Those Winter Sundays
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Garrett A. Gooch Gooch 1
Ms. Sara E. Lamers
Abuse is a difficult and sensitive subject that can have long lasting effects. These traumatic emotional effects are often intensified if the abuse happens at a young age because children do not understand why the abuse is happening or how to deal with it. Even more, poets and writers all over the world contribute works that express the saddening events and force the public to realize it is much more real than the informative articles we read about. One such poem is Robert Hayden’s Those Winter Sundays which is a poem from the perspective of a young adult reflecting back on the childhood relationship with his father and the abuse his father inflicted. Another such poem is Theodore Roethke’s” My Papa’s Waltz” which looks carefully through the eyes of a young boy into the actions, of an abusive father. These poems are important because they deal with the complex issues surrounding the subject of abuse and also show the different ways which children react to it. “Those Winter Sundays” and “My Papa’s Waltz” are similar poems because they use tone, imagery, sound and rhythm to create tension between the negative aspects of abuse and the boy’s own love and understanding for their father. Hayden’s and Roethke’s poems use tone in the same way to show that both children ultimately love their father regardless of the abuse he commits.
Hayden’s poem starts with a young adult reflecting on his childhood and remembering how hard his father worked. He thinks back and his tone is of admiration and respect. This is apparent when the young man reflects: “Sundays too my father got up early”and “No one ever thanked him.” (Hayden, 1-5) The young man is realizes how hard his father worked and how little recognition he got. This makes a certain degree of guilt come over the young man. He remembers “fearing the chronic angers of that house” (Hayden, 9) and dislikes his father because of it by “speaking indifferently to him” (Hayden, 10). Then the tone changes so that the young man realizes how unfair he was to his father. He realizes that his father’s love for him was in what his father provided and not in their personal interaction. This further makes the boy question himself: “What did I know, what did I know of love’s austere and lonely offices”. (Hayden, 13-14) After this is raised, the reader sees the young man has a strong degree of love for his father “who had driven out the cold” (Hayden, 11).
Similarly, the young boy in “My Papa’s Waltz” is clearly very fond of his father even though his Papa abuses him. It is through the tone the young boy uses that Roethke shows how much he loves his father. This is first enforced when the boy says, But I hung on like death: Such waltzing was not easy? (Roethke, 3-4). The boy loves his father and he hangs on to him like the one thing nobody can shake off, death. This is said in the first stanza and it is very serious. As the poem progresses, the boy’s tone becomes more playful which reinforces the serious statement about how much he cares for his father. The waltz becomes less serious when he says, “We romped until the pans Slid from the kitchen shelf” (Roethke, 5). Using a word like “romped” is a deliberate attempt to make a serious event lighthearted and fun. The only reason a child would make this waltz playful is because he wants to protect his father, whom he loves. As the last stanza explains, “You beat time on my head, then waltzed me off to bed Still clinging to your shirt.”(Roethke, 13-16) Again, the abuse is compared to a waltz which makes it seem lighthearted. The boy is taking a serious affair and making it into a fun event. He uses this good-natured tone because he loves his father and wants to justify this serious affair.
The tone of the poem “Those Winter Sundays” is similar to “My Papa’s Waltz” because each son has found that he loves and admires his father. In My Papa’s Waltz, the boy really values his father and the hard work he did to support the family. In Those Winter Sundays, the man is reflecting back on his younger days and comes to realize how hard his father worked to support the family and what a difficult and stressful job it must have been. This makes a degree of guilt come over him and also appreciation and love for what his father provided. Though these two boys come to realize the love of their father differently, each poem is similar because it opposes the bad aspects of abuse with the love and understanding each