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How does the poem Dover Beach manage to convey the poets disgust and sense of hopelessness so well?

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Introduction

How does the poem Dover Beach manage to convey the poet's disgust and sense of hopelessness so well? The poem 'Dover Beach' by Mathew Arnold conveys the upsetting views of the poet that the world is turning its back on religion. Told mostly in first person perspective, we see a change in the speaker's perception from seeing the world as soothing and hopeful but his thoughts turn to disgust and hopelessness. Arnold does this by using an extended metaphor littered with strong imagery and sensual sounds. The first stanza of the poem introduces the soothing setting of Dover Beach on the English coast. The poet describes the sea as "calm to-night. ...read more.

Middle

As if this storm were a disease, it is spreading far and wide and reducing the speaker's hope that the sea may return to its calm state. In stanza four, the central extended metaphor is released by the line "The Sea of Faith". In this metaphor the 'sea' mimics the general peace felt around the world in a time when morals were important and there was a reliance on God for guidance. Now that the sea is becoming violent, the speaker seems to become disgusted by the sights around him. No longer is "bright girdle" around his faith helping him feel secure, as it has been replaced by a "melancholy, long, withdrawing roar". As the tide retreats back to the ocean, so does the speaker's hope that it will ever return. ...read more.

Conclusion

These words strike up images of scared faces, paranoid encounters and general unease. He releases his final breaths of disgust as he unleashes the "ignorant armies [who] clash by night". Ignorant hear indicates the loss of knowledge, education and peace in the world as now people fight not for a cause, but for themselves. The extended metaphor here brings about a complete annihilation of the speaker's aspirations of the sea ever returning to the peace and tranquillity experienced in the first stanza. Striking imagery and startling sounds call forth the comparable destruction of Arnold's religious beliefs that only seemed to make sense when incorporated into a communal religious belief. The disgust and hopelessness that Arnold now feels for the world is characterized by the tide retreating leaving nothing but darkness and misery. ...read more.

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