Treasure Island

William Carlos Williams

(17 September 1883 – 4 March 1963 / New Jersey)

The Red Wheelbarrow

so much depends

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  • Kristin Foster (8/29/2009 5:45:00 PM)

    Just how many people do we really depend on and then take them for granted? That is one well used, well needed tool for any farm, and here it sits, all alone, the chickens it's only friend. Yet it is still beautiful, glossy, shiny from the same water that it collects to water the chickens, feed the garden, and clean the barn. And we are all well fed, clean, and given shelter due to the work we put on this tiny little wheelbarrow. We could all do with a little less complaining and a lot more loving the life we are given. (Report) Reply

  • Peter Stavropoulos (9/19/2007 9:04:00 PM)

    So much depends upon the red wheel barrow yet nothing depends on it. It's just a wheel barrow. So much depends upon the words we use yet how much depends on them. I think this poem looks at itself and at poetry. (Report) Reply

  • John Fargo (4/15/2007 10:06:00 PM)

    Well I don't want to limit interpretation but the backstory is that Williams was tending to a child with a terminal illness. He saw this wheelbarrow across the contagious hospital's courtyard and thought that if he could just get the child to be able to walk to the wheelbarrow, the child would be fine. The child died without ever getting out of his bed.

    Later, he realized how much importance he placed on the wheelbarrow, and how little he placed on him helping the child. 'So much depends upon the wheelbarrow.'

    Personally I think (and the backstory helps) that the poem talks about how we don't take responsibility, and the responsibility is displaced on the man-made things. The farm won't be taken care of without the wheelbarrow; the fact that there needs to be a human is almost irrelevant. So much depends on the tools, and not ourselves.

    One of the most beautiful poems I've ever read, and by far the best Imagist poem. (Report) Reply

  • Mark Simpson (3/9/2007 5:07:00 AM)

    That's an interesting view of it for sure. I've always considered this poem as an illustration of the fact that poetry is meant to mean what it means to the person who looks for meaning in it... In other words - the poet himself may have had quite a specific situational context for the red wheelbarrow that none of us are aware of (or maybe not, who knows?) , but that does not take away from the fact that to me it means 'XYZ' and to Caitie Lamon it provides a Koan. I'm not sure but I think this guy also said that a poem is a machine - machines function according to needs as much as design so it's as important what you make of it as what it represented to the poet. (Report) Reply

  • Caitie Lamon (3/5/2007 3:36:00 PM)

    I think this poem is brilliant, but it took me a while to understand it. The wheelbarrow is man-made, the rain water is God-made (or whatever you believe- the important thing is that it cannot be imitated by humans) , and the chickens are domesticated animals. The chickens are important because they are God-made, but man-tamed. It's Koan, a Buddhist illustration of how the divine and the ordinary can become one, or at least closely related. (Report) Reply

  • Ted Devirgilis (8/18/2006 12:16:00 AM)

    Yes, I think this is an allegory for creating poetry- a challenge, perhaps, to the pretentious and therefore distant poets of the age. He wrote, 'No ideas but in things.' Poets shoud LOOK at life and describe its beauty-the mind will see so many ideas in it. There's no need for flowery metaphors.

    It's hard to say it's one of the greatest poems, but it's certainly one of the most important. Memorize it-it's easy! (Report) Reply

  • Brett Gustafson (4/1/2006 4:40:00 PM)

    It is easy to look at modern art with a cynical eye and disparage its relavance - much like people have done for Jackson Pollack or Picasso. One thing you should remember, Mr. Gunn, is when 'The Red Wheelbarrow' was written, there was nothing quite like it. It was like an American Haiku. There is a very Zen quality to this poem, which causes the seemingly simple words to bring on more meaning and forces the reader to visualize the scene. Some have argued that this poem is an allegory for poetry, where so much depends on each word and where it is placed. But that, too, is open for debate. (Report) Reply

  • Gregory Gunn (1/13/2006 8:10:00 PM)

    Perhaps I am missing the point but must confess I wouldn't exactly regard this as a masterpiece. Is anyone else with me on this? Open for debate. (Report) Reply

  • Peter Allred (2/3/2005 5:09:00 PM)

    this poem is studied in USA schools, as a masterpiece.

    It tell a story & paints a picture of a farm yard with a red wheelbarrow used and old with white chickens scrathing the earth around it.

    What a farm yard scene! (Report) Reply

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