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The Red Wheelbarrow

The Red Wheelbarrow


by William Carlos Williams

The Red Wheelbarrow Summary

Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.

Line 1

so much depends

  • Our speaker doesn't say "much depends" or "things depend" or "I depend," he says "so much depends." That "so" makes us feel the gravity of the situation. It's as though our speaker really wants and needs to drive the point home.
  • The verb "depends" is a strong one too, and one that suggest a that whatever is being depended upon is a pretty big deal.

Line 2


  • "Upon" – what a pretty preposition. And an important one too. So important, in fact, that it gets its very own line.
  • Visually (on the page) the first line of the poem (which is way longer than this line) actually looks like it's resting upon the "upon" of line two. The first line depends upon this second line. Hehe.

Line 3

a red wheel

  • A brand new couplet. We're dying to know what "so much" depends upon – drum roll, please. So much depends upon "a red wheel."
  • A red wheel? We haven't seen too many red wheels in our days.
  • The use of the word "red" really gets our imaginations going, for some reason. We hear the word "red" all the time, but for some reason, this color really sticks out in this poem. Why do you think that is?

Line 4


  • Oh! It's a red "wheelbarrow," not a red wheel. Our speaker just chose to split the word "wheel" and "barrow" up and didn't put a dash between them.
  • By splitting up the two pieces of this word, our speaker makes us think about the fact that a wheelbarrow is composed of two distinct parts: the wheel and the barrow (the part you load stuff into). In some ways, we feel like this couplet looks like a wheelbarrow.
  • OK, now that we've figured out what "so much" depends upon, we're dying to know what kinds of things depend upon a red wheelbarrow. Um, dirt could depend upon a wheelbarrow. Six-year-olds who like to be pushed around in wheelbarrows could depend upon a wheelbarrow. A person who likes to do heavy gardening could depend upon a wheelbarrow.
  • What else could depend upon a wheelbarrow? It might help to do some research on wheelbarrows. Apparently, they've been around for almost 2,500 years and were invented in Ancient Greece.
  • Why is it important that this particular wheelbarrow is "red"? The redness factor seems to play a huge part in just how cool this wheelbarrow is.

Line 5

glazed with rain

  • A new couplet!
  • The word "glazed" makes us think of a shiny, glossy, glassy surface. Our wheelbarrow is sparkly from the rain.
  • Who left this VIP wheelbarrow out in the rain? Talk about neglect. If we owned a red wheelbarrow upon which much depended, we would take better care of it.
  • But the idea that it is "glazed with rain" makes us think that it looks pretty snappy.

Line 6


  • Again, we have a one-word line, making it seem like the first line of this couplet (line 5) depends upon this section line.
  • Again, our speaker decides to split up the word "rainwater" into its equal parts: "rain" and "water." Why would he do this? Perhaps to remind us that rain is composed of water?

Line 7

beside the white

  • A new couplet! Here, we're introduced to yet another snappy preposition: "beside."
  • We're given some more information about where our red wheelbarrow is and about the things around it. Apparently, our red wheelbarrow is standing beside something white.
  • Talk about one colorful poem. We see the color "white" all the time in our daily lives, but there's something special about this "white," just as there is something special about the wheelbarrow's "red." These colors are sticking out in our minds.

Line 8


  • The wheelbarrow is not alone! Thank heavens. There are chickens to hang out with.
  • We think it is interesting that the speaker refers to these chickens as "the white chickens" and not as "some white chickens" or "the chickens." He wants to describe them very carefully and very precisely. These are some special chickens.
  • Again, the second line of this couplet looks (visually) as though it were holding up or supporting the first line, emphasizing the idea that so much depends upon the wheelbarrow.
  • Are these chickens part of the "so much" that depends upon the red wheelbarrow? What kind of relationship do you think these chickens have with said wheelbarrow?

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