[Tough] Love and Its Doubts

The poem “Those Winter Sundays” by Robert Hayden stuck out to me when reading it in class. Everything from the title to the theme to the word austere was striking. As characterization between the parental figure and the son/daughter slowly starts to reveal itself, the poem solidifies how hardworking the father is and how sacrifice played a role in order for him to raise his child.

The father’s hardwork and how much time he devotes can be shown both in the title as well as in the first line of the poem. Having “Sundays” be plural shows how the father has not just worked one Sunday but many of them. Another key tem, “too”, in the first line shows shows that he works on Sundays on top of the other days he works. The “too” can also signify the uniqueness of Sunday. Typically, Sundays are seen as “Church” day or “Rest” day.

The term “austere” mentioned in the last line of the poem derives from the Greek, meaning “severe.” Severity can also be interpreted as “stern and cold in appearance or manner.” It way eye-opening to read the idea of “tough love” as it is not typically a concept I come across often while reading.

Referring back to the theme of tough love, the speaker doubts his father’s affections due to how he expressed his emotions. The speaker is alluding to his previous experiences with the repetition of “what did I know” in the second to last line. The rhetorical question asked by the speaker shows how clueless he was with how their father expressed his love. As the doubt and lack of gratitude from the speaker’s perspective became more apparent through a few readings of the poem, the poem started to remind me of an epigraph covered earlier in the semester. “Doubt is the big machine. It grinds up the delusions of women and men.” The speaker’s doubt is a crucial element in the poem that the author is addressing. The doubt is vital to recognize as the child was not confident about the relationship with their father. The delusion the child has brings a sort of disconnect to the narrative of their upbringing. Only when the child is grown is when the realization occurs that the winter sundays serve as a metaphor for hard work, which essentially symbolizes the expression of “tough” love between the father and child.

A specific point at which The Big Machine by Victor Lavalle showcases the idea of of tough love is when when stating “A mother’s reward for running away is hate, but a father’s is adoration.” This mentality of tough love, or disappearance altogether, is justified as affection. This type of affection could be misleading to the child, showed similarly in the poem.

The idea of “tough love” is seen as varied and not the “typical” fuzzy way and affectionate way of showing love. This “other” type of showing affection is usually undervalued or not discussed as frequently due to the doubts associated with it. This atypical narrative was refreshing to read about in class.

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