The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

A short poem in free verse, “The Young Housewife” consists of three stanzaic units of four, five, and three lines each. The poem is told by a first-person narrator who seems to be William Carlos Williams himself, although one has no way of knowing that this is the case. The title identifies a woman who is the object of attention of the poem’s narrator, indicating that she is young, recently married, and identified in relation to the house in which she and her husband live.

These motifs are elaborated in the poem’s first sentence, the emotional high point of which is the narrator’s fantasy of the woman “in negligee.” Clearly, the narrator knows her and is attracted to her. He apparently does not have access to the woman, however, and his story becomes a humorous variation on the theme that unrequited love (or lust) soon becomes a bore. The first four words of stanza 2 (“Then again she comes”) and the multiple indefinite objects of the woman’s calling (“the ice-man, fish-man”) suggest that stanza 1—indeed, the whole poem—does not describe a one-time event but rather recurrent events that happen fairly frequently. Perhaps the narrator drives by the woman’s house every day “at ten a.m.” on his way to work. The woman’s coming “to the curb” and the other events of stanzas 2 and 3 are repeated, too, though less frequently than his driving by her house.

Altogether, the poem is a...

(The entire section is 416 words.)