In the poem, “Those Winter Sundays”, Robert Hayden talks of the relationship between a child and its father. The narrator of the poem describes a normal Sunday in his life where the father is engrossed in his work. The poem on the one hand, demonstrates the anger of the narrator at the lack of time that the father possesses. On the other hand, the father is also looked up to as a role model who works very hard for his child.
The reluctance of the child to feel unconditional love for the father is attributed through the poem by Hayden, to the tight schedule of the father even on a Sunday. When the narrator says, “Sundays too my father got up early” (Hayden), there is a note of resentment that is struck right at the beginning of the poem. The child’s inability to be close to his father is reflected throughout the poem and it is only at the end of the poem that he is able to be close to him. The preceding distance, however, makes communication difficult as the narrator has “but monosyllables for him” (Hayden). The difficulty in communication represents an ennui that has set in, in the relationship between father and child and seems irremediable from the lines in the poem.
The child is, however, very defensive of his father. The child feels that the hard work that its father has put in has gone unrewarded. The resentment of the poem draws from this as well and can be seen when the narrator laments the fact that “No one ever thanked him (his father)” (Hayden). This resentment stems from a lack of recognition from outsiders. This is a point where we see that the child feels a certain mixture of love and respect for his father that is unable to stand any criticism against him from outside.
In the very next paragraph, however, the reader is introduced to the situation of the family, which is not a particularly happy or stable one. The narrator confesses that he dreads “the chronic anger” (Hayden) of the house that he was a part of. His inability to communicate with his father probably is a result of a disturbed environment at home. This makes it difficult for him to be at ease even with the kindness that his father shows towards him. In these lines, one can also find the lament of the poet who was a part of a broken family. The narrator’s silent cry is effective since it comes from the pen of a person who has experience of the surroundings that are described in the poem.
The father is, however, also held up as a role model by the child, one who emblematizes “loves austere and rich and lonely offices” (Hayden) that the child expects to enter into in the future. The child’s ideas for the future are also a part of his yearnings for what is considered the norm, even though he himself is not a part of it.
Hayden, Robert. “Those Winter Sundays”. Name of Book. Place of Publication: Publisher, year of publication.