Study Guide

Those Winter Sundays Themes

  • Love

    At its heart, “Those Winter Sundays” is about love. No, not the ooey-gooey thing between young lovers like Romeo and Juliet, but the deep and serious familial love between a parent and a child. The type of love that gets you up at the crack of dawn, even when you’re exhausted from a long week of hard work. This love is quiet and brave; it’s not showy, there are no hugs and kisses and snuggles. That means, unfortunately, that it can easily slip by unnoticed.

    Questions About Love

    1. How does “Those Winter Sundays” define love?
    2. Do you think that the speaker defined love differently when he was a child? Has his definition changed? What happened between the present and the childhood to which the speaker refers?
    3. What is the relationship between love and time in the poem?
    4. What is the connection between the sonnet form of the poem and the theme of parental love?

    Chew on This

    As a kid, the speaker was an ungrateful little jerk who didn’t understand anything about the nature of love.

    One’s perspective on love changes over time. The speaker was just a regular kid whose understanding of love grew as he grew older.

  • Sacrifice

    We only ever see the speaker’s father through the speaker’s point of view, but it’s not too hard to imagine what the old man's life is like. "Those Winter Sundays" tells us that he wakes up early, works hard, and provides for his family. Seriously, he works (in and outside of the home) seven days a week for his family. If that isn’t sacrifice, well, we don’t know what sacrifice is. This dude could use an all-expenses-paid week in Tahiti, if you ask us.

    Questions About Sacrifice

    1. Are there hints in the poem as to what the speaker’s father is thinking or feeling?
    2. What do you think that the father has sacrificed in his life in order to care for his family?
    3. Why doesn’t the speaker make the connection between his father’s actions and his emotions when he’s a child? In other words, why can't the kid wake up and realize how much his dad loves him?
    4. Do you think that the speaker’s father is exceptional? Or is he doing what any good father would do to take care of his family?
    5. Has the father’s physical work come at the cost of his emotional life? Would he have been a better father if he had spent less time working and more time hugging his kid?

    Chew on This

    The speaker’s father has sacrificed everything—including his emotional relationship with his kid—to provide the basic tools of survival for his family.

    The speaker’s father is just doing what any dad would do by waking up early to light the fires in the house. Nothing special about this guy.

  • Youth

    Remember the good old days when you were young? When someone lit the fires in your home so you didn’t have to? When someone polished your shoes? When someone paid the bills and cared for you? The speaker in “Those Winter Sundays” is remembering those good old days, though they didn’t seem so good at the time. But that's only because he was young and ignorant. Once he's grown up a bit, and has a few years behind him, he's able to recognize his father's love.

    Questions About Youth

    1. What is the relationship between age and knowledge in the poem?
    2. What is the relationship between age and love in the poem?
    3. Does the poem suggest that all kids are blind to their parents’ experiences? Or just that the speaker of the poem is?
    4. How old do you think the speaker is now? How can you tell?

    Chew on This

    “Those Winter Sundays” suggests that no children can comprehend their parents’ love for them. They're too busy being resentful.

    “Those Winter Sundays” suggests that becoming an adult means understanding your parents’ motivations and experiences.