Dante’s Reaffirmation In Christianity Via His Jo

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Dante's Inferno is the first part of three that makes up The Divine Comedy. It is here, in the first part of the trilogy, that Dante reaffirms his belief in Christianity. Dante's belief in Christianity is acknowledged from the time he enters the gates of hell. However, any doubt Dante has must be nullified before he can go any farther. It is thru the use of his guide, Virgil, that Dante will confront his fears and ultimately be in unison with his faith so that he may continue his journey to Paradise. The self-induced abandonment, both of hope and body, into hell along with the aide supported by Virgil to quench his fear (which can be viewed as loss of faith in Christ) will lead Dante into reaffirming his faith in Christianity.

Dante, pre-Virgil, was full of fear. This is apparent in canto one when Dante, after meeting the three creatures (leopard, lion, she-wolf), had given up all hope based upon his fears.

The very site of the creatures had made Dante "abandon[ed] hope of ever climbing that hill" (1.53-4). It is upon his retreat that Dante meets Virgil, who guides him throughout the remainder of the Inferno.

What initiates the abandonment of hope feeling is Dante being physically abandoned. Dante frets being alone in canto 2, lines 3 and 4 where he states, "and I myself alone prepared to undergo the battle." Hence, Dante notices the daunting task that lies ahead of him will be similar to a war and becomes discouraged. Thus, his fears are compounded due to being abandoned physically (no support for his "battle") as well as morally (i.e. no hope). Dante does look for a crutch to lean on in his time of need. He prays to the "Muses" and "high genius" to "help me now" (2.9). Yet, his prayers are ignored for the time being.

The idea of abandonment of hope is exemplified at the onslaught of Dante's entrance to hell. The inscription on the gates of hell read, "Abandon every hope, who enters here" (3.9). This is an accurate summary of what Dante's description of hell is meant to represent. From the gates of hell onward, the portrayal of the physical environment is meant to invoke the grim idea that the souls imprisoned within are to exist for the rest of eternity without hope. In this state of hopelessness there is nowhere for them to hide their wrong doings. Everything they have done wrong is laid out in the open to haunt them for eternity. This leads to the depressing realization that they (beings of hell) will never be in the light of the lord. Dante fortifies this by commentating on the "starless air" (3.23). On Earth, people refer to the stars as heaven shining down. However, in hell the "starless air" is a constant reminder to the to sinners that they are not, or will never be, held in the bright light of the lord. The total lack of faith (or hope) in being able to someday gaze at the stars, both in the regular world and spiritual world are what Dante needs to overcome with the aid of Virgil.

The role of Virgil as spiritual mentor and tour guide is very crucial in the saving of Dante's faith. Virgil's goal is to use his own reasoning to show Dante that fear is based upon the ignorance of God's power over evil. In other words, one who has complete trust and faith in the lord will not have any fears. As the reader can see, Virgil has his work cut out for him when he at first meets him.

Virgil is able to settle Dante's fears (or lack of faith) in stages, much like the stages they encounter on their journey through hell. Hell consists of nine stages, with each stage becoming increasingly grotesque. Therefore, Virgil conditions Dante at each part of the phase, installing more and more wisdom into Dante so he may be able to fully confront his fears by the time he reaches the final stage. What may have sent Dante into a fear-induced heart attack (like Ugolino's tale in canto 33) does not because Virgil built up a tolerance to these atrocities. Each ring of hell strengthened Dante's moral beliefs, banishing fear, bit by bit.

At the time of Dante's meeting with Lucifer, he is in complete accord with his spirituality. Dante would have not been able to pass onward to purgatory if that was not the case. This in essence shows how far Dante came in reaffirming his faith. That he was scared and full of fear in the beginning as he viewed the she-wolf. Yet, now he can "marvel" at the "six eye(d)" monster while showing no fear. The feeling Dante got from looking at the beast was that of being "deprived of life and death" (34.27). In fact, Dante was not "deprived of life or death." Rather, he reached the pinnacle of spirituality in the underworld. Virgil has shown Dante more than just the way through hell. He has shown Dante fear is the absence of reason with reason being the knowledge of God's power. Therefore, Dante, being in complete accord, reaches the nirvana that only having complete faith in Christianity could do.

In conclusion, Dante has reaffirmed his belief in Christianity. The journey through hell has shown Dante that if he gives himself to God he need not fear evil(s). By showing faith in the lord, he will never be abandoned as he had felt in the beginning of his journeys. Only with complete faith will he be able to strive for Paradise. His fears are merely the absence of reason, with reason being the knowledge of God's power. The figure of Virgil installed the once absent reason into Dante. Hence, Virgil is the missing link in reaffirming Dante's Christianity.