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The Red Wheelbarrow

The Red Wheelbarrow


by William Carlos Williams

Analysis: Form and Meter

Free Verse

"The Red Wheelbarrow" features a single sentence divided up into four couplets (a couplet is a stanza composed of two lines). On its own, the sentence reads, "so much depends upon a red wheelbarrow glazed with rainwater beside the white chickens."

If we break this sentence down, English class-style, we realize that the subject of the sentence is "so much," the verb of the sentence is "depends," and the direct object is "the red wheelbarrow." So, even though, "the red wheelbarrow" is the featured item of the poem's title, it is not the subject of the sentence. Why is this important? Well, it just helps us poet detectives understand whether we should be more interested in the "so much" or in "the red wheelbarrow." What do you think?

You'll notice that there is no punctuation and that no words within the poem are capitalized. You'll also notice that, in each couplet, the first line is way longer than the second line, making it appear (visually) as though the first line depends upon the second line, or as though the second line supports the first. Only 14 words and 19 syllables form the bones of this poem. Our speaker uses enjambment to break up words like "wheelbarrow" and "rainwater" and to keep our eye moving from one line to the next. Do you feel like there is a lot of movement in this poem, or do you feel like it is pretty static?

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