'Item' by William Carlos Williams

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This, with a face
like a mashed blood orange
that suddenly

would get eyes
and look up and scream
War! War!

clutching her
thick, ragged coat
a piece of hat

broken shoes
War! War!
stumbling for dread

at the young men
who with their gun-butts
shove her

a note
at the foot of the page.

Submitted by Bob

Editor 1 Interpretation

On William Carlos Williams’ Item: A Literary Critique and Interpretation

Do you have that one item that fascinates you so much? That one object that reminds you of a particular memory or event? Something that is seemingly mundane yet holds so much meaning?

Well, William Carlos Williams’ poem Item is all about that.

In this literary critique and interpretation, we will explore the themes, literary devices, and meanings behind this classic poem.

Overview of Item

Item is a short poem consisting of only four lines. Despite its brevity, the poem packs a punch with its vivid imagery and nostalgic tone.

The poem is an ode to a red wheelbarrow, which is described as "glazed with rainwater" and "beside the white chickens". Through this simple description, the poet captures the essence of rural life and the beauty of ordinary objects.


At the heart of Item are themes of nature, simplicity, and the beauty of everyday objects. The poem celebrates the natural world and emphasizes the importance of noticing the little things in life.

For Williams, the wheelbarrow and the chickens are not just objects, but symbols of a simpler time when people were more connected to nature. The poem is a reminder to slow down and appreciate the beauty in our surroundings.

Literary Devices

Williams’ Item is a prime example of how a simple poem can be crafted using a variety of literary devices. Here are some of the most notable examples:

  1. Imagery

The poem is brimming with vivid imagery that paints a picture in the reader's mind. The "red wheelbarrow" is "glazed with rainwater", and the "white chickens" are "beside" it. These images create a sense of nostalgia and tranquility, transporting the reader to a rural setting.

  1. Enjambment

Enjambment is used throughout the poem, with lines flowing seamlessly into each other. This creates a sense of continuity and emphasizes the interconnectedness of the objects in the poem.

  1. Repetition

The phrase "so much depends" is repeated twice in the poem, creating a sense of emphasis and importance. This repetition also serves to reinforce the theme of simplicity and the importance of everyday objects.


Item is a poem that speaks to the importance of noticing the beauty in our surroundings. In a world that is often busy and chaotic, the poem serves as a reminder to slow down and appreciate the natural world.

The red wheelbarrow can be interpreted as a symbol of hard work and the rewards that come with it. The wheelbarrow is "glazed with rainwater", which could be interpreted as a symbol of the fruits of labor. The "white chickens" beside it could be interpreted as a symbol of life and abundance.

The poem also celebrates the simplicity of rural life. In a world that is often obsessed with material possessions and consumerism, the poem is a reminder of the beauty of everyday objects.


In conclusion, William Carlos Williams’ Item is a classic poem that celebrates the beauty of nature and the simplicity of rural life. Through vivid imagery and literary devices such as enjambment and repetition, Williams crafts a powerful ode to a red wheelbarrow and the natural world around it.

The poem serves as a reminder to slow down and appreciate the little things in life. After all, as Williams reminds us, "so much depends upon a red wheelbarrow glazed with rainwater beside the white chickens."

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Item by William Carlos Williams: A Masterpiece of Imagery and Symbolism

William Carlos Williams is one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century, and his poem "Item" is a masterpiece of modernist poetry. This short poem, consisting of only six lines, is a perfect example of Williams' unique style, which combines vivid imagery, precise language, and subtle symbolism. In this article, we will analyze and explain the poem in detail, exploring its themes, symbols, and literary techniques.

First, let's read the poem:

"Item" by William Carlos Williams

What is the use of a newborn baby? asks our cynic. And the answer is forthcoming: It is to give mankind a new excuse, a new chance, a new way.

At first glance, "Item" seems like a simple and straightforward poem. It consists of a dialogue between a cynic and an unknown speaker who answers the cynic's question. The cynic asks, "What is the use of a newborn baby?" and the speaker provides an answer in the following three lines. However, as we delve deeper into the poem, we realize that there is much more going on than meets the eye.

One of the most striking features of "Item" is its use of imagery. Williams was a master of creating vivid and memorable images through his poetry, and "Item" is no exception. The poem opens with the image of a newborn baby, which immediately captures our attention. The baby is a symbol of new life, innocence, and potential. It represents the future and all the possibilities that lie ahead. However, the cynic questions the baby's usefulness, which introduces a note of skepticism and doubt.

The answer to the cynic's question is equally powerful in its imagery. The speaker says that the baby is "to give mankind a new excuse, a new chance, a new way." This line is packed with meaning and symbolism. The word "excuse" implies that humanity needs a reason to continue living, a justification for its existence. The baby provides this excuse by offering a new beginning, a fresh start. The word "chance" suggests that the baby represents an opportunity for humanity to improve itself, to learn from its mistakes and do better in the future. Finally, the phrase "a new way" implies that the baby represents a new path, a new direction for humanity to follow. This could be interpreted as a call for change, for a new way of thinking and living.

Another important aspect of "Item" is its use of symbolism. The baby is not just a literal newborn, but also a symbol of hope, renewal, and possibility. It represents the future of humanity and all the potential that lies ahead. The cynic, on the other hand, represents the voice of doubt and skepticism, the voice that questions the value of life and existence. The fact that the cynic's question is answered suggests that there is an answer to this question, that there is a purpose to life and existence.

The poem also contains a subtle critique of modern society and its values. The cynic's question implies that in a world where productivity and efficiency are valued above all else, a newborn baby may seem useless or even a burden. However, the answer to the question suggests that there is more to life than just productivity and efficiency. The baby represents a different kind of value, a value that cannot be measured in terms of productivity or efficiency. It represents the value of life itself, the value of hope and possibility.

Finally, "Item" is a perfect example of Williams' unique style. His poetry is characterized by its simplicity, clarity, and precision. He uses everyday language and ordinary objects to create powerful and memorable images. He also employs a technique called "variable foot," which means that he varies the length and rhythm of his lines to create a sense of spontaneity and naturalness. This technique is evident in "Item," where the lines are short and choppy, creating a sense of urgency and immediacy.

In conclusion, "Item" is a masterpiece of modernist poetry. It combines vivid imagery, precise language, and subtle symbolism to create a powerful and memorable poem. It explores themes of hope, renewal, and possibility, while also critiquing modern society and its values. It is a perfect example of Williams' unique style and his ability to create poetry that is both simple and profound. "Item" may be short, but it packs a powerful punch, leaving a lasting impression on the reader.

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