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How does imagery, metaphors and/or similes contribute to the meaning of "Those Winter...

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sdevon777 | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 12, 2009 at 1:50 AM via web

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How does imagery, metaphors and/or similes contribute to the meaning of "Those Winter Sundays"?

How do they relate to the emotions or ideas communicated by the poem "Those Winter Sundays" by Robert Hayden?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted December 7, 2009 at 9:07 AM (Answer #1)

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The controlling metaphor of Robert Hayden's "Whose Winter Sundays" is in the father's "austere and lonely offices," acts of love performed against the elements so that the family would not encounter the cold.  Like the fire that the father builds, the imagery moves from cold to warm:  The father rises in the "blueblack cold,/then with cracked hands that ached from labor...." he builds a fire to warm the house.  Still in bed, the poet as a boy wakes and hears "the cold splintering, breaking."  The cold is bitter, and can be heard as well as felt.  The sensory images become auditory with the words splintering and breaking.  When the boy rises, he can still sense the "chronic angers" of the house.  This metaphor compares the harsh auditory images to complaints.  That is, it is as though the house complains as the father seeks to get it to warm up.

In the third stanza, however, the images become warmer as the poet reflectively expresses his appreciation of the father who

had driven out the cold/And polished my good shoes as well.

These images are warmer; the shining of the shoes expresses a positive feeling, and the father emerges as respected and admired through Hayden's use of these warm images in the closing couplet:

What did I know, what did I know/of love's austere and lonely offices?

The speaker, now a man, realizes that it was wrong that "No one ever thanked him."  Just as there has been a gap between the father and the son in the boy's youth as expressed in the first two stanzas, so, too, is there a gap between the perspective of the speaker as a youth and, finally, as an adult.

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