Wednesday, April 27, 2011

the red wheelbarrow

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The Red Wheelbarrow

so much depends


a red wheel

Order Custom Essay on the red wheelbarrow


glazed with rain


beside the white


~ William Carlos Williams

Despite the superiority people grant to our tumultuous modern society, many of us find ourselves wishing for the comfort of the country lives of our ancestors. Small-town and farm life have been glorified by many artists in many different forms. In “The Red Wheelbarrow” William Carlos William uses the power of his words to create a strikingly vibrant, symbolic image of some of the essential elements in farm life hard work and reliance on nature for nourishment and prosperity. These symbolic elements help us to understand the opening stanza “So much depends upon.”

Williams opens his poem with a very dramatic image “a red wheel barrow.” He grabs our attention to the wheelbarrow by painting it the eye-popping shade of red, but he gets us to focus our attention on this image by dragging out the line, creating a break in the word “wheelbarrow.” This strategy forms an emphasis on these words and prolongs the reading of them, causing us to wonder, “what is the importance of this wheelbarrow?” To me, the wheelbarrow is a symbol of the hard work done by farmers.

Although I was not raised on a farm or in a small town, my family tries to retain much of the work ethic of our ancestors. For generations my family lived in the small farming community of Peculiar, Missouri. During World War II, my grandfather and his brothers signed up with the armed forces and, although they were scattered all over the globe, they tried to stay true to what their community had taught them. They believed that nothing comes for free; you have to work for it and that everyone has a job that they need to do. For me, the wheelbarrow of this poem symbolizes this sort of work ethic. In a farming community everyone is important because we all need to work together for the common good.

The next element Williams introduces us to is that of rainwater. In the second stanza, he parallels the unnatural break from the previous stanza by adding one in the word “rain water.” I believe that the rainwater is a symbol of the dependence of man on the grace of nature. Farmers need the rain to nourish their land; without it their crops will fail. A year of poor crops can be disastrous for a farming community. Without the rain to replenish the land, the wheelbarrow (symbolizing hard work) would be useless. No matter how much work you put into a task, nothing will come from it without nourishment. The rainwater could also simply symbolize the renewal of the land. If the land is not able to properly renew itself, it can fight back against man. In the mid-1800s, my great grandparents moved to America from Ireland because of the great potato famine. This famine was caused because the majority of the population had become reliant on the potato crop for food. However, so many people had been growing the crop for so long that the land didnt have a chance to renew itself and a fungus attacked the crop. Because of this, there wasnt enough food to feed everybody. Millions of people died and many left their homelands to start a new life in a new land.

In the final stanza, Williams completes the image by adding one last element � white chickens. Williams creates a contrast to the wheelbarrow by making the chickens white rather than brown or grey. This contrast makes the chickens stand out as an important symbol in the poem. To me, the chickens represent the prosperity that comes from hard work and the nourishment of the land. I, personally, have not had much first-hand experience with chickens. When I was little my grandfather, after his retirement, kept a small farm with a few animals - chickens being one of them. One day, my sisters and I arrived at my grandparents house a little earlier than they had expected. My grandmother told us that my grandpa was out in the garage and then sent us out to say hello to him. When we turned the corner to go into the garage, we saw our grandfather about to slaughter a chicken which was meant to be that nights dinner. We gasped, which distracted my grandpa; causing him to decapitate the chicken in the wrong place. As my sisters and I soon found out, if you dont slaughter a chicken in exactly the right way, it causes the nerve endings to not be completely detached and the chicken will still be alive for a few moments. In those few moments, the headless chicken managed to chase my sister half way back to the house. After that incident, my sisters and I usually stayed as far away from the chicken coup as we could. However, now that I am older, I can understand the importance of animals to a farm. The upkeep of animals requires a lot of hard work and money. In return, animals provide farmers and their families with meat, milk, and eggs.

The Red Wheelbarrow is not just a poem that exists to provide us with a beautiful image; I believe it is a comment on how, in farm life, even the smallest thing can have a great purpose. The hard work of the farmers, the renewal of the land through rain, and the nourishment that animals provide are all interconnected; without one of these elements, the others can not function. People rely on the nourishment that crops and animals provide for them in order to put in the hard work a farm requires, but without the nourishment of the rain the farmers hard work would be in vain. So much depends upon each of these elements in order for there to be prosperity.

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