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Themes

"Dover Beach" doesn't give you a pretty Disney-fied view of life (although maybe that's not fair to Disney—we're still a little freaked out by the beginning of Bambi). The speaker confronts the pain and suffering in the world head-on, no holds barred. While the world might seem nice to look at sometimes (like on a moonlit night), it's really just an endless and confusing wilderness of pain.

Questions About Suffering

  1. Do we learn anything from suffering in this poem? Can acknowledging the fact of suffering by reading about it make us better able to handle it?
  2. Does the speaker of this poem seem concerned about the fact of human suffering? How can you tell?
  3. Is the suffering that is woven into this poem more of the physical or the mental kind? How can you tell?
  4. Is this poem suggesting that the force of love can make suffering better? Why or why not?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

The only real antidote to suffering that the poem offers is love, and more specifically, the faithfulness of one person to another. That's all we got in this mad, mad world, Shmoopers.

Suffering is a powerful and inevitable force in "Dover Beach," and it lurks under everything that seems beautiful and lasting, slowly eating it away. Hey, no one said this poem is uplifting.

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