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Dover Beach Summary & Analysis
by Matthew Arnold

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"Dover Beach" is the most celebrated poem by Matthew Arnold, a writer and educator of the Victorian era. The poem expresses a crisis of faith, with the speaker acknowledging the diminished standing of Christianity, which the speaker sees as being unable to withstand the rising tide of scientific discovery. New research and intellectual inquiry cast doubt on humankind's central and special role in the universe. The speaker in the poem senses this change almost subconsciously, seeing and hearing it in the sea that the speaker is looking out upon. In its expression of alienation, doubt, and melancholy, the poem is often interpreted as a remarkably forward-thinking precursor to 20th century crises of faith—like Existentialism and Absurdism. In essence, the poem is an inquiry into what it means to be alive.

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