Inferno By Dante Alighiery Throughout the years, people’s views of sin have been changed. Today society view of sin is different than what Dante envisioned about sin at his time. During Dante’s time, the worst sin that one can commit is rejecting the church. However, in the book The Inferno, Dante sees that rejecting the church is one of the least important sins. Other sins that were perceived as unimportant during Dante time are worse than rejection of the church in The Inferno.
By doing so Dante tries to show that the magnitude of the sin does not matter. The most important thing he wants to point out is that people need to learn from their mistake and distinguish between good and evil. Therefore, after a long journey through hell Dante learned to avoid evil and become spiritually enlightened. By becoming spiritually enlightened and avoiding evil, Dante proceeds much closer to the salvation of God. In The Inferno, Dante loses all sense of direction, reason, and he wander away from the True Way and enters the Dark Wood of Error.
He tries to find his way out of the Dark Wood of Error, but his attempts are unsuccessful. As soon as he tries to get out of this sinful place, he is confronted by all kind of beasts. They try to hold him back and attack him. However, after being force back into the Dark Wood of Error Dante see the shade of Virgil, who represents light, direction and reason. Virgil promises to lead him away from error.
Dante is thankful for the guidance of Virgil, “For you are my true master and first author, the sole make from whom I drew the breath of that sweet style whose measures have brought me honor”(30). One of the things that Dante notices about hell is that most of the people are sent to hell not because they committed a sin against God, but because they committed a sin against themselves. The sin that interests Dante on his journey is the wood of the suicide, the hoarders, and the gluttons. These people committed a self -destructive act against themselves. The glutton, made no attempt to use their God given ability, all they cared for is food, drink, and excessively consumed goods.
The more they consumed the worsen their punishment in hell. They produced nothing for their society. As a result, they will forever lie in the garbage they produced and act as a slave for Cerberus. From this particular circle of hell, Dante perceived the pain that these people go through, “I see new torments and new souls in pain about me everywhere. Wherever I turn away from grief I turn to grief”(65). When Dante spoke to Ciacco, a member of this circle of hell, he again expressed this feeling, “Ciacco, your agony weighs on my heart and calls my soul to tears”(67).
Besides feeling pitiful, Dante has also learned a very important lesson from this circle of hell. In life one must use all the talent that god has given to him or her and use it for his or her own advantage. When Dante reaches the fourth circle of hell, his feeling toward the hoarders and the wasters remains the same. In life the hoarders and the wasters lack the ability to control their expenses. By not controlling their expenses, they forget every thing about the moral values God has given them, all they think about is their money. Therefore in death, their own dead weights serve to moderate them.
With this weight they punish each other. From this circle Dante learns that money and processions in life will not buy him eternal happiness. As Virgil has said to him, “Not all the gold that is or ever was under the sky could buy for one of these exhausted souls the fraction of a pause”(74). Running after fortune and living under the control of money results in the destruction of man’s soul. As Dante enters the wood of the suicides all he hears is the cries and the sounds of sorrow.
The souls of this Circle destroyed their own bodies and denied human form. They can only express themselves through their own agony. In addition, they are only allowed to speak through their own blood because they chose to take away their life. Taking one life is not only limits the enjoyment of this beautiful world created by God, but it a crime against one own soul. Through this experience, Dante sees that he does not have any control over his life. It God that have all the authority over his life and only God allowed take it away when ever he wants.
In the wood of the suicides, a person uttered this to Dante, “Here sall we drag them and in this mournful glade our bodies will dangle to the end of time, each on the thorns of it s tormented shade”(122). Therefore, if a person reject his or her own body, then God will do what ever he please with it. In canto I, Dante mentions the three animals, a leopard, a lion and a she-wolf. These animals act as a symbol for the various types of sin. In his book, Dante categorizes sin into three different category fraud, incontinence and violence.
In canto XVIII, Dante uses the she-wolf as a symbol of fraud. The sins of fraud are place the furthest from God and in the deepest pits of hell, near Satan. In the eight circle of hell, call the Malebolge, It here that each of the simple fraud punished in the concentric ditches. In this circle of hell, Dante tones of pity toward the sinner in this circle are completely change. He speaks with a tone where he implies that he betters than all sinners. Dante uses this tone toward Venedico, Venedico sell his sister Ghisola to serve the will and lust of another man. This is how Dante refers to Venedico in the book, “You there, that walk along with your eyes on the ground-if those are not false features, then I know you as Venedico Caccianemico of Bologma: what bring you here among this pretty crew?”(159). Dante feels no pity for Venidico because Venidico place his personal needs and interests above others and now he places under the whip lashing and oppressive command of indifferent demons. Through this encountering with Venidico, Dante sees that hell is a place for retributive justice and one will be punish accordingly.
Dante and Virgil move over to a bridge, below it Dante sees the ditch of the flatterers. In this trench, a person who had sinned as flatterers are punished by being made to wallow in a river of human excrement from which emanates nauseating fumes. Dante recognizes and tries to start a conversation with Alessio Interminelli da Lucca. Allesio who is smeared all over with excrement. He explains to Dante the reason why he is traps here in this circle, “Down to this have the flatteries I sold the living sunk me here among the dead”(162). Virgil also points to Dante about the presence of another sinner, Thais. Thais is punished in the same way as Alessio, but is made to alternatively rise and crouch in the river of excrement.
Thais is punished for being a prostitute and for a flattering lie that she told while in the trade. The punishment that this two consequently suffer is the eternal stench and filth of the ditch. Thais in this canto perpetuates the image of non genuine love which turns out to be a mere outlet for bodily urges and needs. Therefore, they both undergo the process of retributive justice. In this circle of hell, Dante sees that eternally trap in the river of human excrement and forceful punishment is a result of using false and flattering language on earth. As his journey come to an end, Dante knows that on this journey he not only getting a second chance of improving his life. But it an experience that will allow him to get much closer to God and reject all forms of evil.
The sin that human commits here on earth act as an instrument that separates human beings from God grace and love. Right before leaving hell, Virgil told him, “Now see the face of Dis! This is the place where you must arm your soul against all dread”(283). This message from Virgil to Dante, signal Dante that even though he successfully pass through all the circle of hell, but his soul still can be influence by Satan. Therefore, he must prepare and reject Satan at all time. When Dante is about to pass from the shadow of darkness into the shining light of Heaven he said, “My Guide and I crossed over and began to mount that little known and lightless road to ascend into the shinning world again .
. and beauteous shining of the Heavenly cars. And we walk out once more beneath the Stars”(287). By rejecting Satan and completing the journey through hell Dante is able to see the shining road to God and come to a better understanding of the consequence of human sinful actions.