Sacrifices Revealed In Robert Hayden's 'Those Winter Sundays'

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In Robert Hayden’s “Those Winter Sundays,” the speaker reflects on his relationship with his father during childhood. The speaker explains that his father woke up early on Sunday mornings to create a fire and warm up the house, painting him as a hard-working and selfless figure. However, since the speaker was too young to comprehend his father’s sacrifices, the father remained thankless. Through his use of diction, personification, and a remorseful tone, Hayden expresses the theme of “failing to acknowledge a person’s sacrifices will lead to regret.” By using diction, Hayden communicates the magnitude of the father’s actions, elevating the importance of acknowledging them. Even from the first line, the father’s dedication to his family…show more content…
Through diction and personification, the speaker gives plenty of reasons as to why he should’ve appreciated his father growing up. Unfortunately, the speaker states that “No one ever thanked him,” and the speaker’s use of the past tense implies that nobody ever will. Perhaps the father is now deceased or estranged from the son, but either way, this phrase is coated in remorse because it implies that the speaker wishes he had enough sense to thank him and prevent him from possibly feeling unappreciated. This remorse is especially felt because the line ends the first stanza, which first introduces the father’s sacrifice and hardworking nature. In addition, the speaker’s remorse is seen in the third stanza. It states, “Speaking indifferently to him,/ Who had driven out the cold/ and polished my good shoes as well./ What did I know, what did I know/ of love’s austere and lonely offices?” After explaining that his father never took a break from being the provider of warmth, fought the bitter cold while he laid in bed and waited for the fire, and labored on his day of rest despite the pain he felt from regularly engaging in hard labor, the son states that he spoke indifferently to his father. The speaker makes no mistake with this order, as it highlights his selfishness, showing that he now recognizes this…show more content…
Nevertheless, the last two lines of the poem are the most blatant indicators of the speaker’s regret. Everything else in the poem has only been hinting at the speaker’s realization of his childish ignorance, but he explicitly states that he didn’t understand the more understated ways of expressing love in the last two lines. Repetition serves as a powerful tool for amplifying the pain and regret felt by the speaker, as he openly criticizes his past self for thinking he had his father figured out without searching deeper. The son knows he can’t go back in time and teach himself the “austere,” or harsh, and “lonely offices,” meaning roles, of love. A parent’s love is mostly subtle, and his lack of understanding that as a child is something he can never take back. Therefore, he must deal with the consequences of failing to acknowledge his father’s sacrifices, no matter how painful that may be. Hayden’s “Those Winter Sundays” communicates the theme of “failing to acknowledge a person’s sacrifice will lead to regret” using diction, personification, and a remorseful tone. His poem serves as a warning, showing people the painful consequences of underestimating the sacrifices people make and only realizing the true extent of their love when it’s too late. While it’s implied that the speaker can’t go back
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