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Dover Beach

Dover Beach

by Matthew Arnold

Night

Symbol Analysis

The night has a few different roles to play in this poem. In a way, it's kind of a flexible image. At first, it connects with the feelings of comfort and calm that dominate the opening scenes of the poem. By the end, though, it's part of a much more sinister set of ideas, connected metaphorically with all of the pain and suffering of humanity.

  • Line 6: In this line, nighttime sounds pretty great. The speaker even goes so far as to describe the air as "sweet" a figure of speech that fits in beautifully with the relaxed ambiance of these opening lines.
  • Line 27: By this point in the poem, the night has become a symbol not of peace and happiness but of desolation and fear. The night-wind (in comparison with the night-air in line 6) sounds kind of evil and threatening to us. Rather than caressing the speaker, it howls around a lonely and vulnerable world.
  • Line 37: It's no accident that "night" is the final word in this poem. With an ending like that, Arnold leaves us in darkness, abandoned in the confusion of the faithless world. While night doesn't always have to symbolize emotional darkness, it sure does here.
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