What is the central theme of the poem "To Marguerite" by Matthew Arnold?

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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The central theme of the poem "To Marguerite" by Matthew Arnold is human isolation. This is one of a group of poems, of which the best known is "Dover Beach", written by Matthew Arnold in response to a failed romantic relationship with a young French woman, He sees the isolation of England as an island, and the Dover straits separating England from France, as metaphors for his feelings about being separated from Marguerite:

Yes: in the sea of life enisled,

With echoing straits between us thrown.

Dotting the shoreless watery wild,

We mortal millions live alone.

In this poem, Arnold struggles with a loss of faith as well, because individual isolation would not be complete if "the sea of faith" had not retreated. Where for his father's generation, the personal situation of separation from a beloved would be balanced by a constant sense of the presence of God, Arnold himself no longer has that reassuring personal religious certainty.


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