changes. The speaker, at this point, is already out of his truck and is leaning over the dead deer debating upon whether or not he should attempt to rescue the fawn living inside its mother’s womb or simply push them both over the edge of the canyon.
The author uses personification in the poem when he writes “The car aimed its lowered parking lights; under the hood purred the steady engine. ” The car was given the human-like quality of being able to aim its lights at a specific point. It can be assumed that the aimed parking lights are towards the deer even though it is not directly stated in the poem because otherwise the speaker would not be able to see the deer. The poet begins to use imagery to depict the moral dilemma that the speaker was face to face with in the poem.
The poet states that the speaker was standing there in the “glare of the warm exhaust turning red. ” It is easy to imagine the speaker standing in the glow of the lights turning red with frustration; perhaps, because he does not know which decision would be wiser to make. Man and animals have different qualities and abilities. Man has technology to use to defend them against pretty much anything whereas an animal can only do so much. They must use nature and nothing more to defend themselves. In this poem, their relationship, the man and the deer, shows the superiority of man over animal.
This is seen through the fact that the speaker is the one who must decide the fate of the unborn fawn. At the same time, the author shows the speaker’s guilt of throwing the deer, along with its unborn fawn, off the edge of the cliff because he had to make a choice between the life of an animal and the life of mankind. Kumin’s poem “Woodchucks” shows a different perspective of humans and their relationship to animals. In this poem, the speaker is determined to kill the animals, at first, in a humane way, using a “knockout bomb” that was advertised as “merciful, quick at the bone. The author states the speaker’s failed attempt to kill the woodchucks and as a result must use violence to rid herself of them. Kumin uses vivid imagery to describe the destruction that the woodchucks caused. “They brought down the marigolds as a matter of course” and “beheaded the carrots. ” This introduces the speaker’s adversarial tone throughout the rest of the poem. She immediately seeks revenge on the woodchuck family. The author states that the speaker, at one point, was not a violent person. “I, a lapsed pacifist fallen from grace puffed with Darwinian pieties for killing. Now, the author shows the speaker’s “survival of the fittest” beliefs in order to express the ongoing adventure of killing the woodchucks. She shot the smallest woodchuck first and watched it fall into the roses. The author provides more imagery to describe the manner in which the mother woodchuck died. “She flip-flopped in the air and fell, her needle teeth still hooked in a leaf of early Swiss chard. ” By doing this, it is easy to imagine the ball of fur tumbling through the air, dead. Kumin shows the speaker’s seek for vengeance when she begins to kill all of the woodchucks. O one-two-three the murderer inside me rose up hard. ” Here, the revenge that the speaker is in search of is noticed. The author puts into her poem that the last woodchuck is an “old wily fellow,” implying that he is clever and sneaky. The speaker is always ready for the moment when the final woodchuck will die. “He keeps me cocked and ready day after day after day. ” By repeating “day after day” so many times, it can be assumed that the speaker waited for quite some time before the moment that the woodchuck’s death day arrived.
At the end of the poem, the author leaves the conclusion open for interpretations of what happened to the final woodchuck because it is never directly stated whether or not he survived. The final line shows the speaker’s guilt for having shot and killed the animals. “If only they’d all consented to die unseen gassed underground the quiet Nazi way. ” This final line leaves a huge impact on the entire poem because the speaker’s change of heart is shown. No longer is she under the Darwinian belief, but rather, she feels remorse for having killed the woodchuck family.
Both Stafford’s and Kumin’s poems reveal the relationship between man and animal through the use of narration, vivid imagery, and personification. Stafford’s poem deals with the moral dilemma that the speaker faces and the decision he must make between the life of an animal and the life of another human. Kumin’s poem deals with the killing of animals and the determination that the speaker has to accomplish this goal. Though one poem has an adversarial tone and the other has a sympathetic tone, both revolve around man’s relationship with animals and the moral dilemmas that both speakers face at the ends of the poems.