The Bestiality of Murder

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According to Catholic doctrine union with God is the basis of happiness, and separation from God is the greatest punishment for a human being. What enables us to become closer to God is our free will and our reasoning power, when we loose those things we have no hope of achieving happiness. Violence is a very clear demonstration of the loss of these two faculties of the intellect, the way Dante depicts the souls of the seventh circle of Hell accurately portrays this idea. Rooted in anger violence is controllable by will power, but its particular nature, which goes back to animal instincts, account for the loss of control experienced by an enraged person. This animal origin of violence is most noticeable in the seventh circle of Hell: "And at the edge, along the shattered chasm, there lay stretched out the infamy of Crete: the son conceived in the pretended cow. When he saw us he bit into his flesh, gone crazy with the fever of his rage." (Lines 11-15 in Canto XII of Dante's Inferno) In this scene the Minotaur, who is half man half bull, upon detecting the presence of the pilgrim and his guide, goes into an uncontrollable frenzy and bites himself. He is further infuriated when Virgil makes a remark about the Duke of Athens, the man who sent the beast to his death. When the Minotaur becomes enraged we can see how separated he is from humans because he lacks the power of intellect to control himself. The beast's rage leads to his loss of control, which allows the pilgrim to slip by, this would not have happened if the Minotaur had not lost control of his faculties. Rage and violence are traditionally traits associated with animals, since animals don't have reasoning power or free will the Minotaur is an ideal character to open introduce us to the circle of violence. Our second encounter in the seventh circle is with another type of composite creature: centaurs. The centaurs are more controlled than the Minotaur and actually help the pilgrim on his journey but it is still appropriate to call these creatures to mind because they follow through with the theme of disunion with humanity. When Virgil encounters the Minotaur he keeps calm and finds by taking advantage of his foes weakness (his lack of self-control) he is able to lead the pilgrim around the danger. This ability to keep clear in the face of danger serves to show that even though Virgil isn't in complete union with God he is not completely separated from Him either.

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