Philip Levine and Robert Hayden: What Work is? Those Winter Sundays

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If I were asked who the most precious people in my life are, I would undoubtedly answer: my family. They were the people whom I could lean on to matter what happens. Nonetheless, after overhearing my mother demanded a divorce, I could not love her as much as how I loved her once because she had crushed my belief on how perfect life was when I had a family. I felt as if she did not love me anymore. Poets like Philip Levine and Robert Hayden understand this feeling and depict it in their poems “What Work Is” and “Those Winter Sundays.” These poems convey how it feels like to not feel love from the family that should have loved us more than anything in the world. Yet, they also convey the reconciliation that these family members finally reach…show more content…
This, then, shapes what he thinks work is; he convinces himself he knows what work is in the beginning of the poem shown by the repetitive statement: “You know what work is.” As he is queuing for a job interview under the rain, he starts to understand the struggles his brother has gone through to get a job, nonetheless. Based on an interview with Levine, he stated he was aware that he and the other middle class people were exploited, seen unworthy, stupid, and deserved to do what they were doing, dumb work. Contemplating the fact that his brother might have gone through the same humiliation, bitterness, anger, and resentment but still took the job, the speaker starts to question himself if he really knows what work is. He suddenly feels “the love flooding [him] for [his] brother” (Levine 24). He realizes he has misjudged his brother; singing Wagner, the activity he likes, might be a way to lessen the stress and pressure he has to experience due to his job. His brother dislikes the job but is powerless to change the condition because he is responsible to support the family. Apparently, Levine lived during the Great Depression and his father passed away when he was five; therefore, his mother, brother, and he must work
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