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Victorian Crisis of Faith In Tennyson and Arnold 

A tension emerged between science and traditional faith in Victorian era which made
man doubt against Biblical theories.  Charles Darwin’s ideas and eventually his very
influential work, The Origin of Species had a great impact on people’s beliefs because
it in a most general sense questioned the creation of universe in seven days and also
the origins of man that were related to apes, which was very different from the
religious teachings until then. By reading Darwin’s work, people realized that nature
is cruel, severe and it was operated by haphazard forces in itself. These ideas gave
human consciousness and soul a material value, thus confusing even ordinary
Victorian men. People became sceptic. As a result people started questioning church
and also through Victorian writers’ reflections about them. These developments in
natural science paved way to biblical criticism and British theological scholars
produced their own Higher Criticisms. When doubt and faith problems came
together with the condition of industrial England that suffer from illnesses,
destructions and injustices mainly to working people, the result created a very
emotional and sad atmosphere for the writers to reflect and react upon.
Alfred Lord Tennyson’s In Memoriam. Tennyson wrote this poem in honour of his
beloved friend who died very young; and through him, he questioned his faith in
God, in nature and in poetry. The poem reflects grief and despair which are typical
emotions in Victorian era. Knowledge and faith is contrasted in this poem. He doesn’t
hesitate to question faith openly. He wants to reconcile his beliefs with knowledge.
So it can be inferred that he finds the solution to crisis of faith in uniting knowledge
and faith, God and nature.
Matthew Arnold’s Dover Beach is full of imagery related with people’s faith and how
this faith is corrupted and doubt came into account; the calm sea at the beginning is
the pure faith before the questioning and then comes the full tide, which symbolizes
the sense of insecurity, anxiety and faithlessness. The so-called knowledge that gave
rise to the loss of faith actually created an ‘ignorant clash’, thus it is a knowledge that
made people learned, but troubled. So he says, without a belief of God as the
planner and commander both of religion and of science, these will not gain a
meaning at all.
 However here a contradictory conclusion can be found between Arnold and
Tennyson. Arnold leaves the solution to each individual’s own conscience, which was
the case in Victorian society too. This is also meaningful, because Arnold himself
doesn’t seem to know what to believe in after he has lost his faith, and he is seeking
the answer for it. He wants to be true to love, which is none but for God, which is
another reason that this poem is left unresolved. As a result in Arnold’s poem, we
see here a mind divided between two worlds and many of the significant figures of
the age felt they were “here on a darkling plain.” Science and theology came into
conflict and this conflict was sometimes tried to be solved and was sometimes left at
the most delicate breaking point by these poets.