‘Father Returning Home’ is a poignant poem about the sacrifices that parents, especially fathers, make in order to ensure that their children live well.
This post includes a breakdown of the stanzas, an insight into the speaker + voice of the poem, and an exploration of the themes and deeper meanings. It’s is only a quick overview to help you get to grips with the poem; you can access a complete in-depth breakdown of the poem, plus tasks, exercises and essay questions via the links below.
- Suburbs – a residential peripheral district of a city
- Soggy – wet and soft with the potential to be damaged as a result
- Humid – high level of water vapour in the atmosphere
- Chappals – a pair of sandals, usually leather, worn in India
- Chapati – a thin flatbread used in Indian cooking
- Estrangement – no longer being on friendly terms or part of a social group
- Droplets – a very small drop of liquid
- Sullen – bad-tempered or in a sulk
My father travels late in the evening, where he gets on the train amongst other tired commuters. Suburbs quickly pass his tired eyes; his clothes are worn out and his bag is almost falling apart. His aged eyes travel through the wet and humid monsoon night. I can imagine him getting off the train quickly, like a word that’s been dropped from a long sentence, disappearing from the platform and hurrying to work. Even though his slippers are caked with mud, he continues and races to work. Once home, he drinks weak tea, eats a chapati from earlier in the day, and faintly reads a book. He goes to the toilet and thinks about his own detachment from the world. Trembling at the thought of his own existence, his hands shake at the sink, where cold water attaches itself to his greying wrist hair. His own serious children no longer share jokes or secrets with him. He goes to sleep drifting off to the static radio and dreams of his ancestors, and nomads entering India through a narrow pass.
The speaker of the poem is the child of the father who is the poem’s subject. He narrates the story of his father’s life, using synecdochic anecdotes to show the repetitive monotony of his days – the main commutes to work, eats the same food regularly, and feels lost and despondent about his life. The speaker describes their perspective on their father as they were growing up and conveys the hardship of work that their father went through. The child seems painted by the experience and depicts his heartbreak at seeing his father work so tirelessly, with no respite. Through the child’s lens, we are also exposed to the father’s own heartache, and his everyday existence where it appears that he worked incredibly hard for his family, but at the expense of not being able to give time and energy to being a father. The child’s perspective is also widened to include the other children, where the speaker describes the children as also learning from and imitating the father’s alienating behaviour, where there is a clear lack of communication within the family.
TASK: Read ‘Those Winter Sundays’, by Robert Haydn. Consider the poem’s outlook on identity and urban living. Compare and contrast how Haydn and Chitre explore themes of alienation and disillusionment in their poems.
Thanks for reading! You can buy our detailed study guide here if you’re studying this particular poem.
- Story + Summary
- Speaker + Voice
- Language Feature Analysis
- Form and Structure Analysis
- Attitudes + Messages
- Themes + Deeper Ideas
- Key Quotations
- Extra tasks / possible essay questions