so much depends
upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white
chickens.

Analysis, meaning and summary of William Carlos Williams's poem The Red Wheelbarrow

64 Comments

  1. Melissa says:

    Because poetry is all about the interactive thoughts of the reader and the ‘drawing’ ability of the writer, every interpretation is valid. I would like to point out the use of the word “depend” in the first line & how man (wheelbarrow)is inter-dependent on nature (chicken & rain and soil). The inter-dependency of all living things represent a cycle of existence. Why red & white? Red would be the bolder, more vibrant color of roosters and white, the symbol of innocence & purity (the chicken). Masculinity & Femininity are also inter-dependent for the existence/continuation of life. The concept ‘wheel’ is different than the concept of ‘barrow’…likewise the concept of ‘rain’ and ‘water’. The words themselves depend on each other to complete the full thought. Williams has ‘drawn’ a simplistic rural scene that serves to point out our responsibilities, humility, and understanding of our existence in the natural world.

  2. john says:

    I dont understand the poem its to short man

  3. Rodney says:

    A child would not write “So much depends upon” nor would they say the wheelbarrow is “glazed in rainwater” thereby transform its aesthetic. Like good haiku, this poem says a great deal about life by observing the real in everyday life.

    Rodney

  4. Samantha says:

    I am an English teacher and so I love symbolism, etc. but people are reading way too much into these poems, things that aren’t there. So much depends on a wheelbarrow literally and that image is beautiful and simple. There’s nothing else necessary.

  5. Sarah says:

    I cant believe that this tiny, simple, little poem has provoked so many different interpretations

  6. dlrkdus says:

    The person who said the red, white and blue. for wheelbarrow, chickens and water. Water is clear, the ocean is blue because it is the reflection of the sky.
    And another mentioned that Williams wrote this poem after checking for strep throat. I read elsewhere that it was after he had delivered a baby who had died during the delivery. Where are you getting your facts?

  7. bob says:

    the background to this poem is that Williams, who was a physician, was with a terminaly ill child, looking out a window, he saw a wheelbarrow across the courtyard. he thought if he could just get the child to walk to the wheelbarrow, the child might have a chance to live. the child never made it out of the bed, and the poem is about how he paid more attention to getting the child to walk than to live.

  8. Big-D-Rob says:

    I know what it means
    its about poetry
    its not straight forward
    he is saying that so much depends on the little details to make poetry right

  9. b says:

    this poem exposes what is wrong with society. Other races, or the lower class have always had it rough. the red wheelbarrow is their form of life. old technologies, like the wheel, is how the wheel barrow works. The red stands out because is is the color people associate with several things such as violence, or communism. The white chickens are the bourgeois, businesses owners of the time period this was wrote in. They can survive without the support of the wheelbarrow, and so they are just beside it, not in any action with it. every line of this poem is something W.C.W. was trying to expose, and to try to make a change.

  10. Anthony says:

    what is so bad about this poem

  11. jon says:

    the pome is to small

  12. wow says:

    come on….both “sexy jew,” and “jessie,” both of your comments were uncalled for. sexy jew…yours is just TMI and jessie….nice sterotype! that could have been really hurtfull to some people….so i think you need to be more mature….both of you!

  13. jessie says:

    sorry…”sexy jew” but your comment was so uncalled for
    it proves your insolence.
    no wonder…your a jew!

  14. sexy jew says:

    i think it’s quite humorous to see that so many people waste their lives commenting on what they think this poem means. i mean…my dick is longer than this poem. he probably wiped his ass and described what the shit on the toilet paper looked like. there is no deeper meaning. if anything, this guy had Tourettes and randomly shouted out these words. they don’t mean anything. poo poo on you 😛

  15. ea says:

    Sorry, d, but Carlos can not possibly be using the word chickens without inferring that they are the cowards.

  16. d says:

    i somewhat agree with janen. i think the red wheelbarrow symbolizes the everyday little things that we take for granted. the white chickens is just to juxtapose and create an image in our heads. in that way, we already begin to notice the wheelbarrow more, as the colours contrast and red stands out. plus, the enjambment of wheel barrow makes one realize[it has wheels, and is shaped like a barrow].

