Visual Forms in “The Red Wheelbarrow”
The period of modernism in the literature has brought the new forms and the new ways of expressing the ideas. With the development of the imagist movement in the poetry, the free verse and the clarity of expression as well as clear language came to the foreground. The poem “The Red Wheelbarrow” by William Carlos Williams is one of the best examples of true imagist poem since it places value on the simplicity of the created image and on the imagery in general, instead of prioritizing some abstract ideas and sophisticated words. The most important point in the poem is the picture of the farm that arises in front of the reader and is created by only 14 words. This simple and still engaging scene on the farm is, however, more than just a description of the rainy day, considering the sense that the author has placed in his visual images and the form of the poem.
First of all, the situation that the reader can imagine after reading the poem is rather vivid and bright. This is one of the peculiarities of the imagist poetry when the most important task is to create a picture. Nevertheless, the beginning of the poem does not allow to perceive this poem as descriptive only. Conforming to the idea that a poem can be transformed into a painting, the author created a piece of poetry that creates a visual scene while the first stanza about depending plays a role of the frame, encouraging the reader to immerse in the latter imagery. Moreover, starting the writing with the idea of dependency, William Carlos Williams prepares the reader that there is something behind the picture. Not characteristic of this literature movement, the poet makes an attempt to indicate another layer in his poem. Having read completely, the readers realize that it is not about a thing itself, but about a farmer who suddenly realizes the importance of the thing that he might have believed was not of high value to him and on which he is dependent.
Another important aspect to consider in this poem is the power of its structure. Consisting of four stanzas, the poem contains only a single sentence. However, it is divided into four parts that follow one another and provide additional information regarding the setting involved in the poem. Such structure puts emphasis on the most important words, making them appear on the neutral background. Moreover, splitting the complex nouns into two parts was also the way for the author to give those words additional and even stronger meaning besides slowing down the readers and making them reconsider the ideas hidden behind those words. While the reader, having composed the word “wheelbarrow” sees the respective image, he realizes that wheels are the essential basis of this device. The same happens with the use of the word “water” after the “rain”. In this way, the author emphasizes the role of the water within that setting, which might be connected with the symbolic meaning of cleaning since there is no dirt in the depicted scene.
The symbolic meaning of the separate elements of the setting created by the author allows to notice the deeper meaning, sometimes even multiple meanings, of the poem. Here, an important point for consideration are the colors. The author accents the red color of the wheelbarrow, which might be interpreted in a range of ways. However, considering the setting of the farm and the meaning of red color as a symbol of distress, it is possible to conclude that the red color symbolizes the turmoil which the farmer has to overcome. Furthermore, the red color builds contrast with the white color of the chicken surrounding it. This might be used to show the innocence of the farmer’s work or nature when compared to the man-made devices or objects. Here, it is possible to speak also about the opposing of the controlled by a person society with nature. Even more, since the wheelbarrow is the central image of the poem, this opposition could be characterized by the higher importance of the society rather than nature. Besides, a symbolic meaning could also be ascribed to the glazing of the rain which, to some extent, reminds of the process of art creation or polishing something, making it perfect. Therefore, the symbolism of the poem distinguishes it from the merely descriptive one.
“The Red Wheelbarrow” by William Carlos Williams presents an outstanding example of the imagist poetry creating a bright and vivid scene. Making the readers observe such a real picture is possible through the use of respective colors and images as well as trough the structure of the poem. Comprising of a single sentence only, the poem flows smoothly from one image to another, making the readers completely immersed in the process of visualizing and reconsidering the ideas. Nevertheless, the poem is not about the scene itself, it might also be regarded as symbolical due to the symbolism of colors and images, enabling a range of different interpretations.
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