Dialogue between the soul and body

Discuss how the poem "A Dialogue between the Soul and Body" is an argument between the incorporeal and material world.

In "A Dialogue between the Soul and Body" Andrew Marvell presents an argument between the incorporeal and material world. In the dialogue, the soul represents the spiritual energy that wishes not to be limited to the physicality of a material host. The body is discontent with suffering from the emotional trauma the soul causes it to go through and would rather exist naturally instead of synchronized with the soul.

The soul begins expressing its grief by comparing the body to a dungeon which binds the soul in as many ways as possible. The soul likens the bones of the body to restrictive bolts, the feet to shackles themselves, and the soul uses the idea of chains in comparison the hands. This shows that the soul thinks these devices, usually used to constrain the body, are in fact what the body is made up of. Next, the soul complains about the senses which typically aid the body in daily functions, stating that eyes blind and ears deafen the soul by distracting it from delicate thoughts with spectacles and sounds from the outside world. The soul then states that it is "hung up" in nerves, arteries, and veins, but fails to realize that these are vital in keeping the body alive. The torture continues as the soul realizes that almost all parts of the body are against it, with the head being too preoccupied with the material world to care about the concerns of the soul and the heart existing only to pump blood instead of becoming captivated with the moving passions felt by the soul.

The body responds to the complaints of the soul by asking for deliverance from enslavement and by calling the soul a tyrant. This repression causes the body to walk upright and stiff, forcing it into danger from falling with every step it takes, the body would rather be lazy. The soul animates the body, moving it around and keeping it warm as the body complains that a common fever could do the same thing, and, thus claiming no difference between sickness and the emotions of the soul. The body then criticizes that the soul can not always move the body and force it to enthusiastically engage with the real world, therefore it gives the body self-awareness along with the awful knowledge that it will someday die. While the body is alive, it can never rest due to the soul or "ill spirit"; the body feels that it is magically possessed by the soul.

The soul accuses the body of holding it captive with the same magical possession the body speaks of, forcing it to suffer with the body as it grieves. As the body complains, the soul is forced to feel the pains the body feels; this is unusual, the soul is incorporeal and should not feel any physical problems, yet, due to its association with the body, it does. The body then uses the soul's care to preserve itself from the pain, which weakens and eventually destroys the soul. The trapped soul must not only be tortured by the diseased body, but must also bear the restoration of the body throughout the cure. The soul is angered by the healing process and feels that the sickness of the body will lead it to the "port" of death, thus freeing the soul from material constraint, but instead finds itself shipwrecked, forlorn and alone, into health, which is beneficial to the body but damaging to the soul.

In protest to the soul's statements about illness, the body says that medicine could never cure the ailments that the soul teaches to the body. Although the body recognizes these physical pains, it doesn't desire to deal with the mental anguish that the soul forces it to endure. The body compares hope to a tearing cramp that incapacitates it and is followed by shudders of fear. Love becomes a pestilence which heats the body too much, and hate eats away at the body like an ulcer. Even joy, a typically good feeling, turns into an insanity that confuses the body, and the madness of sorrow enrages it. The body finishes the argument by stating that the soul molds the body into things which it either is not or should not naturally be; just like architects interfere with the natural life of a living tree to fashion it into unnatural dwellings to live in, the soul attempts to alter the body without regard to it's life, wishes, and desires.

Although the soul and the body in "A Dialogue between the Soul and Body" desire freedom from each other, they fail to realize that they need each other to exist and form a vital being. By letting them debate, Marvell examines the unavoidable link between body and soul. This proves that they should coexist rather than a constantly debate which would hinder the joining of body and soul into a complete, organized, and passionate being.

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