by Matthew Arnold
Dover Beach Theme of Man and the Natural World
"Dover Beach" is practically overflowing with deep philosophical thoughts, but they are all launched by and rooted in the natural world that the speaker sees all around him. As the speaker pays attention to the sights and sounds of a moonlight night by the ocean, he can't help but ponder Big Ideas about our world's history and its future.
Questions About Man and the Natural World
- What's the most striking natural image in this poem? What made it particularly stick out for you?
- Is this poem "about" the natural world? Or are the beach and the moon and the waves and the pebbles just excuses to talk about human feelings?
- Have you ever seen a beach in the moonlight? Do you think this poem captures that experience well? What is it about this experience that might inspire deep thoughts?
- Why do you think water plays such a major part in this poem? Does it have special meaning, or could something else have taken its place?
Chew on This
Bummer alert. The speaker of "Dover Beach" argues that all of the beauty of the natural world is an illusion, distracting us from the essential misery of being alive.
While the speaker's conclusions about life are increasingly grim, the beauty of the scenery he describes balances out the darkness of his thoughts. So, you know, life could be worse.