A Speaker's Reflections By Jillian Monroe Robert Hayden's poem "Those Winter Sundays" is a reflection the speaker has regarding his father. An analysis of the poem's tone and language reveals the speaker regrets his father did so much for the family and "no one ever thanked him". It is obvious the speaker feels regret for the way he behaved toward his father in the past by examining the phrases in the poem, particularly with the description of the father. The connotations of the language used in this description denote the father in a certain way that the speaker did not see him as before. The tone and feeling of regret or sorrow is evident in the poem not only through language and word choice on the literal surface, but also in the structure of the poem itself. The poem indicates the father as hardworking by his description.
The speaker reveals the father has "cracked hands that ached from labor" and that "Sundays too" he "got up early" to start a fire and warm the house. As if this gesture is not enough, "He'd call" to his family "when the rooms were warm" so they would not have to endure the "blue black cold" of a winter morning. The poem also indicates the father doing other chores, such as polishing "my good shoes". This description of the father is moving, it show he loves his family and is thoughtful enough to do the chores no one else would want to do. The word choice for this description is very interesting, however. What particularly caught my eye was "Sundays too".
Instead of saying "On Sundays" Hayden decides to use a more effective phrase. The use of the word "too" lets the reader know the father got up early every day to light the fire and warm the house. Hayden proceeds to make references to the weather, calling the morning "blue black cold" which makes the reader think of not just a cold morning, but a frigid morning. There is also mention of the father's aching hands from "weekday weather" as he "made banked fires blaze".
The word choice evokes images into the reader's mind of a man who works hard, truly labors, and probably deserves recognition for it. The last line of the first stanza comes as a shock, "No one ever thanked him". The key words in that phrase are "No one" Hayden indicates that the entire family underappreciated the father, not just one person. At this point, the reader pities the father, because he seems to do no wrong. However, in the second stanza, it is revealed the speaker fears "the chronic angers of that house" You can infer from this phrase the home is not always a welcoming place with no problems. It is in the second and third stanzas the reader's opinion of the father changes.
Instead of feeling pity for this man who gets no thanks, you wonder why there is fear of anger. Why does the speaker talk "indifferently to him" if he is such a wonderful man? The word choice indicates the father and the speaker do not get along very well. However, also in the third stanza, alongside the negativity toward the father the speakers regret awakens again.
It seems the speaker cannot believe the way he treated the man who had "driven out the cold and polished my good shoes as well". The tone of regret and sorrow is demonstrated through the language and word choice as mentioned above. However, I also feel the structure of the poem has some key elements that demonstrate the speaker did not feel bad about the way he treated his father at the time, but upon reflection, he does. In the first stanza, the first four lines are the description of the father performing his morning routine alone as usual without his family giving him an afterthought. Then, in the last line of this stanza appears an afterthought, "No one ever thanked him". This same pattern of solitary duty to afterthought appears again in the third stanza.
The last two lines of the poem read, What did I know, what did I know Of love's austere and lonely offices? These two lines are immensely powerful. Not only do they show the reader the speaker has learned something about the way his father behaved in the past, but they again appear as an afterthought. This leads me to believe the speaker was not aware of his father's actions as caring and loving ones at the time.
It tells me he took his father for granted and treated him "indifferently" until he realized his actions were not meant to be just "austere", but that they were also full of love. With that being said, I think "Those Winter Sundays" is an emotionally moving poem about the speaker's reflections of his father. It speaks volumes about the way we treat our parents when we are children, how we think they do things just to spite us, only to realize later in life they do the things they do because they care for and love us..