Matthew Arnold's Dover Beach

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Matthew Arnold's 'Dover Beach'

Matthew Arnold's 'Dover Beach' employs the sounds of language in three ways, through onomatopoeia to aurally represent the actions occurring on the beach, a varying meter which mirrors the varying heights of the waves on the beach, and a rhyme scheme which searches for its identity. In each stanza of the poem when the sounds of language are chaotic, the visual descriptions in the poem are tranquil, but when the visual descriptions are chaotic, the sounds of language become tranquil. This never resolved struggle represents the struggle the speaker finds himself in, which is about looking for something in his world which sounds and looks agreeable with his beliefs.

The first stanza of the poem visually describes a tranquil ordinary beach scene, but through the sounds of language the reader learns the speaker sees the beach in more chaos than the visuals suggest. Passive verbs that dominate the first five lines of the poem such as ?is? (line 1) and ?lies? (line 2), as well as describing the sea as ?calm? (line 1) and the moon as ?fair? (line 2) contribute to the tranquil visual image of the beach. However, onomatopoeia, rhythm and rhyme do not agree with the tranquil beach scene. For example, onomatopoeia serves to aurally represent the violent action of the waves on the pebbles. The pebbles are already in a chaotic state with their ?grating roar? (line 9). Then the waves come and, ?draw back, and fling? (line 10) the pebbles to create more chaos. ?Fling? ends the line on a chaotic note. This process is aurally represented by, ?begin, and cease, and then again begin? (line 12). The line presents the reader with a beat that further emphasizes the chaotic pattern of the waves and pebbles. T...

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... until the darkness leaves and light can enter. The poem ends with the speaker finding what he wants to hear to put him at peace, silence. His loved one has listen to him throughout the poem and has not once spoken. The speaker wants someone he can talk to that will listen to him during the faith crisis. There may be more than a crisis of faith in the speaker?s life, but faith is the most important problem he wants fixed, since the entire third stanza is devoted to ?The Sea of Faith? (line 21) However, the speaker still sees the world as a chaotic lie, which over shadows seeing his loved one with him listening to him. Aural peace has been achieved while visual peace has not.

Works Cited:

Arnold, Matthew. Dover Beach. Perrine's Literature: Structure, Sound, and Sense. Ed. Thomas R. ARP. 7th ed. Forth Worth: Hartcourt Brace College Publishers, 1998. 715-716.
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