What are similar themes found in both William Carlos Williams's Paterson and Dante's The Inferno?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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One similar theme we can find in both William Carlos Williams's long poem Paterson and Dante's first book of the Divine Comedy titled The Inferno concerns the immoral, depraved state of man.

In Paterson, Williams presents a local history of Rutherford, New Jersey, his own hometown, in order to portray how life in the town and in American society in general is morally depraved. However, Williams also uses references to nature, like the Great Falls of the Passaic River, "to suggest", as Steven G. Kellman, editor of Masterpieces of American Literature, phrases it, "the possibility of good and healthy life" (eNotes, "Summary").

Similarly, Dante uses The Inferno to express his orthodox Catholic beliefs, particularly his beliefs in the doctrine of original sin. The character Dante is used to represent all of mankind and to show the dangers of having "wandered off the straight path" due to mankind's fallen state (I, I.3). As Dr. M Fogiel, editor of MAXnotes to Dante's Inferno, phrases it, the character Dante realizes that "indifference or lethargy [have] undermined [his] desire to do God's will" (eNotes, "Themes"). The Inferno takes the reader through all the various punishments and levels of Hell with the purpose of spiritually awakening the reader, just as the character Dante is undergoing an awakening.

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