Dover Beach Questions and Answers
by Matthew Arnold

Dover Beach book cover
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Could I have an explanation of the poem "Dover Beach"?  What is the central theme of the poem?

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The poem starts off as a description of an evening by the seashore.  Listening to the waves, the poet (Matthew Arnold , 1822-1888) suggests his partner listen as well and draw a parallel to the sound of the waves, and consider that they sound like the "turbid ebb and flow of human misery," the same sound heard long ago by Sophocles. He notes that the "Sea of Faith" which once covered the world ( a reference to the Catholic Church before the Reformation?) is now retreating.  The central theme of the poem suggests a loss of faith, and finally, suggests that the only thing that matters is that both individuals "...be true to...

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