Analysis of Matthew Arnold's 'Dover Beach'

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In the first stanza a quiet, still and serene scene is set. We can imagine a bright evening, lit by ‘the moon’ beaming ‘fair’ onto the coast and making them seem ‘glimmering and vast’. There is no onomatopoeia or words evoking sounds used and so all seems quite silent. A peaceful evening on the coast. It is clear out and the fact that the speaker can see that ’on French coast the light gleams’ shows that his vision is not impaired or clouded by anything. This image can also be seen as one of optimism, ‘the tide is full’ it is complete and without need of anything, perfect just the way it is; the glass is half full. This is an effective way to tell the reader what life and the world was like before the lack of faith from many began. It shows us that Arnold believes that the world was a far better place when we had religion to guide us. It is also quite a romantic picture, the moon is an age old symbol of love and romantic attraction, and it is also a feminine symbol, representing the presence of a woman in the scene. The phrase ‘Come to the window, sweet is the night air’ in the last line of the verse is a personal and direct imperative to a listener present with the speaker. The fact that they are together in the evening and he asks her to come to the window to enjoy the ‘night-air’ with him suggests and romantic involvement. This tells us that when we felt God’s presence and loved him that was when we felt loved and that anything was possible – this is what used to be and what could have been if science had not been developed and explored. The second stanza, however, looks beyond the blatantly obvious and asks both the listener present and the reader to look, or more accurately ‘listen’ closer to realise the truth of the situation and what is going on beneath this restful exterior. The word ‘only’ suggests further reflection from the speaker and makes it

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