  17. CHeese says:

    I believe that this poem is about the white and the other races subject, that the whites are chickens and that because they are white, they do not depend on the red wheelbarrow’s rain because they are white and in that idea, more dominant to themselves because they have more things, etc. The rest of the races depend on the red wheelbarrow because of what it gives them that they cannot get from a fresher source because of their race and racism. The red wheelbarrow is not fresh but it is the only other thing that allows the other races to survive which shows that they have hard lives where the whites don’t because of their race.

  18. janen says:

    i think the red wheelbarrow is a poetry which signifies every simple things in life that sometimes we try to ignore although it may be so helpful in a lot of times.

  19. Terrence Hopper says:

    I’m not sure what’s more amusing-
    the people who don’t like this poem
    or the people that do. If you want to
    know why I say that read The Red Wheelbarrow-
    Solved by Terrence Hopper at this website:
    http://home.cogeco.ca/~hopper666/

  20. Monina says:

    I LIKE TOTALY LOVE THIS POEM I LIVE MY LIFE BY IT i love it so much. its like so inspirational it makes me wanna ride a wheelbarrow and look at white chickens like yeaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh

  21. Micha says:

    SOS…I just don’t get it, this poem seems so empty…and the worst part is that I have a poetry exam tomorrow!!!

  22. bob says:

    im doin a project on William and if anyone could email me information on what this poem means or anything you think would be helpfull for a grade 12 english project i would greatly appreciate it

  23. mike says:

    The person Jasmine who said this poem doesnt make sense is an idiot. Anyone can see that Williams has used his mastery of imagery to show much more than a red wheelbarrel, if you were to look for a deeper meaning then you would find one.

  24. Spinna says:

    The Kami-sama of all poems is the Williams. He uses such simple imagery of split second images to make one beutiful poem. The red wheelbarrow is swift and nimble in its simplistic word play that even a simple high school dropout to a child of the age of five could understand its profound and deep meaning. The king of poems is undoubtably this man. In fact this man is so masterful even he does not know how masterful he is. I truly weep for his passing and I will continue to mournh until my own life is forfit to the unyelding power that is death personified.

  25. isabel says:

    I just find this poem beautiful! So clear and simple. Can’t you just SEE those sharp colours. Feel the textures, the glaze of the rainwater, the cold shiny surface of the wheelbarrow.More beautiful than the image it conveys is just the stringing together of those separate words. At each new line, the picture acquires more focus. What I love is the way the poet managed to conjure up the picture so progressively, serenely, like drops of water adding up and making up a small universe

  26. daniel says:

    a wheelbarrow is ussually kep in the barn or shed, especially if it is going to rain rain, since it will rust. Therefore, it could be said that the whte chickens symbolize a utopian sociaty, where everyone is innocent and clean, where as the red wheelbarrow symbolizes the contrast between beauty and violence; red representing blood and war. Put all this together and you could say the poem is stating that war plays a major part in creating a perfect life. In other words, tou can’t have beauty and perfection without sacrifices; which is why so much of our world depends on a red wheelbarrow.

  27. William Carlos Williams says:

    i wrote ths poem to show that people depend on stuff even if you might think it is trash. I wrote it in to minutes people!!

  28. Quincy says:

    I fail to see how this poem is “dumb” and how the people who like it have their “heads in the toilet”. Some seem to think that every poem MUST have some deeper meaning and that they MUST move your soul in some way. A poem is a poem. It means something different to everyone that reads it. Although this poem confuses you that doesn’t mean that you have the right to throw it out and insult the people that do like it.

    Maybe Mr. Williams wasn’t trying to change your life with this poem. Perhaps he was just trying to paint a picture in your mind, thereby showing you the power words can have.

    Im not tryin to insult anyone, but please think before you jot somthing down for everyone else to see. I kind of feel embarrased for you. Thanks.

  29. Jasmine says:

    this poem has no deeper meaning is not discriptive and is not a wonderful peice of the work that speaks to the soul. he threw a couple words on a page then rearranged them so they made very little sense. it was dumb and i hated it. all you people that liked are dumb. get your head out od the freaking toilet.

  30. Ryan says:

    the poem indirrectly shows amercian pride the RED wheelbarrow the WHITE chickens and the BLUE water.

