Critical Response: William Carlos Williams

The Red Wheelbarrow by American modernist poet and physician William Carlos Williams is something else. I have read this poem for another class and I really did not like it. I read the poem without really investigating its meaning. and I just thought it was silly.

In our class after discussing its meaning and the situation  and scene he was viewing when he wrote it, I have a better understanding and liking for the poem. The poem is very simple but it says a lot. He says (“rain / water”) and that symbolizes nature. And the wheelbarrow represents industry and mans impact on things. The chickens is the living object.

And he is viewing it all seemingly from a window. I envisioned Williams looking out a window at the scene. He starts with his first stanza: “so much depends/ upon”. It makes the poem. It almost takes you inside a deeper idea. The “red wheel/barrow”, “the rain/water”, and “the white/chickens” they are all just images. But with his first stanza he makes you think of what is going on inside his head as he looks out the window, not just what he sees.

He breaks the lines up, adding emphasis to his words. It is almost Haiku like. And his movement is very controlled. Williams wants the reader to read it slowly with a break between the lines, even when they are an incomplete thought

It’s just a moment caught in time and it’s kind of beautiful. The imagery is great. His choice of words was very short. By this I mean he used very few words. But the words he choose had a lot of impact, leaving the reader to interpret the words as they please. He says the rain glazed the wheelbarrow. I imagine glazed donuts, all shiny and fresh. so maybe this wheel barrow is brand new too. The wheelbarrow is not old and dingy with nicks all over it. It’s smooth allowing the rain to coat is like a smooth glaze.

The more you read this poem the more you seem to see. Williams gives you the weather condition, the objects, and their colors and it is up to you, the reader, to interpret them. Since he is describing how he images look you can assume it is during the day, not night. There is a wheelbarrow and a chicken. Now I’m envisioning a farm. there is a barn. And I want to say it’s the same red color as the wheel barrow. And it’s raining, it is gloomy outside. But the colors are bright. In my mind their is a bright green yard that the chicken and the wheelbarrow are in next tot his bright red barn. The rain is like a spring rain. It only seems to liven the colors.

This poem has no punctuation. You try to add punctuation with breaks when you read it aloud, but there isn’t any. As the reader you must decide when to break. Do you read the words “rain/water”, “wheel/barrow”, and “white/chickens” separate or together. You can read it slow and you can read it fast. It’s just crazy that something so simple can be so complex. You’re wondering “What depends?”. What depends on all of these things so much. Life? This is a image that has been painted. But what does it paint? I feel like the location in which the wheelbarrow and the chicken are just speaks for what the reader is feeling on the inside at any given time. If the rain seems gloomy, than maybe the reader is gloomy. If the chicken is alone, than maybe the reader feels alone. Is there grass? Is there dirt? Williams’ poem paints an outline for vision and the reader finishes it.

The Red Wheelbarrow is only 4 stanzas and 16 words yet it is almost like an optical illusion, a literary illusion if you will. the more you read it and the harder you focus on the words and imagine them, the more you can SEE it. Reading this poem 2 years ago, I thought it was the silliest things. It was honestly one of the stupidest poems I ever read. And I’ve read and hated a lot of poems. But now I have a whole new level of appreciation for it. I’m much happier with this poem reading it for this class.



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