Free Essays: The Message of Dover Beach Arnold Dov
er Beach EssaysThe Message of Dover Beach
Arnold’s focus in Dover Beach is on society’s anxieties – the grim outcome of the Victorian times. The message is the negative impact of the industrial revolution on the poor and on future generations.
Arnold places the ocean to stand in for the lifestyle many workers in those times experienced. The waves have a “turbid ebb and flow,” (Arnold, Longman p. 2020: l. 17) back and forth rhythm: back to rest on shore and back to work the ocean waters forth, mirroring the lives of factory workers resting and working again and again. As in Sophocles days in Greece when he reflected the life of misery in his dramatic plays, he too “heard it on the Aegean,” that never-ending drone of “human misery” (Arnold, Longman p. 2020: ll. 16 & 18).
Arnold not only had it in for society’s unnecessary drive for progress, (making people’s lives miserable to accommodate for upper-society), but he also attacked religion as it changed with the times. This aspect is best seen in his third stanza of “Dover Beach.” At line 21 he calls the past religious condition “the Sea of Faith” signifying how the world used to be covered with the religious fervor of long ago. It was “full” of the waters of people, crowds flocked in and out “round earth’s shore” (Arnold, Longman p. 2020: l. 22) to the farthest horizon, especially since England was beginning to expand itself to many lands thus spreading its religious ideals as well. But now, as the Victorian and Industrial age itself expands, that religious harmony and control lessens its grip on the people and give them up to the misery of progress. Faith was “retreating” (l. 26) as science improved and opened the ways to new discoveries, which supposedly proved the Bible wrong. People started losing faith, and thus religion failed Matthew Arnold as he was drawn away from it, and so he assumed his attack.
Some key literary concepts to Arnold’s “Dover Beach” is his use of active words such as “glimmering,” “spray,” and “grating roar” to describe the sea’s waves, in the first stanza. It gives the reader a sense of being on the beach, with the grating and roaring waves, throwing about the pebbles.
Arnold wrote “Dover Beach” with a realistic tone through his use of words and illustrative descriptions. His vividness and vitality lends the reader pictures of the beautiful ocean along British shores. The words he chose to describe these have hard consonants which poets use to evoke the sounds of the things they wrote about, which with Arnold is the ocean. “Back, and fling” gives the feeling of the pulling and pushing of waves, and the “grating” describes well the rocks and pebbles the water throws about. This is a way Arnold causes the narrator to give life and emotion to “Dover Beach” by the flow of words such as at line 10 with “pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,” giving the reader a sense of motion, and the feel of the sea close by.
It appears that Arnold used a dramatic monologue that could go two ways: one could be simply between the reader and narrator with one listening and feeling, while the other tells and gives feeling. Another way could be between two lovers sharing the moment together separated from the world which “lie[s] before us like a land of dreams,” (Longman, Arnold, p. 2020, l. 31) which at the time seemed so unreal.
“Dover Beach” ends in an ode to wishful, happy endings. “Ah, love, let us be true,” (Arnold, Longman p. 2020: l. 29) defying the world’s plan to conquer the identity of an individual and mold people into one working machine. As Arnold put it, “The disease of the present age is divorce from oneself.” (Longman p. 2018) The working class became unified together and as pliable and “wasteful” as the waters making up the very sea.
Damrosch, David, et al., ed. The Longman Anthology of British Literature: Vol. B. Compact ed. New York: Longman – Addison Wesley Longman, 2000. pgs. 1908-1918, & 2017-2020