An Analysis of Dover Beach
Dover Beach intrigued me as soon as I read the title. I have a great love of beaches, so I feel a connection with the speaker as he or she stands on the cliffs of Dover, looking out at the sea and reflecting on life. Arnold successfully captures the mystical beauty of the ocean as it echoes human existence and the struggles of life. The moods of the speaker throughout the poem change dramatically as do the moods of the sea. The irregular, unordered rhyme is representative of these inharmonious moods and struggles. In this case, the speaker seems to be struggling with the relationship with his or her partner.
In the beginning, there is a peaceful, blissful atmosphere to the poem. Imagery of light amidst the darkness of the night is created by the use of words such as "gleams," "glimmering" and "moon-blanch'd". The speaker seems excited by the sweet night-air and the lively waves that fling the pebbles on the shore as we see by the exclamation marks in the sixth and ninth lines. The waves "begin, and cease, and then again begin," much as life is an ongoing process of cessation and rebirth. The first stanza is quite happy until the last two lines when the "tremulous cadence slow, and bring/ the eternal note of sadness in." This phrase causes the poem's tone to change to a more somber one
This shift in tone is continued into the second stanza where Arnold makes an allusion to Sophocles, a Greek dramatist whose plays dwell on tragic ironies and on the role of fate in human existence. The speaker feels connected to Sophocles in that he, too, heard the "eternal note of sadness" on the Aegean (a sea on the east side of Greece). It is suggested that Sophocles was inspired by the ...
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...ere is a resolution in the rhyming. It becomes more ordered towards the end, because the speaker's love can counteract the chaos of the world.
The various moods of "Dover Beach" reflect the many feelings and struggles that life holds for us all. This is one individual's experience, but it is still true to all of us, because each of us have felt disillusioned and betrayed by the world at one time or another. We have all known beauty and joy, but also misery and sadness. Arnold expresses these experiences by relating them to the nature of the ocean. The experience that surpasses all others is that of love, which is the only true thing in a deceptive world. Everything that the speaker is trying to express is tied together by the poem's form. The uneven rhyme is a perfect method of pronouncing the confusion that the speaker is feeling about the world.
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