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A son’s love for his father is sometimes not acknowledged until he is an adult. Children often become so wrapped up in their own tasks and obligations that they take for granted the simple acts of loving support given to them by their parents. And parents sometimes feel scared that obvious signs of love and emotion will scare off a child, so they just do all they can to make the child’s life run smoothly and try to fade into the background when it comes to tender moments. In the poem “Those Winter Sundays,” Robert Hayden uses figurative language and other literary devices to show a father’s love for his son as well as the son’s realization of that love.
The cold that Hayden describes in the house is a reoccurring hardship that the father must face in his life. “Sundays too my father got up early and put on his clothes in the blue black cold,” (lines 1-2, stanza 1). The father woke up early on his treasured time off from work to make sure that the house was warm for his son. The cold is described as if it were a tangible item causing the reader to be drawn in to the poem. “No one ever thanked him.” (line 5, stanza 1). This quote illustrates the fact that the father did this not for praise or to make himself look better in the eyes of his son, but because he would rather compromise his own comfort and enjoyment then have his son start the day off in the cold.
Hayden uses figurative language to bring alive the cold and to make it seem like more of an enemy for the father. “fearing the chronic angers of that house,” (line 4, stanza 2). The son is speaking of the dreaded cold, which he wishes that he did not have to face just as much as the father. It shows that the father was really making a contribution towards the happiness of the son by making the effort to rid the house of it. “…and hear the cold splintering, breaking.” (line 1, stanza 2). In this line, Hayden uses imagery to represent the fire that the father builds which helps to defeat the cold. The splintering and breaking are the sounds of the logs being burnt and, as the son finds later, the cold dying.
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Flashback is used to show the true reason behind the father’s acts and the son’s subsequent comprehension of his father’s true feelings. “…driven out the cold and polished my good shoes as well. What did I know, what did I know of love’s austere and lonely offices?” (lines 2-5, stanza 3). The son realizes here that his father did the things that he had always simply thought of as done. He looks back and sees how much his father must have done for him without being acknowledged.
Throughout the poem, Hayden uses the imagery and other forms of figurative language as well as flashback techniques and a consistent setting to paint a picture for the reader about the relationship between the father and son. He describes how the father shows his affection for his son and how the son takes that in. At the end of the poem, the son contemplates his father’s motives and finds the true emotion behind the father’s actions.