Analyze the theme of uncertainty in "Dover Beach."

Quick answer:

In "Dover Beach," Arnold discusses uncertainty as a simple fact of the world we live in. With waning religious faith, people can only count on the love they feel for one another; our relationships are our only certainty in a world that offers no "certitude," peace, or joy.

Expert Answers

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In the third stanza, the speaker discusses faith and how it "Was once, too, at the full"; now, one can only hear its long roar of "melancholy." In other words, it seems as though people used to rely on faith to feel a sense of purpose or to feel secure, but now, people are turning to faith less and less as time passes. Perhaps they no longer feel a sense of certainty as it relates to faith and are beginning to look for answers elsewhere.

In fact, in the final stanza, it seems that a lack of certainty now seems to pervade everything. The speaker says that the world is "like a land of dreams" and does not actually offer joy, love, light, or "certitude"; we can be certain of nothing. There is no such thing as peace or ways to lessen pain, and we feel as if we stumble in the dark unless we have love in our lives to guide us: so we must "be true / To one another!" The world is a terribly confusing and uncertain place, especially in the absence of faith, and there is little to give us comfort. The only place we can seek comfort is within each other and our relationships with one another.

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