Dover Beach Questions and Answers
by Matthew Arnold

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What is the meaning of the last three lines in the poem "Dover Beach"? "And we are here as on a darkling plain..." Also, how does "Dover Bitch" by Hecht respond to this poem? Is Hecht affriming Arnold's pessimistic belief or is he making fun of it?

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The last three lines of Matthew Arnold's "Dover Beach" are among the most quoted lines in English poetry. They reflect Arnold's beliefa belief shared by many in late Victorian Englandthat the slow decline of religion left the people of England on a "darkling plain" of ignorance, on which all were "confused" and filled with a sense of "struggle." The word "darkling" emphasizes the idea that the sun is setting on something; in this case, it is plunging the country into spiritual darkness as science becomes more significant in people's lives and the clear light of religious faith diminishes. Arnold's use of words such as "struggle" and "armies" suggests that there is no one straightforward belief among these confused peopleon the contrary, they are all arguing with each other, divided in their ignorance.

Hecht's "Dover Bitch" is gently mocking Arnold's pessimism. Hecht suggests that the woman who is presumably with Arnold on the beach would much rather have preferred to feel "his...

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