The Red Wheelbarrow Questions and Answers
by William Carlos Williams

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What do you think the poet is trying to say in the poem "The Red Wheelbarrow"?

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William Carlos Williams wrote this poem in 1923.  It was supposed to have been written as Williams, a pediatrician, was attending to a very sick young girl.  The poem depicts the image that was outside her window.

Williams would have been influenced by the Imagist poets, like Ezra Pound.  Imagists believed in using their poetry to portray pictures of life all around them.  The deeper, symbolic meanings that are associated with so many...

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While caring for a sick child at the child's home Williams, a paedtrician by profession, looked outside the window and saw the wet red wheelbarrow. He wrote this poem quickly in less than five minutes just like an impressionist painter  would paint quickly in order to capture the precise quality of light of a particular moment: "glazed with rain/water" - if he had delayed writing the poem the wetness would have dried up and the glaze would have disappeared. 

"The Red Wheelbarrow" (1923) is one of Willaims' early poems and is influenced by 'Precisionism' an artistic movement in America which peaked during the interwar period. 'Precision' artists shunned European influences, and as the term itself suggests their paintings were very objective and clearly defined almost like the 'photorealists' of the next generation. Just before Williams wrote this poem Williams had met Charles Sheeler the photographer journalist and a self-proclaimed 'precisionist.'

The poem expresses in the starkest and simplest manner possible the practical usefulness of a wheelbarrow on a farm. There is a sharp ironic contrast-almost haiku like- between the sick room 'inside' and the daily routine of the practical affairs of the farmhouse 'outside.'