“Dover Beach” by Matthew Arnold Literature Critique Essay

July 16, 2021 by Essay Writer

Updated: Apr 24th, 2020

Analyzing the poem Dover Beach by Matthew Arnold, one can say that the images of sound and sight play a significant role in making the poem more effective and bright. The hero of the poem is a young man who stays on the balcony looking out at the sea.

The critics are unanimous in the fact that since the poem was written during the honeymoon of the author, he may be talking to his own fiancée. Obviously, this poem contains romantic mood. In this context, the images of sound and sight help the author express the feelings in a more emotional way, making the poem bright, live and moving.

The first line of the poem creates a picture of the nature around the man: “The sea is calm to-night” (Arnold 582). This image of sound helps the readers feel the sea which is calm and peaceful at night and comprehend the man who invites his woman to join him looking at this amazing picture with moon and stars. The same as man wants to share his views with woman, the author wants to share them with the readers.

The image of sound makes the picture of nature deeper since the readers can not only see, but also hear this poem. They can imagine the quiet rustle of the waves and trees. Besides, they can taste the sweet air and the salty sea. There is no need to talk; the author asks the readers: “Listen! You hear the grating roar of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling, at their return, up the high strand…” (Arnold 582).

They hear repeatedly crash of waves being involved in this eternal natural process that never stops. And, obviously, the readers can hear the waves that go forth and back making quiet noise. However, Arnold wants to show not only the picture of the sea in its nature, but also its figurative meaning as the eternal movement with the “note of sadness in” (Arnold 582).

The researchers emphasize that “phonetic intensives are speech sounds which in themselves suggest meaning, when such attributable meaning is related to the sense of the words in which they occur” (Walcutt 18). Thus, Arnold shows not only the struggle of the hero, but also indicates the essence of light and dark. The author demonstrates that everything can change drastically and rapidly. The movement of things cannot be stopped. This allusion of small moving light is seen in the image of gleaming stars which are passing by.

The image of sight emphasizes the romantic relationship between two people. The readers can see the room and the woman on bed. However, it is eveident that the author does not pay too much attention to the description of the room or the environment. The most important and vital image is the one of the sea.

The author wants to describe the nature and the place of humans in this world. The visual image of this poem is dedicated to nature, see, moon and stars. The author wants the readers to feel the harmony with nature and forget about any problems, at least for some time. Suddenly, the scene changes, and the hero sees the sea as “turbid ebb and flow of human misery” (Arnold 582).

The hero claims that love should be true and sincere, as it is only one place where people can find peace and harmony. Arnold sees the world as a place of contradictions. On the one hand, there is beauty of the nature and love. However, on the other hand, there is misery and defeat.

The end of the poem seems sad, because the author underlines that without his love the world will be painful with no peace and remedy. Although everything seems perfect and peaceful, the reality can be cruel and the things can be changed quickly. In this case, Ciardi says that “love, on the other hand, tries to image a land of dreams and certitude” (196).

The images which Arnold uses in the poem are very effective in regards to describing love and relationships. One can see the different reflections of the hero, admiration, fear of lost as well as the fear to live suffering. Therefore, every image in this poem is used in order to make the picture deeper and describe the spiritual image of love more vivid and colorful. By means of using the images of sound and sight, the poem represents a dramatic monologue of the author.

Changes of the sound and sight emphasize the emotional transformation of the man who is afraid to lose his love and live in the world of misery. Arnold mixes sound and sight, describing the eternal meanings, broad views, deepest emotions and fears. The poem makes clear that the hero is an integral part of this picture, not just a witness. Similar to the waves in the sea, the emotions are changeable, so peaceful and quite world can be destroyed in a trice

Works Cited

Arnold, Mattew. “Dover Beach.” Literature and Writing Process. 9 th ed. 2011. Ed. Elizabeth Mc. Mahon and Susan X. Day. US: Pearson Education Inc. Print.

Ciardi, John. How Does A Poem Mean? Boston: Houghton, 1975. Print.

Walcutt, Charles C. The Explicator. Chicago: Quadrangle, 1968. Print.




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