American Poetry Robert Hayden Those Winter Essay

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Called a “beautiful parental love poem” (Zandy vii) and “a meditation on the fraught love between fathers and sons,” (“Those Winter Sundays” 1) Robert Hayden’s poem “Those Winter Sundays” captures the conflict between the American Dream and the Great Depression. Hayden’s poem is brief and to the point, its imagery straightforward rather than cloaked in symbolism. As such, the poem reveals itself to the reader and remains dedicated to revealing its main theme related to the generation gap between parents and their children. Deeper analyses and historical context also show that Hayden conveyed the intricacies of intersectionality: particularly between race, class, and gender. Imagery is central to Hayden’s delivery and to the conveyance of the main themes of “Those Winter Sundays.”

The title of the poem immediately envelops the reader in the narrator’s landscape: the cold, brutal “blueback cold” of the American Midwest (Hayden line 2). Hayden was himself from the Detroit area, and given the poem’s reference to the “cracked hands” that result from manual labor, it is likely the poem is semi-autobiographical (Hayden line 3). The narrator’s household is a poor one, bereft of regular heat. Imagery of coldness remains palpable throughout the three stanzas of “Those Winter Sundays.” Winter imagery allows the poet to underscore the emotional desolation, the hibernation of love, and the austerity of times during which food sources might be scarce.

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In fact, Hayden refers to “love’s austere and lonely offices” in the last line of the poem. The imagery of love’s austere and lonely offices parallels the scarcity and barrenness of winter itself.

Taken as a narrative poem, “Those Winter Sundays” describes a father who, in spite of having worked hard all week, must also chop wood for his family on what is likely his only day off. Assuming that the family is also Christian, the father chops wood on a day designated for rest. The father has to get up early, get dressed to face the cold, and then chops the wood that keeps the fire in the house alive: all of which is described in the first stanza of the poem. The narrator recalls awakening to the sound of the “splintering” and “breaking” wood, words that are simultaneously used to describe the harsh, brittle cold (Hayden line 6). As the son reflects on how his father displayed love for him in ways beyond words. As Gallagher puts it, “this….....

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Works Cited

Gallagher, Ann M. “Hayden’s Those Winter Sundays.” The Explicator, Vol. 51, No. 4, 1993, pp. 245-247.

Hayden, Robert. “Those Winter Sundays.” https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/46461/those-winter-Sundays

“Those Winter Sundays.” Poetry in America. http://www.poetryinamerica.org/episode/those-winter-sundays/

Zandy, Janet. Foreword to Those Winter Sundays. University Press of America, 2005.

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"American Poetry Robert Hayden Those Winter", 31 July 2018, Accessed.19 November. 2019,
https://www.aceyourpaper.com/essays/american-poetry-robert-hayden-those-winter-sundays-essay