The overwhelming message of this story is the way that humans now find themselves shockingly empty of anything except for surface level insincerity and emotions, as demonstrated by Mildred's suicide attempt at the beginning of the tale. The way in which humanity is trying to protect itself from, in the words of Mrs. Bowles, "poetry and tears, poetry and suicide and crying and awful feelings, poetry and sickness; all that mush!" has actually only served to create a massive and intense emptiness that Mrs. Phelps becomes aware of as she listens to "Dover Beach" being read to her, especially as she is left with the image of a world where "ignorant armies clash by night." Taking books and literature away from the world and replacing it with "families" on "screens" that dominate people's lives only serves to highlight the emphasis within them. The sudden introduction of real literature into this environment touches Mrs. Phelps in a way that she cannot be touched by the contemporary entertainment and also reveals how essential literature is to the human soul.