Those Winter Sundays

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Steven DeBonis
Professor Samuels
October 10, 2011
Response Paper

Robert Hayden’s poem “Those Winter Sundays” is filled with immense emotion. It is through examination of the lines and words a larger picture unfolds. Like most poetry, various interpretations of “Those Winter Sundays” are shaped and formulated due to its accessibility. Although each analysis carefully traces the poems lines and evaluates the meaning of words in the context, the end result is a skewed conclusion. Various interpretations of “Those Winter Sundays” formulate due to the accessibility of the poem. With a lack of concrete description and definition, much is to be assumed and formulated by the reader. This drastic difference in analyses is seen in the conclusions drawn by Ann Gallagher and Jeannine Johnson. Gallagher concludes the poem is a childhood void of affections, whereas Jeannine Johnson sees a poem entailing love’s services. Although, Gallagher and Johnson put forth interesting analyses and support them heavily, the openness and duality of various words and phrases leave us without a concrete explanation or meaning. I, have come to conclude, that due to Robert Hayden’s past experiences with abandonment and love and the duality in the meaning of various words, we are not able to find a concrete meaning to “Those Winter Sundays.” Gallagher’s analysis of the poem is an experience of a childhood void of affection. As one traces the lines of the poem it is evident to see why Gallagher formulated her specific analysis. The first section of this poem sets the character and personality of the father. As the poem unfolds, this opening section puts in place the makeup and behavior of this non-loving father figure as one traces through the second and third sections. In the opening line of the poem Hayden states: “Sundays too my father got up early” (Hayden, 1). Sundays are usually thought as a day of rest. However, the father in this poem is anything but lazy and wakes early. We could only see love through these actions, however, that is not the case as the poem continues to unravel. The concluding line of the first section states “no one ever thanked him” (Hayden, 5). Aside the instant feeling of disconnection felt in the line, one also comes to question why he was never thanked. Gallagher is also challenged by this thought as he states: “Why, for example, does it happen that “no one ever thanked him?” We slowly become aware that it is not only the child who does not thank the hardworking father. “No one eve” did. This then reflects on the person of the father” (Gallagher, 1). I too, ask myself these similar questions and find the answer to this within the poem. The second section of the poem begins to answer this lingering question and formulates the non-loving father figure and creates the absence of affection. The first line in the second stanza states: “I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking” (Hayden, 6). The splintering and breaking does not signify anything positive and the illusion of “the floors constantly groaning and creaking with discontent and bitterness” (Gallagher, 1) adds to the lack of affection. With this lingering gloominess in mind, the writer then writes: “Slowly I would rise and dress,/fearing the chronic angers of that house” (Hayden, 8/9). One can draw the connection of the chronic angers of the house to the father due to the preceding line: “Speaking indifferently to him/who had drive out the cold” (Hayden, 10). “Because the speaker in the poem does not know when the angers will erupt in the house, he is constantly in a state of terror that makes him speak “indifferently to the father, even though, that father has warmed the house during the winter morning for the rising of his child” (Gallagher, 1). Gallagher statement captures the fear and disconnection I felt earlier in the piece. It is clear the reason no one ever thanked the father, as seen in the opening stanza, is due to the...
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