Research Paper on Dante’s Inferno

Lines 1-12 from Dante’s Inferno Canto I open the story and directly introduce its allegorical nature that embays to the world of illusions, images and understatements. Certain words and expressions, such as “journey”, “lost path”, “savage”, “true path” indicate the religious base of the Dante’s journey. These words are usually utilized in the context when lost soles are looking for their true predestination and way in life; therefore it is obvious that they are not used in the literal sense. From the religious point of view shadowed and savage forest that is “dense and difficult” can be the symbol of where the soul can lost itself because of the lack of faith in God. But regardless that lack of faith, it is indicated that God is still with those who are lost, as there is also the “true path” out there for people who need assistance and a firm hand of guidance through life. Shadowed, dark forest is the symbol of Dante’s fear in his future, lost of faith in himself and subsequently in the greatest power on earth. Dante mentions that he cannot clearly indicate the moment how he got to that obscure place, as he was sleeping. Therefore, it can be presumed that he saw everything in the dream which was conscious, when the one who sleeps understands that he is sleeping and shapes the dream the way he wants.

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Dante made the deliberate choice to leave the “true path” of God and try to find God in the other world- the sinful one. In the first line of the passage Dante mentions that he had journeyed the half of our life’s way, and he is referring to all human beings and suggests that journey is inevitable. This could be again the allegorical essence of Inferno, as the journey that he had started can be not only his journey, but the one of the other people. Each human being is trying to find the purpose in his life. He is trying to be righteous, or at least understand what he is doing. And sooner or later each person undertakes such journey to finally understand of whom he is, understand his sins, find answers for eternal questions about life, and find inner peace and peace with God. Dante was writing his poem in exile, and we appear at the very beginning of his journey. Again, on the level of the allegory it is the story of the person that reached particular age (could be midlife crisis), and he needs to gather all his inner wisdom and knowledge, as well as divine grace, and find the way out to have a great promising future. We know nothing about him and just can observe what is going on. In the description of the future journey Dante uses vague terms, and it is impossible to understand at once where is here and where is he going so far: “so bitter death is hard more severe”, “I cannot clearly say how I entered the wood”.He says that it is hard to speak because of his fear. Probably if it were real experiences, they could not be expressed in words. What I am trying to say is that I would like to investigate what inspired Dante to write this story and what was its basis. Was that the kind of near death experience? What could that dark forest symbolize? Why was that actually forest and not anything else? I think that this imaginative and allegorical story was completely influenced by the worldviews of that time period. People’s views about after-life were completely based on their fears in real life. Everything what is dark, oppressive and savage was considered bad, and therefore what people scared in the everyday life, they thought they could met in their afterlives. The fact that Dante is lost in the dark wood can be also the allegory that he was thinking about the suicide, he had lost sense in his life and needed answers, he needed faith, and he needed God. The idea about the assumption that Dante was thinking about suicide can be confirmed by the fact that after that he met his favorite writer Virgil. It was not accidental, as in such crucial moments, the person always needs some authoritative person, which is important especially to him, to reveal himself. Before meeting Virgil, Dante encountered three beasts- a leopard, a lion and a she-wolf. Those three beasts were obviously also symbolic and were probably some temptation towards sin. They were eroticism, leadership mania and greed or simply lust, anger and greed. And Dante could not evade those temptations and he was forced to turn back. And he also cannot find that right way, the true way to salvation which is symbolized by the sun shining from the hilltop. And Virgil suggests that Dante find the other path to ascend the hill, but they have to pass through Hell and Purgatory before they reach the city of God- Heaven. Therefore Dante is not able to overcome those temptations alone and he had to be led by the wise Virgil, who is the symbol of human wisdom that can be far above those miserable temptations.

Dark forest can be also the metaphor that reflected what Dante was observing around him when he lived. It could world imperfection, sins, political corruption, lack of true authority, unacceptable Pope’s behaviors and attitudes. And the fact that he was trying to find the right path symbolize struggle over all evil around.

The first twelve lines have an enormous meaning for the whole story in general, as they are the beginning, It is from where Dante’s journey started and where we get to know about the inner drama of the writer that find reflection in allegorical lines about dark forest. It is inner misery and turmoil that makes Dante find him there. And even though those lines sound really pessimistic and it could seem that there is no way out, further in the story it is possible to find out that there is always the light at the end of the tunnel for those who truly believe in himself and in greater power.

In the conclusion I would like to summarize that Lines 1-12 from Inferno Canto introduce us to the unbelievable journey, which Dante was planning to undertake. Shadowed forest is the metaphor to reveal inner experiences and hesitations of the author and his further meeting with Virgil indicates on the power that is always inside of each power and which in difficult situations should be addressed to find the righteous way to inner peace.

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