  31. al says:

    A poem should not mean, but be”, as somebody somewhere once said. I’m
    not entirely sure that the quote says quite what it means, or means
    quite what it says – or says what i want it to mean, words being
    notoriously treacherous things – but i do think it is something worth
    thinking about.

    for me, a poem’s meaning/being/poetry/whatever – like a song’s – comes
    through as much in its shape and sounds as in the dictionary
    definitions and historical references of the words used. like pullman
    complaining that english class with its dogma of similes and metaphors
    and iambic pentameter teaches us to decode rather than appreciate
    poetry (consequently removing the actual *poetry* from the experience
    – besides which, what is the point in trying to decode a poem’s
    meaning when the poem IS the meaning?) i would press for a more
    intuitive relationship to this poem – or any other good poem, for that
    matter.

    i feel that the person who complained that this is not poetry because
    it does not communicate is missing the point somewhat: what they must
    mean is that it does seem to offer moral instruction, personal
    feeling, coherent narrative or philosophical argument (i would argue
    that it offers all of these things, but i’m aware this post is
    becoming lengthy).

    there is a point at which one stops thinking of poems as good or bad –
    either they are poetry, or they are not. this is poetry. see what new
    roads it can lead you to; see what new thoughts it can ignite – and,
    if you like, explore them. talk about them.

    or, if you prefer, just look at the words and hear the sounds, as i do.

  32. Bianca and Christina says:

    So much depends on the dusty bunny

    A white bunny
    lay face down
    on the unmade bed
    with an orange tag
    stricking out of its buttocks

    There! my poem is even longer than his and mine is better! and don’t try to analyze it…the white bunny is just white, I’m not racist! f*cking idiots

    By the way, if you guys liked the red wheel barrow, you GOTTA read “This is Just to Say”….(its about Plums)

  33. Mike Vacha says:

    Yes, James, and you are so perfect in how you write. I didn’t realize “u” was a word. And, last I checked, “whos” is supposed to have an apostrophe.

  34. D. Justice says:

    I cannot believe that some people do not get the beauty out of this poem. The most intriguing thing about Williams is that he is able to write photographic poetry. By that I mean that his technique of imagery is so vivid that in almost all of his poems, the reader is able to see and visualize the object that is being written about in its entirety, almost as if standing right in front of it. This poem may not have a deeper meaning but I love the use of imagery that Williams creates throughout all of his poems.

  35. Danielle says:

    I think that this very simple poem is very beautiful with lots of imagery. But I thought this poem was written after the death of the author’s son, a reflection of sorts.

  36. James says:

    hi, just wanted to say to Mike Vacha, obviously u are very ignorant for saying what u said about the red wheelbarrow, second, stupidist is NOT a word, and second, its actually *the most stupid*, so…correct me if im wrong, whos the stupid one? if u can’t get write correct grammar, maybe you shouldnt be criticizing anything now huh?

  37. Shazzie says:

    To me, this poem is simply about the unexpected beauty that can sometimes be found in the simplest and most inconsequential things. Sometimes something that is absolutely ordinary can be stunningly beautiful. If you’re lucky, you stumble on something like that once in a while and hopefully have the presence of mind to savor the experience, if only for a fleeting moment. To me, this poem is about such a moment. The imagery is very simple and understated, but, at the same time, extremely vivid. When I read this poem, I can see that rainwashed wheelbarrow as clearly as if it was sitting in front of me, and I can hear the chickens clucking as they mill about pecking at the soil in search of bugs and worms. I am there, savoring that moment along with Williams, and I am grateful that he preserved it for us with these sixteen powerful words.

  38. Jane Ellen says:

    I have to agree with an earlier comment that this poem is about “a red wheelbarrow after a rain with chickens around it!” Sometimes a poem is just a poem. Williams wrote poetic photographs–lovely, concrete, simple. Just enjoy.

  39. Mike Vacha says:

    This is the single stupidist piece of lierature I have read in my entire life. There is no meaning to read into because it is only 16 words. You cannot successfully put a deeper meaning in 16 words. Everyone should foget this poem even exists.

  40. bb says:

    this poem is not meant to have a meaning, WCW tired of imagism just wrote this to fool everyone, stop trying to figure everything out read things for what they are,, somethings are not meant to have a meaning at all.

