A Comparison of "Traveling Through the Dark" and "The Black Snake"

Essay by red252A-, October 2009

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"Traveling Through the Dark," by William Strafford and "The Black Snake," by Mary Oliver use animals to express their thoughts in these poems. The animals play an important role in determining what the writers want to convey through its function, the relation between the speaker and animal, as well as the tone of the poem.

Strafford does a great job of illustrating the function of the animal in "Traveling Through the Dark." The deer is dead on the side of the road from a hit and run and the speaker wants to be respectful of the deer. The speaker is about to "roll them into the canyon" (3, Stafford), when he realizes that the deer is pregnant. This causes the speaker to rethink the importance of life while standing there in the dark. The speaker has very mixed feelings about what he should do as "the wilderness listen(s)" (16, Stafford) for his final decision.

The deer is rolled "into the canyon" (3, Stafford) after all because the speaker does not want the fawn to embark the same future as its mother.

Oliver also does a great job of illustrating the function of the animal in "The Black Snake." The snake in this poem does not think anything will happen to it as it crosses the road. Unaware of the dangers of life the snake gets ran over by a car making the speaker think about death. Death can happen to anyone at anytime and the speaker uses the snake to demonstrate this but stating "death, that is how it happens" (4, Oliver). The speaker stops and buries the snake "into the bushes" (8, Oliver). The speaker thinks that the dead snake is "beautiful and quiet/as a dead brother" (10-11, Oliver) and realizes how short life is.

In "Traveling Through the...