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American poet, Robert Hayden wrote, “Those Winter Sundays” as a memory from his childhood. Reflecting on his past from the voice of a child who fears his father. As an adult, he now has a clearer picture of what his father endured, and the sacrifices he made. A father who loves his family unconditionally and performs selfless acts for them. Robert Hayden in “Those Winter Sundays” explains through tone, imagery, and symbolism of a father’s love that will sacrifice for his family and does not demand reciprocity. The tone is sadness and regret, as Hayden remembers back to when he was growing up. He feels regret for not appreciating his father enough and all that he has done for the family. In the tone, the boy speaks of his father, “Speaking indifferently to him, who had driven out the cold/ and polished my good shoes as well”.
The speaker has remorse in the manner he spoke to the one who sacrificed his mornings to keep the home warm. He can polish his shoes, but his father does it because he cherishes his son. The boy remembers that no one gave appreciation to the man of the house. The thought occurs to him, “No one ever thanked him”. There is sadness in the tone, as Hayden understands that neither he nor another household member expressed their gratitude. The father would wake up before the sun rose to tend to the need of the family. Sacrificing his mornings, the father prepares the day for his loved ones even though they did not thank him. Newell 2Robert Hayden’s usages of imagery help to visualize that the father’s first priority is his family. Foremost, the speaker says, “put his clothes on in the blueblack cold”.
Hayden paints an image that the day has yet to begin. The father gets up before the sun in the winter mornings to warm the house for his family, that they will not have to live in a cold house. He does not want his household to have to wake up in the same freezing temperatures he endured. Before the boy’s day starts, “I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking”. As the speaker stays in his home, he can hear his father chopping wood. A visual image creates an arduous, frigid setting that shows hardships the father endured. The father demonstrates his love as he rises early to push out the cold. Additionally, symbolism represents the meaning behind what Hayden is saying.
There is hidden love within the father’s actions. He would chop wood for the fire, “with cracked hands that ached/ from labor in the weekday weather made/ banked fires blaze”. The father wakes up early even on a Sunday, a day of rest, to bring warmth to his family. Although no one thanked him, he continued to provide for them. The temperature of the rooms and weather is symbolic with his father, cold and reserved. The poem’s title indicates the time of year signifying the cold. It is the indifference and standoffish emotions between the father and child.
The speaker reflects on his adolescent ignorance, “what did I know/ of love austere …”. His father performs acts of love like bringing warmth from the fire to the household. His father does not verbalize his love, but by demonstrating it. The speaker recounts ignorance of youth that his father perseveres despite an absence of recognition of his family. Robert Hayden reflects on his past thinking about what his father had done for his family. As an adult, the speaker appreciates more of the sacrifices made and came to understand the form of love by his father. When the speaker was a child, there was a lack of wisdom. With age Newell 3comes maturity, experience and understanding the selflessness that comes from parental love which does not require an expectation of mutuality.
In “Those Winter Days” Robert Hayden recollects when his father would take care of his family that establishes the theme of familial love and sacrifice that a parent makes for their child that shows through tone, imagery, and symbolism.
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