How do the main ideas in Dante's Inferno reflect a 20th century world view?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that Dante's understanding of the inferno and what it means to sin has parallels to the real world.  The modern setting believes in categorization.  Simply put, there is a category and classification for everything.  In this way, we are very Aristotelian in how we approach reality.  Consciousness exists in segmenting and classifying everything.  We group.  That which we do not understand, we seek to place it in a group or designation that allows us to better understand it.  Dante does much of the same in that he takes the concept of "sin," something that was large and looming in all of its manifestations.  He then groups it into the different circles and levels of the inferno.  This makes "sin" more understandable, as people can recognize who fits where and why they belong there.  Dante deliberately does this so that he can place specific individuals in each level, causing immediate recognition and a way for individuals to view themselves.  Certainly, Dante must have wished on some level, big or small, that individuals can recognize where they fit into the schema of the inferno and do something positive or productive about it.  Yet, I think that it might have had a counter effect in that individuals were able to see where they fit into Dante's inferno and then be able to say, "It could be worse- I could be like __________."  For example, "I might be lustful, but at least I am not a hoarder," to which the Hoarder might say, "At least I am not like Cassius."   In this respect, Dante's classification, similar to our own in the modern setting, does not bring individuals closer to understanding the nature of sin, but actually seeks to divide us from this holistic grasp.  It is in this element, of intending one entity, but actually experiencing its opposite, where more of the modern setting is seen in Dante.  The modern setting is one where individuals understand or project their actions to have one desired consequence and can become surprised when the other emerges/

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