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“Those Winter Sundays” by Robert Hayden Essay

Perhaps the poem is a description of the coziness and the joy of Sundays during winter; a time for indoors, family, hot chocolate, etc. I expect much imagery pertaining to cold weather, togetherness, and other winter wonderland type visuals. The word “those” is used to describe the winter Sundays, so therefore it is looked at as a common topic. Paraphrase: Both the son and his father got up early on Sundays, his father put his clothes on in the cold, and with his aching, cracked hands from the labor and weather, he put on the fire, and no one thanked him. The son woke up to feel the cold break with the fire, and his father called him when it was warm, he would dress, so that his father would not lecture him. The son spoke indifferently to the man who drove out the cold and polished his shoes. He explains that he didn’t know of love’s austere and lonely offices. Speaker: The speaker could be Robert Hayden himself, describing his regret for not appreciating his loving father.

He is depicted in the poem as a little boy, oblivious to his father’s hard work and care and only concern about his dislike for the lectures. He regrets “speaking indifferently” (10) to his father and explains, “What did I know, what did I know of love…” (13). Figurative Language:` In the first stanza there is much repetition of consonants, “The blueblack cold, with cracked hands that ached, from labor in the weekday weather made banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him” (2-5). Consonance in the repetition of the sound, “ck” emphasizes the severity and hardness of work the father endured and sad truth that he wasn’t thanked. In the second stanza the sound “ing” is repeated to show that the cold in the house broke with the crack of the fire that the father produced; “the cold splintering, breaking” (6). Synesthesia is used in the second line of the first stanza; “put on his clothes in the blueblack cold.”

Here, one sense is used to describe another; “cold” is something you feel and it is described as a color (sight). This gives the impression of what the cold looks rather that how it feels. In the first line of the second stanza; “I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking” (6), both anthropomorphism and symbolism. The cold is described to splinter and break; traits of lifeless humans as opposed to personification where it is given human traits. The “cold splintering and breaking” symbolizes end to the coldness of the house, now that the speaker’s father heated it; it shows the love and care that the father has for his child. In the end, after the son describes all that his father did for him on “those winter Sundays,” he repeats, “what did I know, what did I know, of love’s austere and lonely offices?” (13-14).

The speaker repeats “what did I know” to show his guilt and great regret that he did know that the whole time his father did that out of pure love and care. Attitude/ Tone: The speaker is reflective over what his father did during “those winter Sundays” and expresses his regret. He is remorseful, exclaiming that he did not know what austere love was and gives a self-loathing tone when he says, “speaking indifferently to him, who had driven out the cold” (10). He spoke badly to his father when his father warmed him and cared for him. He know notices the detail of his father’s nobleness and the sacrifices he made, while as just a kid he would only notice the “chronic angers” of the house (9).

The son describes his father as a hero who labored and worked hard, and he is shameful that he did not realize it then. Shifts: First the son creates imagery of his father and his work; “Sundays too my father got up early and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold, then with cracked hands that ached from labor in the weekday weather made blanked fires blaze” (1-5). He immediately gives a shameful statement; “No one ever thanked him” (5); the son is talking about himself. Then he’d go back to describing what his father did for him. “When the rooms were warm he’d call…” then again explains is naive feeling that he feared the “chronic angers.”

He continues to tell of his regretful actions then shifts to a greater remorseful tone when he exclaims his not knowing of the love his father showed him. Title: The poem is indeed about “those winter Sundays”, however it is about a boy who describes a hard-working almost heroic father laboring to care for his son by keeping him warm during winter, while his hands ached and cracked and the son’s regret for being unappreciative.

Theme:The main themes of this poem are love and regret. The son states his great regret for being unable to see the love his father had for him. Since he was a boy he did not know what austere love was he only believed that his father was “chronically angry” and not doing things out of love. The father loved his son by keeping him warm, and making sure his shoes were polished, ready for church, however the son, only a boy, does not notice. Grown up, the boy is remorseful over this, and wishes he knew better, so that he could love and appreciate his father more.


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