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Dover Beach

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“Dover Beach”
ENG125
Debora Zeringue
July 15, 2013

“Dover Beach”, written by Matthew Arnold, is about a beach that is really beautiful, but holds much deeper significance than what meets the eye. “Matthew Arnold presents a very real theme of love and magnificence in his poem. He creates a scene of beauty among the sea and shores, mixed with night and moonlight” (Harrison). He also presents us with underlying misery, which is easily over looked and disregarded. Arnold writes of love and loss and relates it using human misery. "Dover Beach" is the poignant expression of the desperate need for love which men feel in this world” (Miller). Matthew Arnold creates the mood of the poem through the usage of imagery. He also uses descriptive adjectives, similes and metaphors to create the mood. Through the use of these literary devices, Arnold portrays a man standing before the window thinking of the sounds of pebbles thrown in waves as a representation of human misery. The man arrives at the vision of humanity being helpless against nature. Arnold creates the mood by giving the reader mental pictures of the actions, sights and sounds the man sees. Arnold 's use of imagery and descriptive adjectives are used to create the impressions of the setting and to create the fluctuating mood, which is the eternal struggle of nature over man. In "Dover Beach", Matthew Arnold uses detailed adjectives and sensory imagery to describe the setting and portray the beginning mood, which begins with the illusion of natural beauty and ends with a tragic human experience. The poem begins with two-part stanzas, the first that is promising and hopeful, and the second that replaces hopefulness with a truth that is grim. Arnold uses contrast when he appeals to the sense of sight in the first section and to hearing in the second. “Arnold starts with the descriptions of the "calm sea", "fair tide" and the "vast" cliffs, which create a calming, innocent appearance. This sets the mood of peace and contentment, which the narrator feels when he gazes out upon the sea. "Come to the window, sweet is the night-air", gives the reader the impression of a cool, summer night” (Arnold 1867). The mood begins to be soothing and calming to the reader. Arnold then begins to change the tone. Arnold describes, "The grating roar of pebbles, of the pebbles which the waves draw back", with "a tremulous cadence" (Arnold 1867). This portrays the image of an imaginary battle on the land of Dover. Arnold writes of the awful sound of the pebbles pounding away at the land. The pebbles are eroding the land away, which the narrator thrives off of and adores. Arnold illustrates the man 's internal battle with the land destroying his home and him being helpless to its destruction. These descriptions add "the eternal note of sadness" to the poem. In the second part of the poem, Arnold uses the same style of writing; however, he speaks of human history to further support the mood of the "Sea of Faith" and its "eternal sadness" (Arnold 1867). Arnold writes of Sophocles hearing the "eternal sadness" on "the Aegean" with its "turbid ebb and flow". This appeals to the sense of hearing and causes the reader to almost hear powerful waves crashing to the land below. “Sophocles saw the waves as sounds of "human misery". Arnold is portraying the parallel thought between the narrator 's feelings and Sophocles’ same sadness over the changing of the land. The metaphor of the tides and the sea is suggested by the sounds and view of the narrator 's window, but Arnold uses Sophocles as another example of nature 's strength over the entire world” (Arnold 1867). Arnold uses this to illustrate the narrator 's misery and weakness over his situation. Arnold uses this writing to exhibit the conflict between the land and the sea, and how more than just land suffers from the destruction. Arnold wants to show how deep the narrator 's emotions run for his home. In the third stanza, Arnold uses imagery and metaphors to depict the setting, which further set the mood of the poem. The first three lines portray and suggest prospects of a visual image. The last five lines appeal to the auditory sense in the form of misery.” In the first part of the stanza, Arnold characterizes the sea as divine. "Lay like the bright folds of a girdle", stimulates the reader 's visual sense and causes a sense of peace. Arnold refers to the sea as the "Sea of Faith", to portray how the narrator respects and despises the sea at the same time” (Arnold 1867).” Arnold uses onomatopoeia to create a dominating sound—the "roar" of the waves. The word appears twice in his poem; its repeated use indicates that the sound of the waves is unrelenting as well as dominating, creating a sense of melancholy within the speaker who is on the shore.” (Clugston 2010) However, in the last five lines, Arnold returns the reader to the dismal view of the land struggling with the sea, with a man caught in between. The cycle of the narrator 's thoughts is portrayed in the writing style. The poem bounces from contentment to misery, just as the narrator is feeling. These literary styles fully illustrate and complete the story 's mood. Arnold utilizes this part of the poem to advance from the sea to the "Sea of Faith" with "girdled furls" to expose hopelessness to "the naked shingles of the world" (Arnold 1867). In the last stanza, Arnold ties all of the thoughts of the narrator together, while integrating imagery, to illustrate how by examining nature and history, the reader has reached the certainty of the inevitable. Arnold portrays how the narrator bitterly sees "the world, which seems "to lie before us like a land of dreams" "hath really neither joy, nor love nor light" (Arnold 1867). Arnold uses repetition here to illustrate the misery and hopelessness of the situation. The descriptive adjectives also stimulate visual sensations and images of the dismal sea destroying the land beneath it. Arnold leaves the reader with the harsh reality of the "ignorant armies clashing by night" (Arnold 1867). This metaphor ties together how the narrator 's battle is very similar to a soldier 's battle. The narrator 's battle; however, is futile to fight, because he knows he will never win. The inconsistent mood and usage of descriptive adjectives illustrates the setting and ties the poem together to create the mood. The image of the tides battling with the land when they meet is merged with the consequent destiny of humanity to battle pointless fights with nature. By dividing the poem into three stanzas, the narrator represents the fluctuation from peace of mind to misery. Arnold uses many literary devices to show these fluctuations, which also gives us the theme of humanity 's transformation of happiness to misery.

References:

Arnold, Matthew. "Dover Beach." 1867.
Clugston, R. W. (2010). Journey into literature. San Diego, California: Bridgepoint Education, Inc. Retrieved from https://content.ashford.edu/books
“The Victorian Age” Miller http://wps.ablongman.com/wps/media/objects/194/199322/IM/05_victorian.pdf

References: Arnold, Matthew. "Dover Beach." 1867. Clugston, R. W. (2010). Journey into literature. San Diego, California: Bridgepoint Education,     Inc. Retrieved from https://content.ashford.edu/books “The Victorian Age” Miller http://wps.ablongman.com/wps/media/objects/194/199322/IM/05_victorian.pdf

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