Interpretation of Poem “Those Winter Sundays” – Robert Hayden
Robert Hayden's "Those Winter Sundays" is a poem that has a lot to say in a small amount of space. It uses one event to describe a father's whole relationship with his son. "Those Winter Sundays" is a poem written for Robert Hayden's father. Although at first, the poem does not seem to be a great tribute to his father, Hayden's admiration and love for his father become apparent as we look deeper.
The splintering and breaking are the sounds of the logs being burnt and, as the son finds later, the cold dying. Flashback is used to show the true reason behind the fathers acts and the sons subsequent comprehension of his fathers true feelings. driven out the cold and polished my good shoes as well. What did I know, what did I know of loves austere and lonely offices (lines 2-5, stanza 3). The son realizes here that his father did the things that he had always simply thought of as done. He looks back and sees how much his father must have done for him without being acknowledged. Throughout the poem, Hayden uses the imagery and other forms of figurative language as well as flashback techniques and a consistent setting to paint a picture for the reader about the relationship between the father and son. He describes how the father shows his affection for his son and how the son takes that in. At the end of the poem, the son contemplates his fathers motives and finds the true emotion behind the fathers actions.
The author establishes a pensive and regretful tone almost from the very beginning. Even the heading “Those Winter Sundays” evokes an image of cold and often cloudy days, therefore producing a feeling of sadness and melancholy. Hayden introduces cold and uncomfortable images, like “blueback cold” to strengthen the picture of undesirable conditions of the unheated house. Hayden aids the initial tone of regret by sharing with the reader an image of the father’s “cracked hands”. All these means help the reader to realize clearly the main idea of the poem. “The poem’s thesis is that the office of love can be relentless, thankless, and more than a little mysterious” (Goldstein and Chrisman 252).
All in all, Hayden can not reverse the distant relationship he caused with his father, but he instead tells readers this story. He wants to prevent others from having the same issues with their own parents. It is vital to recognize when people put forth effort, express gratitude toward them, and accept others’ way of showing love. There are people few and far between who strive to provide for their family and friends. It is apparent that Hayden wants us to learn from his mistakes and listen to the advice he gives through the subtleties of “Those Winter Sundays.”
Hayden, Robert. "Essays on the Poetry (Under Discussion)" edited by Laurence Goldstein, Robert Chrisman, 2013, p. 74
Hayden, Robert. “Those Winter Sundays.” Making Literature Matter: An Anthology for Readersand Writers. Sixth Edition. edited by John Schilb and John Clifford. Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2015. p. 263.