Essay The Power of Sixteen Words Exposed in The Red Wheelbarrow
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The Power of Sixteen Words Exposed in The Red Wheelbarrow
William Carlos Williams's poem "The Red Wheelbarrow" is extraordinary for what it accomplishes within its eight short lines. It is exactly one sentence long, sixteen words. Numbers like that wouldn't normally be important in the consideration of a poem's merit, but "The Red Wheelbarrow" begs to be noticed for its length (or, rather, its lack of length) and for the arrangement of its sixteen words on the page.
In fact, an interesting experiment would be to give a group of people the words that Williams uses and ask them to arrange the words into the structure of a poem. How many people would do as…show more content…
Instead of some formal or momentous event, though, the poet asks us to consider, in the second stanza, "a red wheel / barrow," a barnyard device of convenience. The indefinite article, "a," does not exactly make this red wheelbarrow generic, but like the "upon," the article allows for a hint of transcendence: this is not just the wheelbarrow, any old piece of yard or barnyard machinery; it's a wheelbarrow that can stand for something beyond itself. The break that comes between "wheel" and "barrow" causes us to consider the nature of this tool, its barrow-ness and the primitive wheel at its fulcrum. Also, the brevity of the lines calls attention to the weight of a singular word -- like "red." The color is a word that we could normally skip over or barely notice, except that the next stanza turns that color into something else. The red has been "glazed with rain / water." The word "glazed" suggests something cold, hard, enamelled. Although the color red is usually regarded as a warm color, it has been made cool, if not cold, here. The effect of the "rain / water" (the word being broken, as "wheel / barrow" was earlier, with similar effect, our attention being called to its make-up) has been to alter the nature of the red, but also to alter the nature of the wheelbarrow itself. Like an old car in the rain, the wheelbarrow has been transmogrified into something