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Analysis of Robert Hayden’s poem “Those Winter Sundays” Essay

In “Those Winter Sundays” by Robert Hayden the story between the speaker and the father embraces the ideas of unseen love and the speaker’s regret. The poem is a result of the speaker’s reflection on his or her past experiences with his or her father. Hayden shows all the little things the father does, and how the speaker takes it for granted that the father just kind of did those things. Looking back, the speaker has now realized and understands what the father really had gone through for him. The descriptions Hayden uses expresses to the reader both the love of the father and the regret from the speaker’s reflection.

Hayden goes into detailed explanations of examples of the father’s devoted love. His love isn’t shown through hugs and kisses, but through caring little things that bring happiness to the speaker’s day. This happiness can be seen by the regret the speaker shows when he says things like, “No one ever thanked him”(5). The father’s devotion is seen in lines 3-5, “with cracked hands that ached from labor in the weekday weather made banked fires blaze”(3-5). It is evident that the father, regardless of his own cares, makes the effort on those winter Sundays to try to make things a little easier for the speaker. Unseen by the speaker, the loving father has gotten up early and brought warmth into their home, and into the speaker’s day. Also, in line 12, “and polished my good shoes as well”(12), the feeling once again is presented of this father doing all he can to take care of the speaker, and show his love through his actions.

This unseen love can also be noticed in the speaker’s thoughts. This poem is a reflection of his or her regret for not having been more thankful towards this man who cared so much for him or her. Once again line 5 shows us just how regretful the speaker was, “No one ever thanked him”(5). The use of the exaggerative word, ever, just shows how now the speaker has realized his folly and regrets not being more loving towards the father in turn. Also, in line 10 the word “indifferently” further points out the speaker’s realization. In the second to last line “What did I know, What did I know”(13), it seems like the speaker is almost scolding himself for this indifference. This line also especially exemplifies the speaker’s regrets. It almost seems like they’re are wailing over the fact that they had not been more loving because of the repetition of the question.

So, the unseen love of the speaker is not present directly in the poem’s text, but can be felt through further analyzation of the poem as one full of regret. Maybe the speaker had not realized this love do to the lack of communication between himself and the father. Line 9, “fearing the chronic angers of that house”(9) makes it seem like the father showed “tough love.” His intentions were always good, but maybe he pushed the speaker too hard and led to some lack in communication. This lack of a relationship with the father could be just another reason for the speaker’s regret.

“Those Winter Sundays” presents both directly and indirectly the idea of unseen love. Directly when talking about the fathers actions, and indirectly through the reminiscing of the speaker. This poem in its entirety is about regret for taking for granted the love of the father, and not having returned that love, or shared a better relationship with the father.


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