The Representation of Art in William Carlos Williams' Poem The Rose
"The rose is obsolete." (line 1) The rose is no longer of use, out-dated, and out-moded. Modernists felt the same way about the traditional and accepted art of the early nineteen hundreds.
Roses are given to people so often. Who among us does not attach some type of personal significance to the image of a rose? I would venture to say that no one has not given, been given, or wished to give or receive a rose. Roses are delivered from florists by the dozen during all holiday seasons, for anniversaries, for apologies, for courting. . . And it is in this obsessive usage that the meaning of the rose has been exploited. What delivers more feeling - a single red rose bought at the corner gas station, or a single tiger lily personally chosen for its recipient? Yet, the rose remains the flower of choice to express romantic feelings. Perhaps the suitor is too nervous to go against popular beliefs, perhaps he feels that popular belief is so because it is right, or perhaps he is unaware that another option even exists. Perhaps he is unable to explore the different types of self expression that are available for him.
Modernists at the beginning of the century were faced by oppositional forces much like this young suitor. They strove to express their art in a much freer format then their predecessors. In trying "to avoid grandiosity and pompous themes" (Carroll, 185) they often explored simple themes in creative ways and always shocked the reader into thinking about life in a new way. This was a time of great change for America, yet the artistic expression, before the Modernists' intervention, remained cold and stale. An ...
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...rn view has healed its wounds, returning it to a healthy (and useful) condition. Finally, the last line shows that the emotions linked with the rose may be timelessly portrayed if done so in new and different ways. While traditional art is "obsolete" (line 1), modern art "penetrates space." (line 42)
Carroll, Lorrayne. “Carlos Williams.” American Poetry: The Modernist Ideal. Ed. Clive Bloom and Brian Docherty. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1995.
Levertov, Denise and William Carlos Williams. The Letters of Denise Levertov and William Carlos Williams. Ed. Christopher MacGowan. New York: New Directions, 1998.
Williams, William Carlos. The William Carlos Williams Reader. Ed. M.L. Rosenthal. New York: New Directions, 1966.
---. Interviews with William Carlos Williams. Ed. Linda Welshimer Wagner. New York: New Directions, 1976.