Author Archives: Erica Milliman

Factual/Fictional quality of “Dover Beach” by Matthew Arnold

In Matthew Arnold’s poem “Dover Beach,” the sea transitions to a place of eternal unhappiness, ultimately mirroring the desolation and downfall of the human existence.  The speaker’s mindset in the poem quickly transitions from a sense of optimism to a complete loss of faith in the world; this ultimately pairs with the relationship between the sea and human emotion.

The waves of the sea are very uncertain in the way they move, resembling the uncertainty of humans’ actions which bring the world to its ultimate failure.  As the poem begins, the speaker describes the waves as calm and tranquil.  However, very early in the poem the speaker’s perspective on the sea changes abruptly to something quite pessimistic; the sea suddenly becomes dark, vast and sad.  The speaker continuously advocates in each stanza how drastically the world is moving into terrible times. With each line, he advocates the discontent he feels with the world around him.  It might be said that the poem is completely desolate; however, even though his consciousness of reality around him is very dark, it is also sensible and unforgettable in regards to the transition the human race is going through.

The world in his eyes has transitioned into a faithless place that is unprotected from any wrath that may ensue, something worse than ever before. In this poem, the speaker also advocates that, like the woefulness the sea brings that seems to stay prominent, that sadness in humanity is the only perpetual aspect that humans experience; everything else is merely temporary.

The poem portrays the eminence of sadness, emphasizing the fact that happiness does not exist any longer in Dover Beach.  The theme of sadness and hardship resides under any remotely uplifting piece of the poem, slowly engulfing the happiness until it is completely gone. The speaker has completely given up on the world around him, allowing no incentive to proceed happily in the world.

The imagery of the poem not only reveals that the loss of belief and happiness are merely unfortunate, but it also conveys the void that it left behind.  The speaker does not talk about the misfortunes of the world sulking about what has changed.  There is a sense of concern for where the world is heading, as well as a feeling of disappointment in the ignorance of humanity altogether. The comparison to the tremulous, roaring, crashing waves now relates to the mayhem and destruction occurring all around them. The curtain has lifted and revealed the true ghastliness of the world they live in.

I think this entire piece is very factual in the perspective of someone who has no faith in the world. Every aspect of the setting and ideas that are formed are completely plausible and understandable in regards to someone watching a place they once loved turn into a place that no longer holds that significance anymore.

The speaker relates the unhappiness of humankind to the motion of the sea—unpredictable yet prevailing. Even with the aspect of love in the poem, the components of misery, fear, suffering, and faithlessness navigate the story in its entirety.  The flux of emotions in humans end up staying with a quality of negativity that, in the end, reigns over the world that was once faithful and happy.  The speaker’s steady perspective on the failure of the world is what drives this poem forward in such a pressing manner.  With all of the darkness and overall faithlessness, it truly discloses the horrors of humankind and the surrounding world.  

Relative Factual/Fictional Quality of “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” by Ursula Le Guin

Ursula Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” is a fantasy short story that depicts a summer festival in the utopian city of Omelas, a city whose perfection is dependent upon the eternal misery of a young child. The combination of intentionally vague and strong descriptions can make it difficult for the reader to believe the credibility of its perfection or if the city is even real. However, the narrator goes on to reveal the final element, the one blemish in order to keep the city perfect: a single child condemned to eternal darkness and despair. Many people in their lifetime, usually when they are just old enough to understand, will go to visit the child and as petrified and disgusted as they are by the mere sight of it accept its circumstance which guarantees the happiness of the rest of the city. There are citizens, however, that choose to walk away from Omelas instead, and where they are headed is left undetermined and vague in the story.

In much of the story apart from the facts known about the child, the narrator does not even know full truths about Omelas. In fact, the narrator frequently questions aspects of the city and tells the readers to imagine what it might be like if they themselves were there. Aspects of the story such as this bring in questions of the narrator’s credibility, therefore adding very fictional qualities to the story.  The narrator also frequently asks the readers to imagine Omelas as if they were there and make decisions as if they lived in the city, which in turn makes readers question what they would sacrifice for happiness and if they could live in a utopia where a perfect life is dependent upon one person’s misery. The depiction of a utopia where everyone is happy and it is “a city in a fairy tale, long ago and far away, once upon a time” makes it seem entirely fictional and impractical just for emphasis on the true meaning of the piece.

I honestly think that every piece of writing is in at least some way based upon fact, whether it is the relationship between characters, a description of setting, or the overall plot of the story. However, I think this piece evaluates the inconceivable. Through the elements of craft, idea, and point of view, the story really is just blown out of proportion for readers to discuss morality and the possibility of a world to exist without evil. The story is written about an impossible situation with an indifferent perspective/narration which is exaggerated merely to question certain themes that can connect in some way to real life. Themes such as “Good can’t exist without evil” and “Knowledge can be more painful than physical pain” are worked into this story in a completely fictional way in order to allow readers to connect them into real life somehow.