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Those Winter Sundays: a Discussion About Robert Hayden's Work

In: English and Literature

Submitted By KaraSwims
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A Discussion of “Those Winter Sundays”

The words of “Those Winter Sundays” by Robert Hayden encapsulate a single repetitious memory for the speaker. The emotion-filled recollection serves as the vehicle to express the true theme of this poem: guilt. The speaker recalls his father’s small acts of love, like starting a fire to warm the house or shining the speaker’s shoes for church, that were unappreciated during his childhood. The statements supporting the underlying theme of guilt vary in their degree of literalness, but the speaker’s remorse remains steady. “Those Winter Sundays” represents the memories of a child as considered by the perspective of an adult. The resulting conclusion is one of guilt and regret that the speaker failed to thank his father for the sacrifices he made to the family.

The opening stanza of this poem describes the father’s Sunday morning routine before work. The poet utilizes imagery and sensory descriptions to represent the toll that difficult labor took on the dedicated father’s body and spirit. “With cracked hands that ached,” the father lived a life of sacrifice as he dressed in the cold and worked six days a week. Less literal, but equally important, is the indication from this stanza that the speaker’s family was monetarily poor. The necessity to work diligently six days a week and the inability to heat the house throughout the night support the likelihood that this family struggled to meet basic needs. The final line of the first stanza clearly represents the poem’s theme of guilt: “No one ever thanked him.” Here, the speaker clarifies that he was not the only family member that failed to express their gratitude.

While the father woke and dressed in the frigid temperatures, he started a fire before calling the speaker to rise from the warmth of bed. Skillfully harnessing the power of auditory sensory descriptors, the...

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