How do you know that the speaker in the poem "Those Winter Sundays" is a boy?

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favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

We actually do not know for sure that the narrator of the poem is a boy. Many people assume that the speaker is male because the author of the poem, Robert Hayden, is male, but this is not always a safe assumption. It is possible that we might read into the line about the "chronic angers of that house" that there is a clash between a father and son, as such a clash seems a bit more likely than one between a father and daughter; however, this is also no guarantee. Further, we might speculate that the speaker is male because his father "polished [his] good shoes" because one would be more likely polish the shoes of a son than a daughter, but this is also not certain. It is also possible, though not sure, that the narrator, in hindsight, asks, "What did I know, what did I know / of love's austere and lonely offices?" because he realizes now, as a father himself, what it is like to perform these types of unappreciated duties for one's children. On the other hand, a woman could also make a similar statement about her sacrifices and taken-for-granted efforts on behalf of her children. Thus, we have clues that may signal a male speaker, but the speaker's gender is never made explicit.

Kathryn Draney eNotes educator| Certified Educator
  • We do not know that the speaker in "Those Winter Sundays" is a boy.