Analysis of Dover Beach

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Reflection on “Dover Beach”

Human interpretation and comprehension of faith and religion have undergone constant change over the course of time. I feel that “Dover Beach” was written as an elegy to convey the author’s, Matthew Arnold, somber feelings regarding how man’s abandonment of the doctrine of religion, with the help of Victorianism and the Industrial Revolution, is only a vain act against an all-powerful nature. Arnold’s overall theme of how religion and faith should remain in humanity and ignoring it will only result in the uncertainty and vulnerability of modern man is keenly expressed throughout the poem with his skilled use of onomatopoeia, anaphora, and the content he chose to write about.

Through knowing the particular historical context of the Victorian era and significant changes the Industrial Revolution wrought, this can help us better comprehend and appreciate the writing of the poem “Dover Beach”. When this poem was being written in 1851, Arnold undoubtedly perceived many people who were once filled with faith in God and regularly exercised their religious beliefs shift their focus to work and industry. Furthermore, great minds such as Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, and Jean-Baptiste Lamarck began to change the mindset of the populace and their entire belief system. I feel that the content Arnold decided to write about aids the reader in understanding that “Dover Beach” is a reflection of the changes he sees in his world due to industrialism, science, and a rationalism that opposes his traditional religious belief. Throughout the poem it “engages with religious issues, specifically the place of revealed religion in a culture that was becoming increasingly inimical if not hostile to it” (Clausson, 2008. Pg. 282). To further draw the reader into his emotional outpour, the speaker implores the reader to listen to the sounds of his faith slowly retreating. “Dover Beach” is structured around the speaker’s response to sound: it is what the...
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