Characters

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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 213

"Those Winter Sundays" by Robert Hayden is a short poem in three stanzas. There are two characters explicitly identified in it. The first of these is the speaker, potentially the poet himself. The speaker, we can infer, is now an adult—his rueful tone toward the end of the poem when he asks "what did I know" suggests he is now far wiser than he was during the events the poem remembers. However, when he still lived at home with his parents, he behaved "indifferently" towards his father, not recognizing the "austere and lonely offices" he performed as acts of love, something the speaker now regrets.

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The other character in the poem, and its subject, is the speaker's father. On Sundays, as well as throughout the week (by implication) this man would get up to warm the house for his child (or children), polishing shoes and "driv[ing] out the cold." He is a hardworking man, although perhaps it is implied that he had a bad temper ("chronic angers"). As such, it is through labor that he shows his love to his children, ensuring that they are clothed and warmed and look presentable, a task he performed without being "thanked." Now, the speaker recognizes that this was the evidence of his father's love.

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