Discuss the poem by William Carlos Williams, "The Red Wheelbarrow." Which strategy allows you to come up with what seems the most plausible? Formalist Strategies? Biographical Strategies?...

Discuss the poem by William Carlos Williams, "The Red Wheelbarrow." Which strategy allows you to come up with what seems the most plausible?

Formalist Strategies? Biographical Strategies? Psychological Strategies? Historical Strategies? Feminist Strategies? Mythological Strategies? Reader Response Strategies?

Expert Answers
booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Of the strategies mentioned, I believe "The Red Wheelbarrow" is described best when referring to Formalist Strategies.

Research states that

"Formalist critics focus on the formal elements of a work: language, structure and tone, and the keys to understanding a text exist within the text itself."

With this in mind, this poem's value comes from within the smallest  of its elements. The beauty of the verses is that it is brief, yet concise. Its message arrives in this "small package," but Williams is able to make every word count without having to describe what he is trying to say. He writes, but does so in such a clear way that the words speak and the reader comprehends without extensive analysis. There is almost a scientific approach to this kind of strategy: to analyze what is presented by the author. A poem that is well done will need little explanation, but the author depends on the reader to draw conclusions that are written and implied.

This strategy is directly related to the "relationship between form and meaning," which promotes a literal interpretation to understand the writing. Also referred to as a "close reading," this strategy examines various literary elements in the writing.

"The Red Wheel Barrow" is short, however the images are direct (such clarity is essential), but, as such, reflect the poem's intricacies in the physical structure of William's poem. The size of the poem correlates to the size of the wheel barrow: both seem easily dismissed, but each is really important despite physically size.

For example, the poem consists of sixteen words. If Williams did not have such talent and command of the language, he would never have been able to express himself so succinctly and successfully.

Colors stand out: red and white. Other images are important: depends, wheel  barrow, glazed with rain, chickens.

Alone, these words are meaningless, with seemingly no connection.

The central idea is "so much depends on a red wheel barrow." I would argue that the color is irrelevant to the value of the work done by the wheel barrow, but the color  and "glaze" draw our mind's eye to the "piece of equipment."

Its setting is also important. The wheel barrow does not command a great deal of notice at first glance, and it is left in the rain and kept next to the chickens—further extending its casual appearance in a corner of the garden or in the midst of farm tools, and perhaps giving an initial sense of unimportance.

Narrative technique is important: the "tool" is clearly presented—a common farmyard sight—but with great value. As mentioned in the research, this poem fits into the category of verse where each word is meaningful beyond one's initial impression that there is little here to be said: it communicates a great deal to the discerning eye.

A trope ("turn") may occur if we accept that the poem may be a metaphor: it is possible that important tasks depend on the red wheelbarrow, despite its innocuous appearance. The initial sense may be that some things in this world seem unimportant, but upon second glance, are items of the greatest value, beyond the simple setting in which they have been placed.

Is there not also irony in that this little red (how serious a color is that?) tool, inconsequentially set among chickens and in the rain, can do so many wonderful things: moving materials, creating a garden, cleaning property, etc. It is small, and a childish red, but it is "mighty."

These are the reasons that I see a formalist strategy used here.

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The Red Wheelbarrow

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