How many parts do you find in Arnold's "Dover Beach"?

Expert Answers
Noelle Thompson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are five distinct “parts” to “Dover Beach” that correspond nicely with its five stanzas. The first stanza (the only positive stanza in the bunch) discusses the positive images of the ocean where the “sea is calm” and the “moon lies fair” and the “tide is full.” This is where the happy images end, however, because the second “part” of the poem (in the second stanza) refers to all of the negative sea images with its “moon-blanched land” and its “grating roar” and its “tremulous cadence.” The negativity continues with the third “part” of the poem in the third stanza where the negative aspect of the sea even pervades the past, specifically during Sophocles time where it continued to affect the “turbid ebb and flow / Of human misery.” The fourth stanza (and fourth “part” per se) is about the speaker’s lack of faith. Where once he had faith, now there is none. Finally, the fifth stanza holds both a call to be true in love and the admittance that the world will be no help in the matter. Even though the world seems both “beautiful” and “new,” it really has “neither joy, nor love, nor light, / Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain.” The poem “Dover Beach,” then, contains quite a journey from optimism into pessimism with continual images of the sea dotting the way.