“The Red Wheelbarrow” by William Carlos Williams

1. Although we would call this a free verse poem, each strophe is precisely arranged in the same way as the others. What “form” do the strophes take?

The strophes each consist of two lines: the first with three words, the latter with one.

2. Why do you think Williams does not go into greater detail when describing the wheelbarrow and chickens? Why only tell us one thing about them (in this case, their colors)?

Answers may vary. Example: The spare details put the image into sharp focus; it becomes as vivid as a street sign.

3. “Wheelbarrow” is written as one word in the title, but divided in the second strophe. Why does Williams divide it in the body of the poem?

While “wheelbarrow” is usually written as one word, Williams divides it in the body of the poem to preserve the strophe’s form.

4. What is your interpretation of the poem?

Answers may vary. Examples:

• Much depends on the family farm.

• One person regrets leaving such an important object out in the rain.

• The colors red and white are symbolic of blood and purity, among many other things.

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