Study Guide

Traveling through the Dark Choices

By William Stafford

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It might be choosing between colleges, cupcakes, or computers (that ol' Mac vs. PC chestnut), but choose we must. The choices we make carry consequences; some are minor while others are life-changing whoppers. What's more, sometimes making the right choice still carries with it some negative consequences—someone gets hurt or some other aspect of your life suffers. "Traveling through the Dark," grapples with this idea of choice both in general and specific ways: Stafford asks us to consider our choices on the road of life, as well as those tough choices the speaker has to make on Wilson River road.

Questions About Choices

  1. The speaker hesitated for a moment before pushing the deer into the river, but, all and all, he was a pretty efficient decision-maker. Are you good at making choices or are you the person that holds up the deli line every day because you can't decide between whole wheat and white bread? Why do you think some people have a hard time with choices and others don't? How might the speaker answer that question?
  2. If you were in the speaker's position, how would you handle the situation? Would you make the same choices or would you swerve around the dead deer and keep going? What would you do differently? Why? (Be honest.) 
  3. Imagine the poem keeps going for another stanza or two. How do you think the speaker feels after this incident? What do you imagine he thinks about as he is driving away from the scene? What did you think about when you finished reading the poem for the first time?

Chew on This

It is difficult to make big decisions and choices in life because making the wrong choice could ruin your chances of success and happiness. Once you make a choice there is no going back. (No pressure, gang.)

Glass half-full time: it is easy to make difficult choices if you just do what seems best at the time and don't worry about the consequences. If you make the wrong choice, chances are that decision will just create a new choice and another opportunity to get it right.

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