How might one discuss the denotations and connotations of any important words and how they apply to a central meaning in William Carlos Williams' poem "The Red Wheelbarrow"?

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William Carlos Williams’s poem “The Red Wheelbarrow” is comprised of perhaps the most famous collection of sixteen words in all of American poetry:

so much depends
upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white
chickens.

What does this poem mean? What is the significance of the denotations and connotations of its phrasing?  Here are some possibilities:

  • The denotations of most of the words here are fairly clear. Each verb and each noun seems explicable according to the common, dictionary definition of each word. There is nothing mysterious here, and perhaps that is part of the...

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bethm347 | Student

This is a good task to help you interpret the meaning of a seemingly simple poem. Although the words are sparse and the lines and stanzas short, you must examine the text on more than one level. First, highlight words that stand out to you. Consider the title, objects, and actions. Then, discuss the dictionary, denotative, meanings of those words. After you analyze the literal meaning, consider the emotional meaning. Are they positive or negative? How does the context influence those charges? Are they presented as formal or informal? After considering all of your analysis, think about the theme, or central meaning.

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