Mathew Arnold presents, in the poem Dover Beach, the life of modern mankind by the fact that religious faith disappears with the industrial Revolution. Arnold creates the image of the dark future for the people without firm faith or religion.
Modern men are preoccupied with thought that the industrial revolution will give them an advantage over nature. This thought of gaining superiority made humans lose their faith in God. Arnold uses pebbles as a metaphor for humans to show the inferiority of humans in comparison to nature. Arnold exemplifies Peloponnesian war to show the stupidity of modern man throwing away the religion, which was everything to people before the Industrial Revolution.
What came with the Industrial Revolution was the idea of realism. People started considering technologies and science everything and began to doubt the existence of God and supper natural beings.
People had faith in God before the time of machineries. The faith gave people hope and modesty under the mighty existence of God. However, both hope and modesty disappeared with the Industrial Revolution, which Arnold laments for.
As a poem proceeds, the grief of the loss of faith extends to a sense of despair towards the end. The gradual process of the change of people hurts Arnold because people are unaware of the changes taking place and they do not think it particularly wrong and sinful. Arnold compares his feelings with the feelings of Sophocles, a great play writer, who also listened to the sad music of the waves, which brought into his mind the miserable plight of humanity. Before the development of science and technology, people had truly believed in the religion and thought that they were in total control of God. The metaphor ‘Sea of Faith’ which presents the religious faith of people, used to be full, beautifully spread out and deep. This sea of faith once enriched and protected the entire humanity. But, now the sea of faith is no longer full because the people have turned their backs on God and they have involved themselves in the glamour of materialism. Arnold points out that without faith humans are ‘Naked’; they have no protection, and defense.
Arnold presents the uncertainty of the future of humans. The world of science and technology seems to be a dream world – so beautiful, so varied, extremely sensuous, and so new. The poet feels that there is no real joy and happiness left in this world, it is only a deceptive and beautiful mirage. Arnold expresses the flaws of modernism in this poem. He believes that modernization of the world will certainly bring a complete loss of faith.