Analysis of "Those Winter Sundays" by Robert Hayden
I thoroughly enjoyed this poem. "Those Winter Sundays" is proof that great writing does not have to come from excessive wordiness or particularly lengthy adjectives. The speaker does an excellent job of conveying the bleak conditions that the father endured on “those winter Sundays” (title). It is interesting how the speaker assumes an almost omniscient yet ignorant point of view at the same time. The poem starts by talking about the miserable circumstances that the father went through, yet the speaker acknowledges his own indifference (l. 10) and listlessness.
I picture a fairly young father (aged 28-32) with a young child or two sitting at home reflecting on his childhood a few months after his father’s funeral. The speaker now realizes just how much the parent went through and just how oblivious he/she was to it all. By recognizing the face that he or she was oblivious to the acts of love (l. 13-14), the speaker begins to attain a glimpse of that selfless service.
Many fathers are similar. They do not necessarily provide for their families through manual labor, nor do many families own coal stoves, but these fathers still work so hard. They hold quality jobs and are able to influence the lives of people at their work, in their neighborhoods and communities, and at church or in other organizations. They may travel often and their time at home is often encroached upon by seemingly parasitic individuals who always seem to be having the crisis of the century. Still, amid myriad responsibilities and duties these fathers find time for the family. Our fathers can be excellent role models.
How do you feel about this poem?
Imagery and Emotion in "Those Winter Sundays"
Hayden uses clear, powerful images in this poem. He speaks of the cold as "splintering" and "breaking" and "blueback". He speaks of "cracked hands that ached". He ends with a question, filled with remorse: "What did I know of love's austere and lonely offices?" We get a sense for just how cold it was and how much his father sacrificed. By using such vivid imagery, Robert Hayden sucks us into the poem and allows us to feel empathy for his father and also to feel his shame and regret. Many of us can relate to these images and emotions.
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I will never know how much both he and my mother have done for me. They have sacrificed opportunities and comforts on end. When I see my dad undergo acts of service that go entirely unrecognized, I marvel at the fact that he never seeks for acclamations. I am blown away by his humility. I just have feel so much emotion for the father in the poem when the speaker talks of his “cracked hands that ached” (l. 3). If more service were rendered in this world, and if more people were grateful for it, what a wonderful place we’d live in.
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