Literary Analysis: Dante's Inferno

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Dante’s work Inferno is a vivid walkthrough the depths of hell and invokes much imagery, contemplation and feeling. Dante’s work beautifully constructs a full sensory depiction of hell and the souls he encounters along the journey. In many instances within the work the reader arrives at a crossroads for interpretation and discussion. Canto XI offers one such crux in which Dante asks the question of why there is a separation between the upper levels of hell and the lower levels of hell. By discussing the text, examining its implications and interpretations, conclusions can be drawn about why there is delineation between the upper and lower levels and the rationale behind the separation.

Canto XI serves the purpose in a twofold way; literally as a pause to the character Dante to prepare himself for the foul stench of the lower depths of hell, and as a pause to the reader to discuss the rationale of divine punishment. When the canto begins Virgil and Dante stop to prepare for the coming levels. Dante asks Virgil to find a productive way to pass the time. Virgil obliges Dante and tells him a graphic depiction of the levels to come; both the geography and the rationale behind these levels are discussed. After the discussion Dante poses the questions “But tell me, the souls in the sickening swamp, and those wind drives, and those rain pelts, and those who collide with such harsh words, why are they not punished in this charred city if God’s wrath is upon them? And if it is not, why do they suffer such a sorry fate?” (Canto XI 70-75). Dante’s questions can be viewed in two lights. First out of condemnation of all sinners, “Why are they not punished in this charred city” (Canto XI 73), if the souls of previous levels are sinner...

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...s sin? Medieval theologians used to describe theology using Aristotelian principles. Dante had access to these teachings and uses them to relate to the reader in a more straightforward way of why there is delineation. In this function Aristotle is not the agent of knowing, but rather a way to relay the reasoning and rationale behind God’s judgment in this way God is not limited by Aristotle.

Dante’s Inferno presents the reader with many questions and thought provoking dialogue to interpret. These crossroads provide points of contemplation and thought. Dante’s graphic depiction of hell and its eternal punishment is filled with imagery and allegorical meanings. Examining one of these cruxes of why there is a rift in the pits of hell, can lead the reader to interpret why Dante used the language he did to relate the Idea of a Just and perfect punishment by God.

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