Dover Beach Questions and Answers
by Matthew Arnold

Dover Beach book cover
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In "Dover Beach," how does Matthew Arnold compare the modern world with a shingled beach?

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The poet cannot see the beach but can only hear the sound made by the waves breaking on the strand and rattling all the pebbles as they race over them and then rattle them again as they retreat. It is not a nice, sandy beach but a barren strand covered with rocks and pebbles. The sound reminds the poet of something he read in Sophocles, the ancient Greek tragedian who is best known for his play Oedipus Rex. According to Arnold:

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Agaean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery;

With regard to the question of how Arnold compares the modern world with a shingled beach, the sound reminded Sophocles of one fact about humanity and reminds Arnold of a related fact.

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