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The Red Wheelbarrow

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The poems written by William Carlos Williams seem to be very simple, but they are not so. There is a deep sense in each line. That is why the critics state that Williams used few words in order to appeal to the readers’ imagination and make him/her think over each line and every word to understand the meaning of the poem in the whole. The Red Wheelbarrow is a complete nonsense at the first glance, but it is a subtle writing when one manages to look into it more deeply. There are several points of view upon the meaning of this poem. All of them are interesting and have their own sense, but this is still unknown which of them is the correct one, and which sense the writer conveys with the help of some stylistic devices applied in the poem. This adds the mystery meaning to the writing and embellishes it.

Some critics are sure that William Carlos Williams only wanted to pay the attention to insignificant things and stress that they may be very important in the everyday life. People tend to neglect them until they have the necessity to use them. Sometimes they may forget about the importance of common things around them, as they consider the presence of these things as something conventional. The poet might make an attempt to emphasize that people can do nothing without the common things around them, and it is necessary to remember this. There is also a point of view that The Red Wheelbarrow was written under the influence of communism. It is known that the rise of communism had been caused by the confrontation between the Whites and the Reds. In William’s poem, a chicken symbolizes the Whites, and a wheelbarrow - the Reds. It is quite easy to understand the usage of such symbols. Thus, the chicken from the poem is white; it is also a source of human health and vitamins. This bird stands for richness and success in life due to its color as white is frequently applied to symbolize the rich and upper class. As for the wheelbarrow, it stands for the working class. It is full of the workers’ sweat and suffers due to the very difficult life. The wheelbarrow is frequently called as the most important object of the poem, and it is depicted in red color. It focuses the reader’s attention on the problem of the communistic society - undoubtedly, it is communism itself.

The third point of view upon the meaning of the poem is the most acceptable and popular among the readers and critics. The poet was a physician and did his job with a big passion. Once he had to operate on a child, and the latter one died. William Carlos Williams had much grief because of this and dedicated The Red Wheelbarrow to that child. He felt much sorrow for the dead one and could not understand why young people are dying. These thoughts were rendered in this short poem being analyzed. Williams resorted to the use of imaginary to demonstrate the process of a child dying. For example, the red wheelbarrow is something that brings the child and is going to take him away forever. Red color may represent several meanings. It may be either blood, luck, or anger. Red is much brighter than white. It means that the author applied this color to pay the readers’ attention more to the wheelbarrow than chickens. As for the rain in the wheelbarrow, it symbolizes the author’s tears and sorrow at the moment when he sees the child dying. The white chicken may stand for nurses and doctors as they wear white uniforms. Here the poet shows that sometimes doctors have no power to stop death even when it decides to take a young person away. The distribution of colors mentioned above shows that something that is going to take the child (the wheelbarrow) away; and this is considered to be more important and powerful than doctors and nurses (white chickens).

There is also one more opinion concerning the meaning of The Red Wheelbarrow. Some people think that everything is very simple here. The wheelbarrow is significant as only with its help it is possible to save white chickens from the flood. This explains why the wheelbarrow is full of water. It should be noted that this point of view is not acceptable by the majority of critics. They emphasize the fact that William Carlos Williams is an imagist and that is why there should be a deeper sense in his writing than just to show the necessity to save white chickens.

Anyway, the poet uses numerous tools to convey the meaning of his poem. William Carlos Williams uses only one sentence to create a poem. There are no capital letters and punctuation marks in his writing. The sentence is divided into several intervals. It helped the poet to stress that each line and word is very important for understanding the meaning of the text. There are no complicated words and phrases in The Red Wheelbarrow. It gives the sense of simplicity of writing and makes the readers search for the meaning of lines.

Mariani states that “reading this poem is like peering at an ordinary object through a pin prick in a piece of cardboard. The fact that the tiny hole arbitrarily frames the object endows it with an exciting freshness that seems to hover on the verge of revelation” (Mariani 181). Other critics agree that The Red Wheelbarrow is more a painting than a poem (Brinnin 102). This statement can be easily explained by the structure of the text. The main object of writing – the wheelbarrow appears only in the middle of the poem. It looks like watching a picture, when one sees its background, insignificant details, and then notices something important, something he/she has never seen before; and then he pays the attention to other characteristics of the picture again. Therefore, William Carlos Williams places the most important words in the middle to stress the importance; it is a major object in the picture of his writing.

It is necessary to stress that Williams tries to write all the words in their basic form. The same purpose is achieved with the help of rhythm. To make all the words sound smoothly the poet combines the stressed (ss), unstressed (us), and medium stressed (ms) syllables. That is why the rhythm of the poem may be described this way:  ms-ms-us-ms, us-ms, us-ms-ss, ms-us, ms-us-ss, ms-us, ss-us. There are no more than four syllables applied by the poet. This makes the writing easy to read and hints on the importance of the meaning hidden in easy lines.

It is impossible to omit the fact that each stanza of the poem has the shape of a wheelbarrow. To make the poem to look that the author used three words in each first line of the stanza and one word in the second. In general, there are only sixteen words in the poem. This structure of writing stresses on the importance of the wheelbarrow one more time. William Carlos Williams introduces this object as “glazed with rainwater.” It is a metaphor applied to show that the wheelbarrow is shining and hard. Therefore, the metaphor helps to describe the major characteristics of the wheelbarrow. The metaphor “glazed” is applied to show the time in the poem. The wheelbarrow will not shine and can be glazed forever. It happens only after rain. It means that the author wanted to stress that everything passes by, i.e. any sorrow, one’s death, and any problem will disappear in some time the same way as the shine of the wheelbarrow.

To sum up, it is necessary to stress that William Carlos Williams’s poem The Red Wheelbarrow is a magnificent writing with deep sense. The latter one is added to the writing with the help of the specific rhythm, graphic representation of the poem, simple words, the one-sentence structure, the metaphor use, and symbols. All these stylistic devices help readers to perceive one of the possible meanings given by the poet to his work.

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