  41. Jimmy says:

    I believe that he made this poem for us to decide what we think. There is no real reason.

  42. D.Burns says:

    What is the question this poem is asking?
    I understand the meaning I think But there is a question underlining this poem. What is the question?

  43. diane says:

    what we do that the gods cant do is see the world from only our eyes. is love one baby more than another. is be fearful of a stranger. is not know what will happen, or what the real story is about. If god’s gift to us is life, maybe our gift back is the world through our eyes.

    WCW gives back a moment when he was there, in a yard where the rain cleaned sky reflects from a puddle in a red wheelbarrow and white hens with mud on the base of their leg feathers, walk in circles in their peculiar jerky way.

    we get so busy doing and going that we forget the astonishing gift of BEING. Local abundance does not negate a miracle.

  44. jessica says:

    William Carlos Williams was a rural family doctor in Pennsylvania. His poems reflect his profession. This poem is based on an event in his life. He was called to a farmer’s house, because the family’s five year old daughter was sick. She bit the tongue depressor when he put it in her mouth. He and the parents fight to get the cotton swab to her throat. She has bad strep throat. He tells the parents it’s in God’s hands now. “So much depends” means so much hangs. the red wheelbarrow is the girl with the fever. “glazed with rain water” is the prespiration/sweat from the girl. The white chickens are angels watching over her. It can also be looked at as the water from baptism and the chickens being gaurdian angels.

  45. horny hoe says:

    this poem has very complex meanings the wheelbarrow stands for the vagina the rainwater stands for the cum on her ass the chickens are the millions of viewers watching the girl being penetrated through the ass

    fuckfuckfuck thats wat bob jhonson does to his momma

  46. mr. all up in yo ass says:

    i read this poem and it made my great african monkey vibrate it made my penis longer and my asshole contract
    i wanted to fuck my monkeys sister i read it to my monkey and it funkied on my leg and then i licked it off

    sounds fun right????

  47. Jacob says:

    It’s not meant to mean anything!!! All it is is a red wheelbarrow after a rain with chickens around it! Williams is tired of poets dragging out images, making them so confused that you can’t understand what they’re trying to say unless you take a college lit course. (see “The Waste Land”) What you see is what you get in this poem.

  48. Mary says:

    what this poem is talking about is society. the red wheelbarrow represents the workers of society. the rain represents sweat that comes from working so hard. the chickens represent the upper class that does nothing but stand watching us work.

  49. Ness says:

    This is the first time i have ever read this poem and to be honest i was searching through the internet for the rest of it. I understand its message and i see where its coming from but its a little too bleak for my liking. But i suppose the author gets across what he wants to say so i give him credit for that.

  50. Beki says:

    This poem shows a lot of imagery. Some really crap poets simply TELL us what is happening around him at the time. WCW actually shows us what he’s seeing. Like pretty much everyone, I read this poem and thought “what the hell??” But my English Writing class at college studied it closer and the more and more we studied the more the whole class seemed to understand about GOOD poetry. And I mean, think about it, if any of you live on a farm, really, so much does depend on the wheelbarrow. The fact that it’s red sets the picture in our minds. And look at the structure of it. Three words on one line, then just one on the next… it’s repeated throughtout the whole poem. And the simplicity of the language is amazing. I mean you could look at it saying, “oh, I could’ve written that!” but the point is, you didn’t.

    So think about that!

  51. Coralie says:

    I’m sure people have said this
    but
    to me the poem simply says that he is observing the world around him, the Red Wheelbarrow allows people to move objects from place to place, making hard farm work easier , that’s what depends on the barrow- him and his family (and the chickens) they also depend on a certain amount of rain for growth of crops (which i assume is why he isn’t negative towards the rain in anyway) and He is just commenting on how all these things he sees work together even if they don’t know they do (chickens on the wheelbarrow for grain and the rain for grain etc)

    It’s simplicity, an observation on the interconnecting web of life

    look outside!

    xX coralie

  52. Kasia says:

    I really don’t like this poem, but I think the poet is talking about the readers. So much does depend on the reader, and Williams only beleived art was art when people read or looked at the art. This poem is a test for the reader to see if they can swallow the poem, or have the poem swallow them.

