The Red Wheelbarrow Questions and Answers
by William Carlos Williams

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How is imagery used in the poem "The Red Wheelbarrow"?

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Imagery is absolutely central to this poem. It has no particular meaning or message outside of the image it seeks to convey. The poet, William Carlos Williams, uses color imagery in particular to help the audience vividly see the scene he is describing. The color of the wheelbarrow is an important feature, as is the color of the chickens—the contrast between the red wheelbarrow and the white chickens creates a picture of a farmyard scene, of the type we might have seen in illustrations or books. The color of the wheelbarrow is such that the wheelbarrow stands out as the most important object in the scene, the color red drawing the eye. As Williams says in the poem, "so much depends" upon the wheelbarrow, the central feature in the scene.

Other elements of imagery in the scene depicted include the touch of rainwater which "glazed" the wheelbarrow....

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William Carlos Williams uses multiple forms of imagery in his poem, "The Red Wheelbarrow." In the first two lines, "So much depends / upon," the speaker is constructing a visual image for the reader of gravity or weight. What is carrying this weight in the poem? At first glance, it is "a red wheel / barrow" (3-4) that this weight "depends" (2) on.

The speaker in all actuality is referencing imagery, itself, in the poems first two lines, "So much depends / upon." Williams wrote this poem as an "Imagist" poem, meaning a picture is being painted through imagery language. Every aspect of the poem, its brevity, the white space of the page, etc all contribute to the imagism required for Imagist poetry. Instead of the wheelbarrow carrying the weight, like the poem at first suggests, it's actually the Imagery that is carrying the weight. This picture that the poem paints is completely dependent on imagery.

Another example of imagery in "The Red Wheelbarrow" is tactile imagery. The visual image of "glazed with rain / water" (5-6) also consists of a textural sense. Tactile imagery, giving a sense of touch, is represented by the words "rain" and "water" in this poem. The reader can not only see the picture of a "glazed" wheelbarrow but can also feel the wet texture.

The tactile and visual imagery of lines 5-6 just mentioned, also contains an olfactory image as well. Olfactory imagery relates to the mental odor or smell an object produces or gives. The reader, having seen the freshly "glazed" (5) and wet wheelbarrow, can also smell the scent of rain or wet earth of the setting of this image which is most likely a barnyard.

In the final two lines, "beside the white / chickens" (7-8), the visual imagery of the setting, as previously mentioned, places the poem's location in a barnyard as well as placing the wheelbarrow next to "chickens". The word "chickens" (8) also gives an audible imagery, to the reader, of clucking farm birds. The contrast in colors of "red" (3) and "white" (7) give a vivid visual imagery to the reader.

So, "How is imagery used in the poem?" It is not only contained within the poem but "The Red Wheelbarrow" actually embodies and depends upon it.