Stephen Crane

Start Free Trial

What is the meaning behind Stephen Crane's poem "I was in the Darkness"?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

“I Was in the Darkness” is a very short poem, only five lines, with the final line set off from the rest. Despite the brevity, however, the poem tells a complete story, and a common one. As the title suggests, the speaker at the beginning of the poem “was in the darkness.” The darkness symbolizes a lack of understanding about the speaker’s self. To quote the entire work,

I was in the darkness
I could not see my words,
Nor the wishes of my heart.
Then suddenly there was a great light –

“Let me into the darkness again.”

The speaker did not understand who he was, or what he wanted; he did not understand why he said and did the things he said and did. He was blind to himself, until, as referenced in line 4, as if illuminated by a flash of lightening, it all became clear to him. And a vision, once seen, cannot be forgotten.

The final line of the poem is a quotation, an imploration in the present-tense to some unknown entity. The speaker is no longer describing his previous state; he is living his new one, and reacting in real time. He is begging to once again live in ignorance of his situation and his self. This is a commentary on how difficult it can be to acknowledge all the truths of one’s existence. It is much easier to delude oneself about one’s desires and lifestyle. Growth and understanding are painful and frightening, and once one embarks on this journey of discovery sometimes the desire to return to the comfort of where you were before is overwhelming. It is this moment of truth and subsequent fear that is described in the poem.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Why did Stephen Crane write the poem " I Was in the darkness"?

Stephen Crane (1871 - 1900) was an American poet and author whose literary style has been likened to that of Edgar Allen Poe. This comparison is based on their ability to make the reader feel detached while presenting some very provocative situations.

To question the author's purpose is an act of futility.  Even if you could put the inquiry to them personally, their answer would most probably be something along the lines of, "Because I needed to write it."  

"I Was in the Darkness" is from Crane's book of poetry titled The Black Riders and Other Lines. It was first published in 1895, with a very limited printing of 500 copies. 

Though they are only a few words, they speak to the bliss of ignorance.  They clamor to return to that state of being where one was unaware of the pain, misery, or obligation that a situation has brought to fruition.  It begs for destiny to,  "Let me return to that point where I had knowledge of only the joy, not the sorrow."

I was in the darkness; I could not see my words Nor the wishes of my heart. Then suddenly there was a great light -- "Let me into the darkness again."

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Posted on