To be able to analyze the elements used by William Carlos William´s in his poem: “The Red Wheelbarrow”, we must first understand these two literary and poetic movements that affected the way that literature was written from the end of the 19th century to the 20th century.
First, modernism is a literary movement that originates at the end of the 19th century and influences most of the 20th century, especially writers from Europe and North America. In essence, modernism was born from the philosophical principles and ideals set forth by such thinkers as Sigmund Freud and Ernst Mach and it believes that literature needed to break off from the traditions and ideals that had been present in the past. Particularly, they were very much influenced by the aftereffects of World War I and believed in going into a simpler form of writing, more concise and direct and less filled with prose and abstract ideas. On the other hand lies Imagism, an Anglo-American 20th century movement that affected poetry mostly and helped to jumpstart modernism in literature. In essence, Imagism believed in the need to break off from certain poetic traditions that had been set during the Romantic and Victorian eras, they proposed a much simpler use of verse forms, instituting the free verse style, and believed in the need for the use of more direct and simpler images and an economy of language. Finally, they believed in the observation and importance of underlining the characteristics and essence of a single object through the simplification of the elements that make part of said object. One example, in another form of art, would be Cubism. One of the most important representatives of this movement, precisely, was William Carlos Williams.
In the poem, The Red Wheelbarrow, you can see these elements proposed by both the modernists and imagists. It is a really short poem, each stanza with only two lines, with a single object being identified and mentioned; the wheelbarrow. All focus is on this particular element and all defining objects around it only serve to underline the characteristics that make it up. There is also the use of very simple language, very simple imagery and a freestyle that makes its reading lead you to think of only one thing: the wheelbarrow.