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Those Winter Sundays: Poetic Analysis

Updated on May 8, 2017

The Poem by Robert Hayden


Initial Thoughts

How do all fathers do to sustain the needs of their family? Such rhetorical question will need further discussions how the fathers in the world work so hard to feed, protect, and save their family members. They even struggle to feed their family members, send their children to the colleges and universities, and protect them from harm. Such great acts are manifested in the poem “Those Winter Sundays,” which Robert Hayden wishes to remember a meaningful moment in his youthful days. He even ruminates the challenges that his father did to feed and save them. Though Hayden’s poem illustrates a binary standpoint between the view of a young boy who remembers his childhood days and a father who realizes his actions now, such a vivid poem essentially reveals its poetic control that educates the readers how the persona harks back to the contemporary days of his life.

Robert Hayden's Those Winter Sundays


Anticipated Implication of the Poem

Hayden’s poem educates the readers concerning the father’s love of the family and the filial responsibility. In fact, it abruptly begins with the word “too” in the first line of the first stanza, which highlights an action previously and habitually performed. Again, the word “too” already makes a strong point that the father undertakes a hard labor even during Sundays. As the persona mentions that his father gets up early even on Sundays, the readers understand that the father abandons his rest day even his family and church days. Nevertheless, most of the readers realize how difficult the father does to sustain the needs of his family members and to provide their needs. The line of the poem that emphasizes the father’s action “to make the house warm before his family members wake up” manifests the truth that a father will always trade his leisure time over the needs and wants of his children (Hayden, First Stanza). Most parents, particularly the fathers, are willing to exhaust themselves to work for the family. In the poem’s most revealing scenario, the family members forget to thank the head and pillar of the households. If readers will take this stanza seriously and evidently, they can recognize the central theme that the father in the poem does not receive any appreciation and gratitude “No one ever thanked him” (Hayden, First Stanza, Line 5). Regardless of the message, Hayden’s poem teaches the readers to understand how fathers in the world make a living in order to be responsible for the needs of their family members.

Narrator’s Reaction towards his Father

At some points in life, Hayden’s poem chooses the children’s perspective about blame and sorrow. The persona, whom readers may presume to be a young boy, feels remorse upon the actions he portrays towards his father. In the second stanza of the poem, the persona evokes a biting memory or may be an interaction between the father and the persona, “I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking / When the rooms were warm, he’d call, / and slowly I would rise and dress, / fearing the chronic anger of that house” (Hayden, Stanza 2, Lines 6-9). Based on the second stanza, the persona emotionally feels upset or “angry” of the status quo of his life. It may be ambiguous to determine whether the persona really hates his father of leaving them for work even Sundays or he dislikes the circumstance that his father cannot accompany him or the family during Sundays. Whatever it is, the poem’s choice of words is quite vivid that the persona demonstrates a negative behavior towards his father. As the persona “speaks indifferently to his father,” he exhibits a character that does not convey a positive outlook in life (Hayden, Stanza 3, and Line 10). In effect, the persona feels such guilt now, and he recalls how bad he is. He imagines his debauched actions now, and he wishes to change his behavior if such opportunities allow. Conversely, such chance does not happen as it takes time for him to recognize his shame.

Sense of Realization

Throughout the poem “Those Winter Sundays,” the persona realizes his bad manners and attempts to make up for his father. As he does fully forget to appreciate his father’s work schedule and hard labor, his personal reaction to his father’s deeds illustrates a serious insight. He does not care about his father’s actions and endeavors. Even if his father wakes up early morning, makes the house warm for the family, and polishes his shoes, he ignores those appointments because he acts like a child. However, he tries to comfort himself by stating that he does not know everything. He claims that he does not have a mature viewpoint in life and that he defends himself by saying, “What did I know, what did I know / of love’s austere and lonely offices” (Hayden, Stanza 3). Indeed, this poem reveals a very significant point in life about appreciating and paying much attention to the persons who value them the most. The persona apprehends this thought and wishes to correct them if he possibly can. Nonetheless, he thrives on understanding that his childish actions keep him forever unless he forgives himself. If he does that, he can move on to the next stage of life.

Final Thoughts

Indeed, most of the fathers in the world, if not all, work so hard to sustain the needs of their family. Their fatherly obligations, which they need to look after, care for and protect their family members, manifest their greatest accomplishments for their everyday routine. As they fulfill their filial and moral duties, they never expect anything in return. Like the father in the poem, all fathers should do the same deeds, which the persona of the poem remembers his youthful days. However, the persona feels embarrassed of his actions of not thanking his father. Without a doubt, this poem becomes a reminder that children should appreciate the works of their fathers and their struggles to make them survive the challenges of life.

Written by Marlon C. Pagon

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