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Analysis Of “Those Winter Sundays” by Robert Hayden

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“Those Winter Sundays” by Robert Hayden describes a relationship between father and son. It shares many different emotions such as unconditional love, fear, regret, ungratefulness, compassion, and hate. Hayden makes this work very relatable to us, possibly making us reflect on our relationships with our own parents. Almost all relationships do come with some sort of complication, but it is important to know that complication can be overcome and to never take someone you love for granted. In “Those Winter Sundays”, Hayden describes to us what a winter Sunday was like in his childhood home. By reading this first stanza we can make many observations about the speaker and his father. “Sundays too” implies that Sunday, along with all days of the week, his father does these things. For many, Sunday is a day of rest, but not for his father. “Blueblack cold” shows imagery of just how cold it is during the morning time. Instead of just saying blue or black cold, the author combines to the two to make it more effective.

Just hearing the term gives us a feeling of extreme chill. The “blueblack cold” also can be used as a metaphor to describe the son’s emotion, telling us that he feels cold and even miserable through his childhood. “Then with cracked hands that ached from labor in the weekday weather made banked fires blaze” tell us that the father is very hard working. His hands are not just dry like most people’s hands would be after they have been in the cold, but they are cracked. By this observation, the father is doing physical labor is that is probably taking place outdoors, in the low temperatures. “Banked fires blaze,” means that father is getting up in the morning to heat the home and make sure it is warm for his family. The final line of the first stanza, “No one ever thanked him” gives us sense of ungratefulness from the members of the family. The past tense of the poem shows a sense of regret from the speaker, that he should have been more appreciative of his father.

The second stanza reads, “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 angers of the house.” The first line “I’d wake and hear the splintering, breaking” reinforces how cold it is in the morning, but that it is not as cold as “blueblack cold” as his father describes. The splintering and cracking can be thought of as figurative language, because the cold cannot actually be broken. The fact that the speaker gets to slowly rise and dress convinces us as readers that he is in no rush, and does not have duties to get done, unlike his father. The last line of the stanza “Chronic angers of the house” shows that there is definitely some hostility in the home. We are not sure why this is but the word “chronic” is a revealing word to use in this line. Chronic is usually referred to when discussing a certain disease, and it is reoccurring. So even though we don’t know what these angers are, we know that they are making the speaker unhappy and scared, and apparently have been going on for some time.

The final stanza contains a lot of emotion from the speaker. The first line where the speaker says he is speaking indifferently to his father may mean he is being rude and cold, much like the weather that is described. In the next two lines, the fact that his father polished his good shoes shows that his father truly does care. Love can be revealed in many ways. Hugs and kisses are ways of showing compassion, as is telling someone how much you care about them verbally, but that is not the case in this poem. Instead of doing these things the father makes sure his family is warm in the mornings and polishes his son’s shoes. The last two lines read, “What did I know, what did I know of love’s austere and lonely offices.”

These lines tell us that the older son is now looking back and realizing how much more grateful he should have been for everything his father did for him. The fact that the line “what did I know” is repeated may give us a hint that he can no longer thank his father for being there for him. The word “austere” means harsh and “offices” can be known as an obligation. It seems that the speaker is now looking back on his childhood and everything that happened. He also realizes that love is taking care of family and important people in life, even if gratitude is not given in return. “Those Winter Sundays” shows us that things loved ones do for one another is sometimes not fully recognized until it is too late.

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