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Arnold’s poem represents a doubt in both faith and society, a theme common to the Victorian era. In the first and second stanzas, Arnold describes the beachsetting in terms of poetic techniques: The rhythm and cadence of the ocean createa mood. He remarks how Sophocles once heard in those same sounds “athought,” as if poetic thought cannot help but arise from observations on nature.But Arnold’s crisis of faith makes it impossible for him to see the landscape asanything but symbolic of the loss of faith which he believes is breaking apart thesociety of his time. The repetition of "is" allows the poem to shift from the realistic to the symbolic with an extreme sense of subtleness. Without the repetition, the shift would be forceful, and not what Arnold was looking for. This shift from the realistic to the symbolic allows him to express his idea that a loss of faith is symbolic for the world, is much more dramatic and thought evoking.
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