  53. Jessy says:

    yeah i read this poem in da 11th grade for my writing class when i 1st read it i thought “wat da f*ck” but when i read it and read it then i understood dat it was all about a red wheel barrow n it was so easy because its just letting da people know how much other depend upon it… well WCW he’s different compare to others n its a good things because all da others write about is love drama n romance no things need to be different n writing about things dat arent notiieable.

  54. Katie says:

    I had tihs poem to do for my American Lit 202 class in college. I read in to this poem also. Everyone thinks that a poem is suppose to have a meaning, but that is not true. My teacher said that all the poem is meaning about a Red Wheelbarrow on a farm. That is all it is talking about

  55. mattmatt123 says:

    i shouldnt really have 2 say anything about this poem. Its stupid and so is everyone who likes it. i cant even beleave people left good comments on it. well at least my class will like this peom b/c they will find it so stupid it will b funny.

  56. Rob says:

    I agree with Brittany, when I first read this poem my first impression was that it was about how people can take certain things that are actually very important to them for granted.

  57. Brittany says:

    I think it’s talking about how people take things for granted. It says “So much depends on it”….Meaning the farm, but they just leave it out in the rain by the chickens.

  58. Ryan says:

    “Through metaphor to reconcile the people and the stones. Compose. (No ideas but in things.) Invent!”
    – William Carlos Williams

    http://www.saveaslacker.com

  59. Prometheis says:

    i think this poet is strange. sounds to me like he just writes what ever he’s thinking at the time. so he saw a wheelbarrow that was wet, and it had some chickens around it. now when it comes to colors symbolizing things, i dont think so. almost every wheelbarrow i see is red, and almost every chicken i see is white. but if this dude could be concidered a poet then so can anyone pretty much. although, they are sorta interesting (his poems). I’ll give him some credit.

  60. Silver Moon says:

    I agree with Eli that it doesnt symbolize a whole lot, but the poem is not racist. Williams probably wasnt trying to be politically correct and thinking that if he included white chickens it would be taken the wrong way. That was probably just the color of the chickens that he had. My thought on this poem is that even the simplest things are important and can be beautiful. Usually when I picture a wheelbarrow, I think of the rusty old thing that is stashed away in my garage, but this poem shows the true beauty of such a useful, and (in the poet’s time) necessary object.

  61. Eli says:

    He was talking about a freaking wheelbarrow. It is’nt some devine symbol from God. I’m sure they depended on it, but they could always buy a new one. And what’s with the freaking chickens. You racists, why white.

  62. seif al aswad says:

    i think that the poem is an imagegistic poem it was written for the sake of words which are just expressing some downtoearth vision with the use of the japanese flag colors and we should have noticed that the poem is written in the form of the haiku (japanese poem) the poem has no meaning for paraphrasing that it

  63. Kevin says:

    When i first read this poem i tought… tried to think some more and still could notfigure what williams was talking about. We talked about the poem in class and started to discuss it and i had an epifiany and loved the poem. It symbolizes so much, the red wheelbarrow could represent evil-being red, or it could represent a key part of life. He grew up in jersey, so back in the 1800’s it was farm land and well wheelbarrows were a neccesity. then the rain was a great thing because back then and not as much now rain was needed for crops.then there is the white chickens which can represent purity and goodness, but it also represents the people standing around the wheelbarrow and not realizing how much depends on the wheelbarrow. the chickens/people wouldnt be where they were if it werent for the wheelbarrow. this poem is vary short beu vary deep. -Highschool Student

  64. Duckie13 says:

    *I love this poem.:) he he

    This really shows that William Carlos williams was an idealistic poet and used simple ideas and words to bring across very descriptive pictures.

    The way this poem is worded shows the deeper meaning greatly, like “so much depends upon the red wheelbarrow” shows that probably where this man grew up was in a rural farming area, which in was, Rutherford. This tells that many people did depend about the wheelbarrow to keep them alive by helping cultivate their crops.

    The way the poem states “glazed with rain water” shows that he meant this was probabaly right after a rain/shower and that the “glaze” was still there but probably will not last much longer symbolizing that the dew will dry and dissapitate along with our temporary depression, sadness, or even happiness.

    Hope this helped!!! 🙂

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