Dante: A Journey to Hell and Back
Progressing from Sympathetic to Apathetic
Jordan R. Short
Dr. Steven Froehlich
March 4, 2014
The Inferno begins with Dante Alighieri telling the reader, "I came to myself in a dark wood, for the straight way was lost." (I, 2-3). This single statement carries a tremendous amount of weight, for it is a metaphor for Dante; He is indeed lost-having strayed away from the path of righteousness that leads to God. In The Inferno, there are three Dante's: Dante the poet, Dante the narrator, and Dante the pilgrim. For the sake of this essay, we will focus on the pilgrim and narrator. Dante the narrator writes to the reader from the future, having already taken the long and sometimes horrifying road to enlightenment. Dante the pilgrim begins his journey in The Dark Wood first, then on to Hell, where he must go on a spiritual journey to "find" himself and God in his life once again.
Dante the pilgrim is sympathetic towards the sinners in Hell, going so far as to faint after being faced with guilt and pity. Dante the pilgrim undergoes a fundamental transformation in The Inferno, going from a man showing pity towards his fellow sinners toward a feeling of apathy, as well as going from being in the dark-not understanding God's punishments to being in the light-understanding.
Over the course of The Inferno, Dante the pilgrim is transformed through his mind, body, and spirit. Of the mind-he gains the understanding of why the punishment God levies against sinners is fair for the crime. Of the body-he goes from a man that faints at the guilt of being among sinners in Hell who have sinned just as he has. And of the soul-he finds himself on the...