Study Guide

A Dialogue between the Soul and the Body Summary

By Andrew Marvell

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A Dialogue between the Soul and the Body Summary

Like a presidential debate, this dialogue is a hostile, mud-slinging, pull-no-punches argument between two very upset beings: the soul and the body. Although they're both unhappy about the same thing (being alive together), they express themselves in different ways. The soul is unhappy about the physical pain of being inside a body, forced to live next door to arteries and livers and to feel every ache and pain. What it really wants is the body's death. That way the soul can return to heaven and live happily (and dis-embodied-ly) forever.

The body, on the other hand, can't live forever and escape to heaven, and for that reason it hates the soul for giving it life in the first place. Walking around upright is bad enough, but the worst part about having a soul is the emotional pain. The body doesn't want to feel happy or sad, and it especially doesn't want to have the moral capacity to commit sin.

There's no clear winner in this debate, although the body does get the final word (and an extra 4 lines). And who's happy by the end? Nobody (and no soul, too). Hey, it's just like at a presidential debate.

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