There is only one underlying sensory experience evoked in this poem - and that is the physical coldness of winter Sundays. The word ‘cold’ is mentioned only three times over in the poem, once for each stanza. It may serve well to note that ‘winter’ is not mentioned at all, except in the title. But this physical coldness that the poem evokes is focal to its theme and tone. By and large, the poem is the persona’s expression of wistful regret, therefore, moving sadness, for his failure to appreciate his father’s sacrifices for him back when he was a child.
The persona’s father had always manifested his love and concern for him as the first stanza indicates. The father would get up early on winter Sundays, when he didn’t have to go to work – to build a fire in order for him to wake up to warm house. The father’s hands which made the hearth ablaze, are described in the third line as “cracked” and that they “ached from labor” throughout the week. However, “no one ever thanked him”, clinches up the stanza and thus, it introduces the reader to a different kind of coldness. It is that kind of which one feels when his gestures of love are left unnoticed and unreciprocated.
The physical coldness is well under control when stanza 2 begins. The persona would wake up and hear “the cold splintering, breaking”. He could feel the rooms warmed by his father’s fire. He would then hear his father’s call and he would respond to the call not because he felt his father’s love – but because he feared “the chronic angers of that house.” The emotional coldness depicted here may be attributed to the boy’s estrangement from his father.
In the third stanza, it becomes more evident that this estrangement had more to do with the persona’s boyish state, rather than of his father’s being strict. It opens with:
Speaking indifferently to him,
Who had driven out of cold
And polished my good shoes as well.
These details are what give the remorseful tone that the...
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