Rachel Hadas’ poem “The Red Hat” is told from the viewpoint of the parents of a young boy who begins to walk to school by himself. The poem reveals the actions and emotions of the parents who struggle with allowing their son to become more independent. However, this poem is not simply a story of a boy starting to walk to school on his own. The underlying theme is about a boy leaving the protection and safety of his parents to enter the world by himself. In the middle of the first stanza the lines, “these parallel paths part” interrupt the flow of the poem.
Here, at Straus Park, the boy must really separate from his parents. When Hadas write, “The watcher’s heart stretches, elastic in its love and fear, toward him as we see him disappear, striding briskly”, she introduces the reader to one of the most significant parts of the poem. His parents, the watchers, extend their “elastic” hearts to their son out of love and fear as well. They look back two weeks, remembering when they held their son’s hand as they walked to school. The parents will not let their son go on alone until they feel satisfied that he can handle the responsibility. Even though the son proves his capability of walking to school, the parents still worry. When they finally let their son continue on his own, they worry about the potential dangers in the world. The parents will always worry, because their boy can never be completely safe.
The author uses vivid description to allow the reader to develop a mental picture of what takes place. The boy walks up the east side of West End, while his parents follow behind on the west side. An understanding between the boy and his parent’s permits extended glances across the street, but not eye contact. This unsaid agreement allows the parents the opportunity to look over at their son to check on him, and it gives the boy a chance to occasionally look back and know that his parents are still there for him. The remaining lines of the poem follow in a sequential AA, BB rhyming pattern. When taken literally, this poem is merely a tale of a young boy learning to walk to school on his own and his parents’ concern over letting him go. In order for parents to let their child go off into the world, they must be sure that their child will look both ways before he crosses the street, and that he does not talk to strangers.