Breath of Clarity

William Carlos Williams, The Red Wheelbarrow

This poem emphasizes that all components of a system are integral to its function. The form of the poem, which is a list of three elements split up by a line in between, indicates that all are equally necessary are separate entities. It draws on the existing paradox of each element’s independent contribution to the stability of the farm, but also the contribution that each makes to the function of the larger system. Before dissecting the poem, the audience may assume that the chicken is the most integral component of the farm’s function. However; without the red wheelbarrow, the chicken wouldn’t be able to survive. The imagery that the poet creates communicates the purpose of this artist’s work. Without the descriptive words, the way that all the elements of the system are interconnected wouldn’t be as clear.

According to Leonardo Da Vinci, “water is the driving force of all nature”. Water plays important roles in chicken body regulation. The descriptive words explain the essential role of each component. The “red wheelbarrow” represents blood. Blood circulation is necessary to the stability of living beings. Just as blood is essential to the maintenance of the human body system, the wheelbarrow is an integral tool to hydrate the chickens. The “glazed” characteristic of the rainwater suggests a sacred quality. It illustrates the uncertainty that comes with dependence on the weather. We cannot be sure that the rain will certainly fall. It shows that we rely on the occurrence of events beyond our control to maintain our well-being. Williams says, “so much depends upon” the wheelbarrow that holds the sacred rain. The “white chickens” represent life and good health that relies on the blood and sacred water to provide for the farmers. Water plays important roles in body regulations for chickens. It suggests this desire for financial security to be gained from the red wheelbarrow.

The poet’s strongest use of diction in this piece was the word “beside” in the final section. When the poet says “beside the white chickens” it shows that all three of these elements need to collaborate in order for the entire system to work. It also reiterates the lack of control that the farmer holds. The farmer did everything he could by placing the wheelbarrow next to the chickens, but still can’t make the chickens drink it.

The word “glazed” suggests that the rainwater is in short supply. It shows that, even with a strong and logical system, lack of resources can make it impossible to function. It affirms the notion that humans are not as in control as we think we are.

The poem emphasizes the central role that money plays in the function of a household, and a society overall. Essentially, people can’t survive if they can’t maintain financial stability. The “so much depends upon” phrase at the start of the poem additionally conveys the interconnected nature of the economy. The undefined quantity in that phrase indicates the degree of impact that this one specific farm has on the rest of the market. Other industries depend on the farmers to be able to supply the goods to be sold in stores. It suggests a flaw in humanity’s tendency to rely on occurrence of unpredictable events.

This poem illustrates the issue of dependency. Humans are dependent on factors that they can’t control in vital situations. The poet potentially tries to convey that dependency is the essence of human struggle. The red wheelbarrow is the only element of the system that is manmade and will consistently function the way it’s expected to. Perhaps, the significance of the poem is that humans need to alter their systems to decrease the uncertainty. The red wheelbarrow represents the strength of certainty in the foundation of a system.