In The Inferno, Dante Alighieri, the poet, places a strong emphasis on perception; it is through sight that Dante the pilgrim can acknowledge and learn from his experience in hell. Sight plays an especially crucial role in the work because Dante, the pilgrim, is often captivated by an image of some kind. The sight of the sinners transfixes Dante; and the sinners are, in turn, captivated with Dante and Virgil. It would seem that everything Dante observes through his journey would be enlightening. However, through the admonishments of Virgil, it becomes apparent that there exist two distinct ways of perceiving: practical, active observation and unreceptive, disadvantageous perception. It is through practical and active observation that Dante comprehends the lessons of his journey. Unreceptive perception fails to provide valuable information for Dante to use during his life on Earth. In addition, with practical, active observation, Dante not only learns about the sinners but he learns about himself when his journey is reflected by a living soul in hell. Dante successfully completes his journey of enlightenment though hell by learning through active observation and self-reflection about himself and his journey. With the beneficial observation and reflection, Dante learns from the sinners and gains knowledge about himself.
There is a strong emphasis on perception throughout the novel. It is through sight that Dante acknowledges hell and learns from it. At the commencement of his journey into hell, Dante says to Virgil, "lead me to witness what you have said . . . and the multitude of woes" (Inferno 9).1 Dante’s purpose is to witness and learn from the perils of hell so he can li...
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...to become an active learner. Alberigo is an inverted mirror image of Dante because his body on earth is overcome by a devil and he is a living shade in hell.
In conclusion, in order to succeed in his journey of enlightenment through hell, Dante uses active perception and self-reflection. Active perception occurs when one regards something or someone and learns from that observation; this type of perception combines both seeing and learning. Bad perception, on the other hand, occurs when one is simply staring passively at a subject for a lengthy period of time without gaining anything substantial in the exchange. Lastly, Dante learns about himself when he sees Alberigo. He sees a mirror image of himself in him, because Alberigo is also alive in hell.
1. Dante Alighieri, The Inferno, trans. Robert Pinsky (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1994).
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