"Dover Bitch" and "Dover Beach" Comparisons

1461 Words Jul 11th, 2011 6 Pages
At first glance, Anthony Hecht's "Dover Bitch" is not only funnier than Matthew Arnold's "Dover Beach", but also describes a more "liberated" relationship; the poem is as free from what some would consider stuffy Victorian morals as it is from references to Sophocles. Hecht's urbane and flippant persona tends to win over its audience, whether they find irony in the poem that adds to their appreciation of "Dover Beach", appreciate the poem as a criticism of Victorian morals, or laugh at Arnold's apparent inability to give his girl "a good time." "Dover Bitch" also seems to give more power to the lover, who is kept behind the scenes in Arnold, by bringing "her" opinions and wishes into the foreground of the poem. However, on closer …show more content…
Since the gender of the persona in "Dover Beach" must remain up in the air, so must the possibility of sexism existing in the poem.

In "Dover Bitch", we begin with a rather liberated lover, who resists the attempt of the "Dover Beach" speaker to trap her into his meditation and, in fact, betrays him with the speaker of "Dover Bitch." At first glance, this lover appears to be more of an equal to both poem's speakers. However, this is perhaps not the case. The woman (or "girl", a term that implies lack of maturity) is not described as "intelligent" or "thoughtful", but rather as "pretty." The speaker assumes that the audience will think less of her because she's said "one or two unprintable things" -- after all, that's not very ladylike. And finally, her redeeming quality, what makes her "all right", is her willingness to have a drink and a good time with the speaker. In fact, the woman/girl in "Dover Bitch" is no more empowered than the lover in "Dover Beach" (assuming, for a moment, that the "Dover Beach" lover was female). She is still described in terms of her looks and her behaviour with men; that she has "read Sophocles in a fairly good translation" is peripheral. Our overwhelming impression of her is a bottle of cheap perfume. It appears that "Dover Bitch" in fact does display a patriarchal position on gender, which though different in its details from such a position in Victorian times, is no less insidious or unfortunate.

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