Those Winter Sundays
by Robert Hayden
Our speaker in “Those Winter Sundays” is an adult who looks back on his childhood relationship with his father. In some ways, it’s almost like our speaker is split in two; he’s both the child who fears his father and the adult who looks back upon his pops with love, respect, and understanding. It’s clear that the speaker has matured a lot since his childhood, and he can now recognize his father’s labor in and outside of the home as a form of love.
These basic facts aside, we don’t know much about the speaker—we don’t even know if the speaker is male or female (though we’ve been referring to the speaker as “him” throughout just to make it easier on everyone). We don’t know if the speaker has brown hair or blonde hair. We don’t know if the speaker is short or tall. We don’t know if the speaker likes baseball cards or ballet dancing or painting or bug-collecting.
And our lack of knowledge about the speaker is part of what makes the poem speak to so many people—we can all envision ourselves in the speaker’s position, as a child who doesn’t understand his/her parents. So many people respond so strongly to this poem because they see themselves in it, which might be a little harder to do if we knew that the speaker only wore hot pink leggings, or that the speaker’s face was covered in freckles.