Dover Beach Questions and Answers
by Matthew Arnold

Dover Beach book cover
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Analyze the themes of love and restoration of religious faith in the poem "Dover Beach."

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In "Dover Beach," the speaker listens to the waves gently lapping against the shore and meditates upon his own sadness and loneliness. In the poem's final stanza, he addresses, for the first time in the poem, someone that he loves, and he asks that they both "be true / To one another."

The speaker seems to perceive love as an antidote to or refuge from "the eternal note of sadness" that he hears in the waves. He wants to love and to be loved because there is "neither joy, nor love, nor light, / Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain" in the world. In short, the speaker seems to be enduring some sort of existential crisis, and the only solace he can imagine is in love. Thus, this poem is not so much a romantic, passionate celebration of love, but rather a melancholy reflection upon the necessity of love. The speaker seems to have no faith in the world itself, and thus must look to put his faith in love. This is the only way in which he can reconcile himself to the relentless "ebb and flow" of the aforementioned "eternal note of sadness."

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