William Carlos Williams- The Young Housewife

After reading this poem there are a few things that I noticed that I would like to point out. First of all who is this man watching the housewife? Do we get the sense that he is an ex lover?

Secondly, I would like the reference the barriers that are talked about in this poem. In the first stanza the woman is “behind/the wooden walls of her husband’s house.” If we do take the lens that this is an ex lover writing the poem this barrier could be seen in several ways. It would be the literal walls of the house, but also the barriers that her husband creates between the housewife and the speaker. In the second stanza we see the housewife come to the curb. Could this curb also be seen as a barrier between her and the speaker? If so, then it is very different than that of the walls. One cannot walk through a wall, but one can step over a curb. Again through the lens that there is a romantic connection between the housewife and the speaker, while the woman is in her husband house, she is prevented from going to the speaker, however at the curb there is a sort of danger in the fact all she has to do is step over the curb to see the man watching her. Thoughts??

My closing point that I would like to make is about the leaf that is present throughout the poem. In the 2nd stanza that housewife is compared to a fallen leaf. But in the next stanza the speaker talks about running over dried leaves and smiling. Do you think there is any significance to the reappearance of the leaves? What type of commentary could this be making on the relationship between the speaker and the housewife?

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One Response to William Carlos Williams- The Young Housewife

  1. Laura Welch says:

    In response to your question about the relationship between the housewife and the speaker, the first time through I thought that there was no connection and all of the barriers referenced in the poem where an indication of the distance/separation between their two lives. But when I read through it again, I thought about the line in which he compares her to a fallen leaf, and I thought that this might be a way of indicating a loss of beauty and a loss of life. When contrasted with the dried leaves he runs over at the end, this made me think that maybe he had known her or known of her when she was young beautiful, before she had become a “fallen leaf”. I think that the leaves represent the passage of time and the cycle of life. The poem is about a young housewife, and generally when you think of a housewife, you don’t think of the word young. Maybe he compares her to a fallen leaf because although she is young, marriage has taken youth from her, made her mature, and soon she will be just like the dried leaves he ran over. Maybe his running over the leaves was representative of the end of his distant admiration of the young housewife.

    One thing I wondered about was the relevance of the reference to the ice-man and the fish-man. Is there any relevance?

    What is the significance of the “noiseless wheels of my car” and the contrast of the “crackling sound of dried leaves”?

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