In both “Dover Beach” and “Culture and Anarchy,” Matthew Arnold illustrates his concern with modernity and its effects on society. He sees himself as a deeply divided man who was “unable to believe in the religion of the past and unwilling to accept the secular values of the present” (1558). This division and doubt is evident in his poetry and other works, which he used to criticize both society as a whole and specific members in it. Arnold’s goal was to bring awareness to others about his concerns, and motivate them to reevaluate their own lives and make changes that could positively affect the whole.
In “Dover Beach,” Arnold discusses what the Sea of Faith use to be compared to what it has become when he states, “But now I only hear its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar” (1562). He is blaming this change in the sea on the new mind sets that have arisen in the Victorian period, while also hinting at the reliance placed on machinery. I associate the long and withdrawing roar of the sea with the sounds of machinery and industrialization. He is suggesting that the society’s bondage to machinery is preventing people from looking to the self and developing that further.
Arnold expands on the pursuit of a perfect society in “Culture and Anarchy” when he claims, “He who works for sweetness and light, works to make reason and the will of God prevail. He who works for machinery, he who works for hatred, only works for confusion” (1596). Here Arnold is again stating his concerns with machinery and encouraging members of society to live for more than that….to live for what makes them happy. If a balance can be found between the two, a perfect culture can emerge.