Dover Beach Essay, Research Paper
In the poem "Dover Beach",witten in 1867 Matthew Arnold creates the mood of the poem through the usage of different types of imagery. He uses a dramatic plot in the form of a soliloquy. Arnold also uses descriptive adjectives, similes and metaphors to create the mood. Through the use of these literary elements, Arnold portrays the man standing before the window pondering the sound of the pebbles tossing in the waves as representation of human suffering. The man arrives at the vision of humanity being helpless against nature. Arnold creates the mood by suggesting mental pictures, actions, sights and sounds the man sees. Some examples are "folds of a bright girdle furled", "lie before us like a land of dreams" and "moon-blanched land". Arnold’s use of different types of imagery and descriptive adjectives to induce sensory impressions of the setting, create the fluctuating mood of the poem, which is the eternal struggle of nature over man.
In "Dover Beach", Matthew Arnold uses detailed adjectives and sensory imagery to describe the setting and portray the beginning mood, which begins with the illusion of natural beauty and ends with tragic human experience. The poem begins two-part stanzas, the first which is promising and hopeful; the second replaces optimism with a reality which is grim. Arnold uses contrast when he appeals to the sense of sight in the first section and to hearing in the second. Arnold starts with the descriptions of the "calm sea", "fair tide" and the "vast" cliffs which create a calming, innocent appearance. This sets the mood of peace and contentment which the speaker feels when he gazes out upon the sea. "Come to the window, sweet is the night-air", gives the reader the impression of a cool, summer night. The mood begins to be soothing and calming to the reader. Arnold then however, begins to change the tone. Arnold describes, "The grating roar of pebbles, Of the pebbles which the waves draw back", with "a tremulous cadence". This portrays the image of an imaginary battle on the land of Dover. Arnold writes of the horrible sound of the pebbles beating away at the land. The pebbles are eroding the land away, which the speaker thrives off of and adores. Arnold illustrates the man’s internal battle with the land destroying his home and him being helpless to its destruction. These descriptions add "the eternal note of sadness" to the poem.
In the second part of the poem, Arnold uses the same method of writing, however he speaks of human history to further support the mood of the "Sea of Faith" and it’s "eternal sadness". Arnold writes of Sophocles hearing the "eternal sadness" on "the Aegean" with it’s "turbid ebb and flow". This appeals to the sense of hearing and causes the reader to almost hear powerful waves crashing to the land below. Sophocles saw the waves as sounds of "human misery". Arnold is portraying the parallel thought between the speaker’s feelings and Sophocles same sadness over the changing of the land. The metaphor of the tides and the sea is suggested by the sounds and view of the speaker’s window, but Arnold uses Sophocles as another example of nature’s strength over the entire world. Arnold uses this to illustrate the speaker’s despair and helplessness over his situation. Arnold uses this writing to exhibit the conflict between the land and the sea, and how more than just land suffers from the destruction. Arnold wants to show how deep the speaker’s emotions run for his home.
In the third stanza, Arnold uses imagery and metaphors to depict the setting, which further set the mood of the poem. The first three lines portray and insinuate prospects of a visual image. The last five lines appeal to the auditory sense in the form of despair. In the first part of the stanza, Arnold characterizes the sea as divine. "Lay like the bright folds of a girdle", stimulates the reader’s visual sense and causes a sense of peace. Arnold refers to the sea as the "Sea of Faith", to portray how the speaker respects and despises the sea at the same time. In the last five lines, Arnold, however returns the reader to the dismal view of the land struggling with the sea, with a man caught in between. The cycle of the speaker’s thoughts is played out in the writing style. The poem bounces from contentment to despair, just as the speaker is feeling. These literary styles fully illustrate and complete the story’s mood. Arnold utilizes this part of the poem to advance from the sea to the "Sea of Faith" with "girdled furls" to expose hopelessness to "the naked shingles of the world".
In the last stanza, Arnold ties all of the thoughts of the speaker together, while incorporating imagery, to illustrate how by examining nature and history, the reader has reached the reality of the inevitable. Arnold portrays how the speaker bitterly sees "the world, which seems to lie before us like a land of dreams" "hath really neither joy, nor love nor light". Arnold’s use of repetition here illustrates the despair and hopelessness of the situation. The descriptive adjectives also stimulate visual sensations and images of the dismal sea destroying the land beneath it. Arnold leaves the reader with the harsh reality of the "ignorant armies clashing by night". This metaphor ties together how the speaker’s battle is very similar to a soldier’s battle. The speaker’s battle however, is futile to fight, because he knows he will never win.
All in all, the fluctuating mood and usage of descriptive adjectives to illustrate the setting, tie the poem together and create the mood Arnold was looking to achieve. The image of the tides battling with the land when they meet, is merged with the consequent destiny of humanity to battle fruitless fights with nature. Arnold’s method of illustrating the setting is different than the other two poems because he uses detailed imagery almost completely to reveal the mood of the story. He also uses a fluctuating plot that goes back and forth from human defeat to contentment. Jown Cowper, writer of "Suspended Judgements", critiqued Maupassant on "Dover Beach". Cowper said "Maupassant develops the mood by dividing the poem into three stanza to represent the speaker’ s fluctuation from peace of mind to despair. This proves to be very effective, by showing the indecisiveness of the speaker. Maupassant also uses images of the setting to create the mood" (Cowper, 1919, 43).
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