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.
In this poem, Hayden uses many descriptive words to set the scene for his work (e.g. blueblack cold, cracked hands, banked fires blaze). His vivid words make me conjure up visions in my mind of this hard working father up alone in the cold darkness. When Hayden writes “cracked hands that ached” (Roberts 759), he is using the “cracked hands” as a symbol for hard work and a symbol for all the pain and discomfort the man is willing to go through for his family. Hayden described sounds as well as images in the same descriptive way when he writes “I awoke and heard the cold splintering, breaking” (Roberts 759). Maybe what the boy heard was really the fire crackling, or ice melting off of the windows. Either way, this choice of symbolism is used to show the power of the father—he had the power to “break” the cold, and to “drive it out” for the sake of those he cared for.
The warm house on the winter Sundays served as a symbol for the father’s love for his son, although the son did not make this connection until later in his life. The element of self-sacrifice is clear in the description of the father’s “cracked hands”
(Roberts 759) and how he disregards his own pain to warm and light the home for his family. When he was a child, he took it for granted, as the poem says “No one ever thanked him” (Roberts 759), and that he would “speak indifferently to him” (Roberts 759). Hayden appears to be upset at himself and his family for not being more appreciative of his