There are three themes in traditional literature:
- picaresque, where the character travels or makes a journey;
- reversal of fortune, in which the character’s situation or life changes;
- survival of the fittest, in which a character who is not really equipped for survival is able to endure.
What best describes Dante's Inferno? Also, could you explain why? Thanks!
The word Inferno comes from the Italian word for Hell , so we see Dante going straight away for your first theme in his title (a religious journey is suggested) although all the themes are present. The story poem represents the first section of Dante’s Divine Comedy. It was written in the 14th century and is regarded as an allegory narrating Dante’s journey down through Hell, with a Roman poet (Virgil) to escort him. So we see that out of your three themes in traditional literature, the picaresque, where the character travels or makes a journey is very prominent, as the main character is to be tested very severely and may not have the strength of character or moral fibre to survive the epic challenge.
In the poem, hell is portrayed as 9 Circles of suffering deep down in the earth, which the main character tries everything, even fake tears, to make it through. Allegorically, Dante’s Divine Comedy represents the journey of a soul towards God, and ‘Hell’ or Inferno portrays our view of sin and hopefully our rejection of it, and a commitment towards a better life. The medieval peoples had a very simplistic and terrifying perception of ‘Hell’ full of fire, torture, brimstone and devils, and Dante’s Inferno reflects this, but it is important to remember that for us, there is always redemption and love:
Love, which quickly arrests the gentle heart,
Seized him with my beautiful form
That was taken from me, in a manner which still grieves me.
Love, which pardons no beloved from loving,
took me so strongly with delight in him
That, as you see, it still abandons me not...