Dover Beach

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Dover Beach

By | November 2012
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Joshua George
Instructor Sarah Poffenroth
EN 115
23 October 2012

Essay Two: The theme of ‘Illusion versus Reality’ in Matthew Arnold’s ‘Dover Beach’

‘Dover Beach’ is a poem by the English poet Matthew Arnold. The locale of the poem is the English ferry port of Dover Kent, facing Calais, France. This was the place where Matthew Arnold honeymooned in 1851 (Wikipedia Contributors). In Matthew Arnold’s ‘Dover Beach’, the speaker draws visual imagery to show that what is generally perceived is false and hence an illusion, and he contrasts it using aural imagery to show what is truly real, the bitter reality of losing faith in one’s tradition, culture, and religion.

The poem is unevenly divided into four stanzas. The first stanza has fourteen lines, whereas the second, third, and fourth have six, eight, and nine lines, respectively. Ruth Pitman calls this poem a series of incomplete sonnets (109). The poem has no particular rhyme scheme except for stanza four which follows the rhyme scheme- abbacddcc. The events described in the poem allude to the Victorian Era (1837-1901) (Wikipedia Contributors), which was a time of industrialization and introduction of scientific theories and ideas such as the Theory of Evolution which questioned major principles of Christianity. Some critics say that the speaker in the poem is Matthew Arnold himself because the location where the events in the poem take place is

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Dover beach, where Arnold went for honeymoon with his wife. The poem is thought to be composed in 1851 and that is the year when Arnold honeymooned (Wikipedia Contributors).
The speaker paints visual imagery of the scene in lines 1-8. Words such as ‘calm’ and ‘tranquil’ create an image of stability whereas words such as ‘glimmering’ and ‘vast’ describe the visual beauty of the scene. The first stanza also uses words like ‘roar’ and...