Marcella English 10 Period: 5 The portrayal of Father to child Relationship in Robert Hayden’s “Those Winter Sundays” According to photographer and designer Anne Geddes, “Any man can be a father but it takes someone special to be a dad. ” Being a father is not a simple task. “Those Winter Sundays” exemplifies how difficult fatherhood could be, and how parent to children affection could be hidden by certain circumstances, such as hard living. Through the poem Robert Hayden shows how the speaker is ashamed in believing that his father did not love him, and how now he understands that love is not only shown by words but also by actions.
Robert Hayden uses imagery, symbolism and irony of situation to carry the main message of the poem which is about fatherhood. Imagery is the formation of mental images, figures, or likenesses of things, or of such images collectively (dictionary. com). The reader is given mental pictures about the things that occur in the poem. First, the reader can imagine a father figure waking up early morning to get wood to make the house warm. It is also implied that the father woke up in the darkness and that he is a ward worker from the first stanza.
Readers can also imagine the child’s position in the house, how the child respects his father (stanza 2). The next imagery is the father polishing the child’s shoes, which implies that he takes care of his child/family, placing himself second. Through these imageries, the author has illustrated the fatherly love to his child even in hard circumstances. Another major literary device used in this poem is symbolism. Symbolism is an image or a word that represents something beyond the literal meaning. There are four significant symbols in Those Winter Sundays. The first symbol is winter, which symbolizes misery.
It could be in the form of death, old age, sorrows, or regrets. In general, winter means unpleasant or hard times. In this poem the word winter describes the overall mood of it, which is sad and challenging. The next major symbol is Sunday, which in western culture represents the day of rest. It is commonly known as the day of pleasure. Therefore, winter Sundays could symbolize a paradox, describing the contradictory elements of the poem to give more dramatic and ironic effect, because as it is mentioned in line 1 to 3, and the father keeps on working even though it is Sunday.
In the same way as winter, cold also represents pain and discomfort. In contradictory to cold, there is fire, which seems to be the solution to the discomfort. Fire can also symbolize love. In this case, all this four symbols are used to build a story of fatherly love. That unfortunately was not clear enough to be noticed by the son at the time. Irony of situation is the difference between what is likely to happen and what actually does happen. Throughout the poem the speaker mentions the Sunday routine of the father, showing how the father worked hard for the family’s well being.
However, just as the speaker mentions: “No one ever thanked him” (Line 5). This illustrates how the father worked for the family and its well being, proving that he indeed cared and loved them, as he never waited to be recognized for his actions. Hence never being thanked after all the work. However in the last stanza it is shown how the speaker regrets treating the father indifferently for not verbally showing his love, “What did I know, what did I know” (Line 13) proving how the speaker has indeed grown more mature, and has finally understood the meaning of sacrifices, and an alternative way of showing love.
In conclusion, the poem Those Winter Sundays is a poem of regret and understanding as the speaker finally has understood his father’s love to him. This poem was intended to be personal, from child to father, as an apology for his attitude as a child. Through this poem, the reader could reflect about the sacrifices done by parent. Sacrifices that are often dismissed but that will soon after have an effect in our life.