Homework Help

How does the poem, "Dover Beach," link to the theme of isolation?

user profile pic

a046408 | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 20, 2013 at 1:01 PM via web

dislike 2 like

How does the poem, "Dover Beach," link to the theme of isolation?

1 Answer | Add Yours

user profile pic

amarang9 | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 20, 2013 at 2:52 PM (Answer #1)

dislike 1 like

In the first stanza of "Dover Beach," the speaker watches a lighthouse on the French coast. The light "Gleams and is gone" and the disappearance of the blinking light symbolizes a feeling of darkness and isolation. This loss of light can be interpreted as a metaphor for the loss of a guiding light in the world. 

After describing the sound of suffering between the pebbles and the waves and as the speaker understands the thoughts of Sophocles in ancient Greece, he remarks that Christianity (the "Sea of Faith") once gave meaning to the world and ameliorated that suffering. 

The Sea of Faith

Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore

Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled. 

The speaker, and Arnold himself, felt that the power of Christianity and religion had diminished; religion as a guiding light was fading. That is, religion was losing its ability to unify people and to give meaning especially during difficult times. 

Since the speaker no longer has faith in the unifying power of religion, he seeks a substitute in his relationship with his lover. The final image is of he and his lover alone trying to make sense of the world. 

And we are here as on a darkling plain

Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,

Where ignorant armies clash by night. 

Sources:

Join to answer this question

Join a community of thousands of dedicated teachers and students.

Join eNotes