Those Winter Sundays

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Sundays too my father got up early and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold, then with cracked hands that ached from labor in the weekday weather made banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him. I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking. When the rooms were warm, he’d call, and slowly I would rise and dress, fearing the chronic angers of that house, Speaking indifferently to him, who had 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?

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Why does the father rise early?

He rises early to rake the fire into a blaze, thus warming the house for the members of the family before they awaken.

What is the atmosphere in the poet's home?

The atmosphere is tense and angry.

When does the poem take place? What is the tone?

The poem takes place during the poet's childhood. It is reflective and regretful in tone.

List three examples of alliteration in stanza 1?

Alliteration in seen in the words clothes/cold/cracked; weekday/weather; banked/blaze.

Why does the narrator feel regret and guilt?

He feels regret and guilt over the fact that he did not appreciate his father's sacrifices. He realizes now that the mundane tasks that his father performed were expressions of love. He regrets the strained relationship that existed between them.

Why is the cold described as "blueblack"?

The cold is described as "blueblack" because as yet no daylight has relieved the darkness of the bitterly cold night. Perhaps, also, the bone-chilling cold brings to mind the color blue that is often associated with cold, as in fingers blue with cold, blue lips etc. Frostbitten limbs turn black, and thus blue black convey definite sensations of extreme cold.

What is significant about the fact that the father polished his son's shoes?

The polishing of his "good shoes" can be interpreted as an act of love. It is not essential, and yet the father does it as a token of his wish to care for his child's needs.

How does the father communicate his feelings for his family, and for his son especially?

The father communicates his feelings for his family by rising early in the bitter cold to warm the house for them before they awaken. He also demonstrates his love for his son by polishing his shoes for him.

What is the theme of the poem?

The theme of the poem is that one should recognize the sacrifices parents make for their children, and remember to be appreciative, before it is too late.

Why does the father rise early? What does the word "too" signify?

The father rises early to light the furnace and warm the house before the rest of the family awakens. "Too" emphasizes the fact that even on Sunday, his day off, the poet's father rises early to attend to the family's needs.

What sensory image does the poet create with the words "cracked hands that ached"? Why does the father have sore hands?

The poet creates a tactile image. We can feel the pain of the cracked hands, aching from the bitter cold. The father's hands are sore because he is a manual laborer who works out doors all week, as seen in the words"....from labor in the weekday weather."

What images are created in line 6?

The poet creates an auditory image within the words " splintering, breaking." We hear the sound of the extreme cold thawing as the fire warms the room. Hayden also creates a tactile image, as he describes a cold so bitter we can almost touch it.

Why does the narrator rise slowly? What do we learn about the atmosphere in the home?

The narrator is an unhappy child, who rises slowly because he facing the tense, chronically angry atmosphere of his home.

Why does the poet repeat, "What did I know"?

he poet reveals the depth of his pain over misjudging his father. He regrets that he never properly thanked his father and justifies his ungrateful behavior by saying that he did not realize the difficulties involved in raising children. The poet now understands and appreciates the fact that his father's actions were motivated by love. "Driving out the cold" can be understood on an emotional as well as a physical level. With this realization comes the regret for actions and attitudes that can never be repaired.

What are "love's" austere and lonely offices?

These are the services that one performs for those one loves, the basic, unrewarded tasks that parents perform for children. The word austere is also appropriate to describe the father's taciturn, uncommunicative demeanor.

What does line 6 "I'd wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking" indicate?

The poet was awoke before his father called.

What is the main point of view of the poem?

The poet adopts the first-person point of view of an adult looking back on his childhood.