“The red wheelbarrow” and “This is just to say,” are excellent examples of imagery poetry. The poems create images in the reader’s mind, which convey the poet’s message. However, imagery poetry creates varied visions in people’s minds. As a result, readers would come up with a variety of analysis and explanations of a similar text. In this context, Williams uses precise words and sentence combinations to present the themes of love, simplicity, perseverance, regret, guilt, and temptation.
Prior to writing the red wheelbarrow poem, Williams had a meeting with an old Negro fisherman who caught porgies in Gloucester. The fisherman packed fish in freezing weather but claimed he never felt cold. It was during a visit to the old man’s home that he caught sight of a red wheelbarrow with white chicken surrounding it. This scene was the key inspiration for the writing of this poem. The starting phrase, “so much depends upon,” sets the tone for the entire poem and reveals a state of necessity.
The first part, “so much depends,” makes the reader feel the gravity of the situation. It informs the reader that a lot relies on the object of the poem without disclosing the object instantly. The phrase creates suspense leaving the reader wondering what depends on what and why? It is only in the subsequent phrase, “the red wheelbarrow,” that the reader identifies the object. William separates the words wheel and barrow to create emphasis on the two parts of a wheelbarrow; a wheel and a barrow.
The first four lines of the poem create the theme of simplicity. A wheelbarrow is a farm tool which usually performs what some would call dirty work such as the collection of manure. The old Negro fisherman could have used it to carry fish. The old fisherman depended on the wheelbarrow because it provided him with a livelihood. Often, we regard some things in life with less importance while they mean so much to others.
The fifth and sixth phrases “glazed with rainwater” depicts negligence as the reader understands that the wheelbarrow has been left out in the rain. However, the word “glazed” creates an image of a shiny surface that brings out the red color of the wheelbarrow in a pronounced manner and portrays it in a positive tone. Despite the rain beating on the wheelbarrow, it still appears smooth, shiny and appealing. This emphasizes the theme of perseverance. The water glazing the wheelbarrow gives the seemingly ordinary wheelbarrow an entirely new look.
Thus, the poem makes a transition from simplicity to a theme of perseverance. The old fisherman worked in ice-cold weather but did not feel the cold. He persevered in the harsh conditions to the extent that he believed he never felt cold. Finally, “besides the white chicken” describes the presence of white chicken standing next to the wheelbarrow. The reader wonders why the chickens choose that position. Is it something on, beneath or near the wheelbarrow? Whichever way, the author reveals that the chickens need the wheelbarrow.
The wheelbarrow could have been a source of shelter for the chickens. The wheelbarrow protects the chickens from the rain, and when the rain stops, they emerge into the open. In addition, the chickens betray a farm setting which emphasizes on the significance of the wheelbarrow in that household. This answers the reader’s question on what depends so much on the wheelbarrow. Hence, clears the suspense and gives the reader an understanding of the entire poem.
“This is just to say,” creates much room for interpretation seeing that it appears to be a blend of an assortment of themes ranging from love, frustration, temptation, guilt, regret, and revenge. The poem appears to the reader like a note left somewhere for another to read in the writer’s absence, probably because of the guilt the writer felt in eating the plums. The phrase, “I have eaten the plums,” is a means of owning up to the mistake the writer has made in eating the plums. However, it could also be a way of bragging to the owner of the plums and rubbing it on his or her face.
The statement raises the overlapping themes of guilt and revenge. A strong wave of guilt gnaws on the writer making him admit to eating the plums, which acknowledges the reader that eating the plums is wrong. Admitting one’s mistake is the first step in asking for pardon. Thus, the opening statement signifies that a request for forgiveness follows. On the other hand, the owner of the plum could have offended the writer, which led him to eat the plums, as a way of getting back at the plum owner.
The subsequent sentence “that were in the icebox” makes the reader realize the importance of the plums to the owner. It defeats logic to keep a perishable and edible item, which one does not treasure, in an icebox. The owner preserves the plums for them to remain fresh and cold and intends for consumers to enjoy eating them. If the plum owner wants the eater to enjoy, then the owner treasures the plum eater. The action of preserving the plums displays a theme of love as the owner keeps the plums for a loved one. The expression, “and which you were probably saving for breakfast,” emphasizes the value of that breakfast meal since it is possible the eater is only present during breakfast.
The theme of love leads precedes the theme of regret, which overlaps with that of temptation in, “forgive me, they were delicious.” The writer feels sorry he ate the plums but implies that he could not help eating them. The reader cannot tell the reason why the writer ate the plums as the subsequent lines, “they were delicious, so sweet and so cold,” could only have been felt after consuming the plums. The overlapping themes that appear in subsequent sentences bring complexity to the nature of the entire poem.
There is no concrete answer on whether there is a profound meaning to the poem, which is represented by the act of eating the plums. If the writer ate the plums, then it is not clear whether he is sorry or just saving himself from the blame. In support of the theme of revenge, the writer gives an intimate description of the plums as, “delicious, so sweet and cold,” to make the plum owner know what he or she just missed.
In conclusion, this essay has shown how Williams presents different themes in his works by using two of his works: “The red wheelbarrow” and “This is just to say.” The paper has demonstrated how the author uses precise words and sentence combination to express the themes of love, simplicity, perseverance, regret, guilt, and temptation.