Dover Beach Analysis: Dover Beach is a masterpiece composed by the famous poet and critic Matthew Arnold. The central theme of the poem is the opposition of ideas between the religious and the modern world. The poem was printed first in 1867.
Students can also check the English Summary to revise with them during exam preparation.
Analysis of the Poem
The poet runs with two vital themes throughout man’s composition, the natural world and his loss of faith. Compose represents the victorian times when the age of questioning had started and taken over the modern man’s minds. He admires the beauty of the cliffs of Dover. He is mesmerised by the lighthouse, the calmness of the sea and the pleasant air around him. The sound of the sea feels the notion of the change like humankind behaviour. According to him, the pebbles’ sound slowly moving back and forth represents the ocean’s sadness.
The poem takes a move towards the ancient greek playwright. Sophocles. He compares the sadness of the sea felt by him was touched by Sophocles watching the Aegean sea. The sound of the waves is compared to the dismay of humans. Another thought flashes in the poet’s mind while looking at the waves of the sea. According to him, people’s belief and faith in religion like the tides are rising, but now as the world’s edges are left naked, people’s religious view has disappeared.
The poet further explores the world of love and states that all the earth elements represent dream-like beauty but do not show love, joy or clarity. He addresses his companion as his lover and the need to trust each other. Which he understands is not possible. He compares the situation to standing on flat land where many people have fought in the darkness. The poem is left at a sad note that maybe love can save people from modern thoughts and developments of mind, and perhaps even love will not be enough to protect the people who have stopped believing in religion. He has left it for readers to think to trust in love and nature.
Themes in Dover Beach Analysis
- The religious shift- The poem’s era is when there is development in human beings’ minds due to scientific changes. Dover Beach acts as a transitional figure in the whole composition. As the tide sets low and the border of the land is left naked. Similarly, humankind is losing interest in the bible. A beautiful build-up of the sea’s beauty and the atmosphere around it leads to the sea and people’s eternal sadness. The comparisons between the movement of the sea and the belief of people changing come in a cycle. Faith is lost by the end of the poem, which was touched once by it. Therefore from the first para to the last stanzas, there are different references of change and loss of faith due to ignorance.
- Significance of Nature- Beach and the sea is the representation of nature in the whole poem. According to the poet, nature is beautiful since eternity and will remain like that, but it feels the sadness and happiness of humankind as the development is taking place. Time alienation is handled by the poet here. In all three stanzas, nature has been a thought-provoking factor for the poet. In the end, the poet talks about the natural surroundings and the present time, that people have lost faith and trust, which has had its effect on nature.
- The love- The poet is hoping that the faith in religion will be restored by the love people have. He talks to his companion as a lover and explains that the lost trust between people can be saved by the love people feel.
Dover Beach Analysis Techniques
The poem has used many literary techniques like existentialism, which means the piece is ahead of its time.
Stanzas of Dover Beach Analysis
The beginning of the poem is a dramatic monologue. The composer further stands on the cliff of Dover beach and admires the sea’s beauty and the atmosphere’s serenity. The sensory mood to its maximum best. Now and then, the significance of nature is made with the feelings of human beings. The calmness of the sea shows harmony and balance in our life. The flickering light at the lighthouse represents the lost faith of people in god.
The erosion of the rock and soil over some time signifies the vulnerability of human faith in God. Furthermore, the poet calls out to his companion to come and enjoy the beauty of the night and feel the shift felt by the sea due to a change in people’s thinking towards God. The end of the stanza is done with a powerful sensory creation on the readers. The poet ends the stanza by saying that the sea feels the sadness of the world, and it shows by the sound the waves make by moving the pebbles. The use of this technique leaves a depressing and tragic image on the readers.
While mulling on his thoughts, he drifts toward Sophocles, a tragic greek philosopher. The sadness of the sea was felt by the greek poet while looking at the Aegean sea. The sea’s pain moves the poet himself due to human nature’s shift due to scientific development. The significance of the sea is like the classic imagery of the creator.
The change in the mindset of people has brought a difference in the belief of people in religion. There are doubts created among people on God. These doubts, according to the poet, will lead to misery and sorrow among humankind. The pool of faith which engulfed humanity has shifted.
The sea waves, which were once strong and fierce like the faith in religion, have become weak and left the land naked. The symbolism used here shows that the way the sea was protecting the stones now the divine is not there to protect the Earth.
The last stanza mentions the companion of the poet as his lover. He calls him to stand beside him and enjoy the beauty of the night and sea. But along with that, he wants his lover to feel the pain and sorrow of the sea. The saviour of this grief is only the love of humanity.
The shift is so substantial of non-belief in humans that the creator is sad because they question religion. The sadness has engulfed nature. The sea feels the pain, and now only love can save everyone from this pain. People are fighting in darkness and giving rise to more hatred and hopelessness. A never-ending fight is going on, resulting in a loss of purpose and meaning in life. The end of the poem is sad and one of disbelief.
Literary Devices Used In The Poem
Literary devices help to beautify the poem. The poet uses them to create depth in the verses. Let us see some of the devices used here-
- Assonance: This helps to decorate a poem by repeating vowel sounds in the same line, such as the sound of e/ and/ o/.
- Alliteration: This adds to the verses by the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line.
- An enjambment: This device is used in the form of a verse that moves on to the next line.
- Allusion: This device helps create an implied reference to a character or a place of historical, cultural, political or literary value. Sophocles . the greek tragic poet, was referred to in the second stanza.
- Symbolism: This is a device in which symbols are used to signify ideas, qualities are making them significant and different from literal meanings. Matthew Arnold uses the pool of faith as faith in God, so the sea gets meaningful by using it as a symbol of faith.
- Simile: A figure of speech used to compare two opposite things to give it a different meaning.
- Imagery: This helps to play with the reader’s five senses and gives a better descriptive value to the verse.
Dover Beach Analysis Poetic Devices
The other forms used to create sensations in the poems are poetic devices.
- Stanza- There are four stanzas in this poem with a different distribution of lines.
- Lambic Pentameter- In this five iambs per line are used.
About Matthew Arnold
Matthew Arnold is a renowned English poet of the victorian era. He was born on 24 December 1822 in the United Kingdom. He was known for his works as a literary critic. He is a writer who was a religious reformist and believed in changes in society. Most of his work revolves around contemporary social issues. He was an inspector of schools by profession.
His notable works are Dover Beach, The scholar gipsy, Thyrsis, Culture and Anarchy, Literature and Dogma. He is considered a modern writer of his time. Dover Beach is a poem that reflects the twentieth century. The techniques used in the poem are like modern-day poets use. There is no form in the verses. Some of the stanzas have fourteen lines, while some are way less. He was a gem of a poet and critic of the Victorian times. He left the literary world with his extraordinary creation on 15 April 1888 in the United Kingdom.