Discuss the main issue that makes Matthew Arnold so melancholic in his poem "Dover Beach".

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mrs-campbell eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The central issue, that is pretty general and vague, that is the focus of Matthew Arnold's melancholy in "Dover Beach" is the perception that he holds of the loss of beauty and goodness in the world around him.  He feels that all virtue, appreciation of the finer beauties of life, and kindness have disappeared from the world that he lives in.  He feels that "the Sea of Faith" (probably referring to the vast amount of belief in the goodness of mankind) has left the earth, leaving only the "naked shingles of the world."  The naked shingles of the world is a symbolic reference to how when goodness, and people's belief in mankind's ability to love has left, it leaves the world exposed to all sorts of cold "weather" (wars, evil, misery, woe).  He feels that because all "joy...love...light...certitude...peace...help" has gone, we as humans are left completely and totally alone.  We are alone, on the "darkling plain" of the world, while all around us is misery and war, and we are left to fend for ourselves.

It is a rather depressing take on the world, that all goodness has left it, leaving us to each struggle individually for meaning and happiness.  That hopelessness and aloneness are the central issue that saddens Arnold in his poem "Dover Beach".