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Dante's Journey in The Divine Comedy Essay


In the Divine Comedy, Dante goes through many changes as he travels through Hell, on through Purgatory, and ending in Heaven. As the story progresses and Dante goes through hell, he changes from being sympathetic to the residents of hell, to being less sympathetic and believing more that you get what you deserve. Not only does Dante change throughout the story, but the style in which the poem is written changes. Just like Dante, the writing becomes more refined as the story unravels.

Right off the bat, in the beginning of the comedy, Dante realizes and states that midway through his lifes journey, he went astray. Because of his sins, he strayed into the dark-woods. He encounters the she-wolf (representing sins of carnality), the leopard (representing sins of fraud), and the lion (representing sins of violence). He realizes that there is no easy path to the light at the top of the mountain, and Virgil appears to guide him to that light. By realizing that he has sinned, he has already begun to change.

After entering the gates of hell, he starts to see the different types of sins and the way in which they are punished. He sees how horribly they are punished and feels sympathy for them. One example of this is the way he reacted to Paolo and Francesca. He felt an immense amount of pity for them because he believed that they sinned unknowingly. But as he descends down into hell, he looses this sympathy. An example of this is when he is crossing the river Styx. He sees a sinner come out from all the souls submerged in the river, and angrily recognizes him as Filipo Argenti. Dante gladly watches Argenti get torn apart by all the other souls in the river Styx. He has lost the sympathy that he previously had.

In Inferno, Dante uses grotesque imagery to make Hell come to life in the readers minds. When compared to Purgatorio, and Paradiso, Infernos style is much more coarse and straightforward. For example, the description of Mohammed opening himself up, ...he noticed me and opening his own breast / with both hands he cried: See how I rip myself!. Dantes way of describing what he sees, hears, feels, and smells in hell is very sensual and in many ways, disgusting.

Dantes changes are evident as he goes from pitying the damned souls to passing cold judgment on them.. The writing style in Inferno, although being grotesque and graphic, fits the canticle well. Since the poets are traveling through hell, only a style like the one used would be appropriate. As Dante emerges from hell he has already changed a lot by recognition of sin, so now he must continue on the second part of his journey up the mountain of Purgatory.

The second canticle of the Divine Comedy is much more refined than Inferno in the sense of the writing style. Just like Dante, after Inferno, the writing style has become more refined, although far from perfection. After the recognition of sin (Inferno), Dante must go through Purgatory to purge himself of sin. In Purgatorio, Dante changes in a different way than in Inferno. The change in Dante is more intra-personal.

As Dante climbs up the treacherous mountain of Purgatory, he cries out do Virgil that he cannot go on any farther. Virgil comforts him and tells him to pull himself out to the next ledge which is not much farther up. Upon hearing those words, Dante obeys and pulls himself up that much higher. Here Dante has changed by noticing that a little more effort can go a long way.

As Dante enters through the Gates of Purgatory, the Angel scribes 7 Ps on his forehead, each signifying a particular sin that is to be purged. The angel then strikes his wing on Dantes forehead, removing one of the Ps, as he passes through the levels of Purgatory. The removing of the P signifies the purging of a certain sin, and by purging that sin, it makes the climb easier for Dante because he no longer carries the burden of the sin. This is relevant to Dantes change because he is becoming more refined and pure with the purging of each sin.

When Dante reaches the earthly paradise(Eden), he is symbolically purged of sin and is almost ready to accept Gods divine wisdom. Virgil says that he has learned enough to become his own guide and leaves Dante in Eden. Symbolically, human reason can only take you so far, divine love must aid you the rest of the way. By drinking from the waters of Eunoe, he is forgetting all sin that was ever in him and is strengthening all the good in him. When he rises he is perfect, pure, and ready for the stars.

Throughout Purgatory, both Dante and the writing style become more refined than in Inferno, which goes hand in hand with the story line. As Dante rises through Purgatory he is purging himself of sin, and becoming more refined, like the writing. His change in this canticle is within himself and he has to work hard to be able to complete that part of his journey.

The writing styles in the Divine Comedy are very different from canticle to canticle. From the grotesque and rough Inferno, to the beautiful and intellectual Paradiso, the writing goes hand in hand with Dantes change. It becomes more refined through the first two canticles, and being beautiful and pure in the last canticle, Paradiso.

In the Inferno, the writing style is grotesque and rough, in some ways, even disgusting. Dantes use of graphic descriptions are very effective in portraying what Hell is like, in the readers mind. For example, the description of the flatterers punishment, being placed in a river of human excrement. Once there, I peered down; and I saw long lines of people in a river of excrement that seemed the overflow of the worlds latrines. I saw among the felons of that pit one wraith who might or might not have been tonsured one could not tell, he was so smeared with shit.(Canto XVIII; lines 112-118). That passage makes you gag from how disgusting the description is.

In Purgatorio, Dante lays off the grotesqueries but is still very descriptive. For example, his vivid description of the Angel boatman. Then as that bird of heaven closed the distance between us, he grew brighter and yet brighter until i could no longer bear the radiance, and bowed my head. He steered straight for the shore, his ship so light and swift it drew no water, it did not seem to sail so much as soar. (Canto II; lines 37-42). That passage describes the Angel boatman so vividly and beautifully. Dante uses such a beautiful description for the Angel boatman because he is an angel of God.

In Paradiso, the writing is, like Dante, refined and pure. Using more intellectual descriptions and uses more refined language in this canticle. Throughout the entire canticle, Dante uses thy and thou more often;by using this language he is paying his respects to God. Also as he rises through the Spheres, whenever he looks a Beatrice, she is more and more beautiful as she is closer to God. This is the beauty of Divine Love when close to God.

In the Divine Comedy, Dante descends through Hell, climbs Purgatory and experiences the beauty of Gods Divine Love. At the beginning of the comedy, Dante realizes that he has sinned, and its this sinning that is keeping him from God, and at the end, he is perfect, pure, and ready for the stars. His journey through Hell is of the realization of sin and seeing the true evil in it, symbolically the first step in accepting God. Purgatory is the purging and cleansing of sin. His journey changes him and makes him refined and pure, which goes along with the different writing styles. Dantes effective uses of different writing styles help the reader feel the story. Although the comedy is centuries old, it continues to be one of the most influential poems ever written, and by reading it, its easy to see why.

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