Dover Beach Questions and Answers
by Matthew Arnold

Dover Beach book cover
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How does the poet powerfully convey the sorrow of human life in Dover Beach?  

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The main way that Matthew Arnold evokes the misery of the human condition in his poem ‘Dover Beach’ is through the metaphor of the sea. He imagines that faith once acted as a warm ocean cradling humanity, but retreated, leaving us, like the naked shingles after the tide ebbs, open to an indifferent universe. The image of the receding sea and bare scoured shingle is both visually melancholy and uttered in almost wistfully Tennysonian diction and rhythm.  In the final stanza, he explicitly makes an abstract comment about the misery of human nature, but immediately follows it with another striking embodied image of human misery, that of soldiers fighting in the dark.

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