25 October 2011
Dover Beach, An Explication
In the realm of literature the role of a poet is one of the most challenging to play. Matthew Arnold fulfilled this role to a tee. With his devout spiritual nature and keep understanding of the written word Arnold arguably scripted some of the greatest poems The world has ever known. Arguably the most famous of these poems is “Dover Beach.” Through his transformations of point of view, mastery of figurative language and his fierce writing style, Arnold presents an elegy on how the challenges to the validity of long-standing theological and moral precepts have shaken the faith of people in God and religion.
To understand the poem you must understand Matthew Arnold’s consistent changes of point of view throughout the poem. Arnold uses first- second- and third-person point of view in his poem. Generally, the poem presents the observations of the Arnold in third-person point of view but shifts to second person when he addresses his beloved, as in “Come...Listen! you...let” (Arnold 6, 9, 29). Arnold then shifts again, this time to first-person point of view when he includes his beloved and the reader as fellow observers. He uses key phrases such as “we” (18, 35) and “us” (29, 31). He continues to use the first person point of view to speak intimately to his doxy, stating, “But now I only hear.” (24) While it critical to understand the point of view changes in Arnold’s poem; it is just as critical to understand the strong figurative language and literary technique in each of the stanzas.
In Arnold’s first stanza, he begins to set the tone for the poem by introducing a tranquil moonlight scene over a placid sea. In his opening lines he sates, “The sea is calm to-night./The tide is full, the moon lies fair/Upon the straits;”(1-3) These line open the readers sense to the peacefulness of the setting. It is in the next few lines when Arnold truly begins to show his mastery of the...
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