Study Guide

Dante's Inferno

by Dante Alighieri

Dante's Inferno Essay - Critical Essays

Sample Essay Outlines

The following paper topics should test your understanding of the work as a whole and allow you to analyze important themes and literary devices. Following each question is a sample outline to get you started.

  • Topic #1
    There are three main themes in traditional literature; these themes include the picaresque theme, in which the character travels or makes a journey; the reversal of fortune theme, in which the character has his or her situation in life changed; and the survival of the unfittest theme, in which a character who is not really equipped for survival is able to endure.

    Which of these themes apply/applies to Dante’s Inferno?

    Outline
    I. Thesis Statement: All three of the main themes in traditional literature apply to Dante’s Inferno; these themes include the picaresque theme, the reversal of fortune theme, and the survival of the unfittest theme.

    II. The picaresque theme
    A. Dante lost in Canto I
    1. In woods
    2. Midway on way of life
    3. Right road lost
    B. Approached by form
    1. Says Dante must go another way to leave a wasteful life behind
    2. Says Dante should take him as guide
    3. Says must pass through an eternal place and terrible peril
    C. Reaction of Dante
    1. Asks Virgil to lead him
    2. Follows behind

    III. Reversal of fortune theme
    A. At beginning of The Inferno
    1. Alone
    2. Lost
    3. Dark
    4. Woods
    B. Appearance of form
    1. No longer alone
    2. Will serve as guide
    3. Morning rays of sun
    4. Now at base of mountain
    5. Will allow Beatrice to take over later in the journey

    IV. Survival of unfittest
    A. Dante threatened from beginning
    1. Lost
    2. Three animals
    a. Leopard
    b. Lion
    c. Wolf
    B. Dangerous journey
    1. Specters along way
    a. Demons
    b. Giants
    c. Dis
    d. Others
    2. Environmental hazards
    a. Fire
    b. Ice
    3. Weight of live person
    a. Dangerous on rocky paths
    b. Dangerous in boats
    C. At last emerges and sees stars

  • Topic #2
    Dante tells his own story. Do you think an objective narrator could have presented his story better than Dante, who was close to the story? Explain your...

(The entire section is 1083 words.)