Matthew Arnold's Dover Beach Essay

1591 words - 6 pages

Matthew Arnold's 'Dover Beach'

Matthew Arnold's 'Dover Beach' employs the sounds of language in three ways, through onomatopoeia to aurally represent the actions occurring on the beach, a varying meter which mirrors the varying heights of the waves on the beach, and a rhyme scheme which searches for its identity. In each stanza of the poem when the sounds of language are chaotic, the visual descriptions in the poem are tranquil, but when the visual descriptions are chaotic, the sounds of language become tranquil. This never resolved struggle represents the struggle the speaker finds himself in, which is about looking for something in his world which sounds and looks agreeable with his beliefs.

The first stanza of the poem visually describes a tranquil ordinary beach scene, but through the sounds of language the reader learns the speaker sees the beach in more chaos than the visuals suggest. Passive verbs that dominate the first five lines of the poem such as ?is? (line 1) and ?lies? (line 2), as well as describing the sea as ?calm? (line 1) and the moon as ?fair? (line 2) contribute to the tranquil visual image of the beach. However, onomatopoeia, rhythm and rhyme do not agree with the tranquil beach scene. For example, onomatopoeia serves to aurally represent the violent action of the waves on the pebbles. The pebbles are already in a chaotic state with their ?grating roar? (line 9). Then the waves come and, ?draw back, and fling? (line 10) the pebbles to create more chaos. ?Fling? ends the line on a chaotic note. This process is aurally represented by, ?begin, and cease, and then again begin? (line 12). The line presents the reader with a beat that further emphasizes the chaotic pattern of the waves and pebbles. There is no rhyme scheme for the first stanza, and few cases of perfect end rhyme. One case of end rhyme, ?tonight? (line 1) and ?light? (line 3) through sound instill an idea of chaos in the reader?s mind, how can light be present in something associated with dark such as night? There are also few cases of words that appear to rhyme due to similar letter arrangements. The meter is in chaos as the number of feet per line increases to a point then decreases and increases again throughout the stanza. Since the first stanza is the largest this process occurs more often in the first stanza than in any other. The meter also reminds the reader of the chaotic waves that will tamper with any tranquil beach scene. The beach is not a place the speaker can go to relax and enjoy his life with his loved one. Visually it appears to be such a place, but as he calls the reader and his loved one to the window we hear the sense of chaos he hears on the beach.

In the second stanza, sounds of language are at peace, but the visuals in the stanza represent the chaos Sophocles noted in a similar position as the speaker. This stanza has a definite rhyme scheme, abacbc. There are no questionable end rhymes. There is no example of onomatopoeia...

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