Canto 31 Summary and Analysis

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Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 652

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The Giants: Visible from the waist up above the rim of the well; include Nimrod (who loosed the bands of common speech), Ephialtes (who attacked Jove), and Antaeus (who is invincible on earth but not in the air or sky; carries Virgil and Dante to the pit bottom)

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Summary
Dante speaks of Virgil’s tongue which had wounded him but now salves his wounds. As Dante and Virgil continue on their journey, they hear the clamor of those below them. Dante sees some towers and asks what they might be. Virgil says that the fog has changed Dante’s vision and kindly tells Dante that the pillars are giants set in a ring and hidden from the navel down. Dante says that the decision of nature to discontinue the making of these giants was a good one; he says that a thinking mind combined with strength and malice would give a combination against which people of a regular size would not be able to protect themselves.

From the place on the giant where the mantle is buckled downward to the ground is a full 30 hands.

Dante hears one of the giants begin to howl in a garbled tongue. Virgil commands the giant to use his horn and not his tongue; Virgil tells Dante that the giant is Nimrod, who caused the world’s many languages to appear.

The next giant that Dante sees is Ephialtes, who had fought against Jove. Dante sees that he is in chains and Virgil explains that this is punishment for the giant’s aggression. Virgil informs Dante that Antaeus will carry them to the bottom of sin.

Virgil addresses Antaeus as the one who came from the vale where Scipio made Hannibal turn tail. Virgil asks Antaeus not to make them go to Typhon or Tityus but to perform the duty for them. Dante looks at Antaeus and compares the experience to gazing at Carisenda. Antaeus easily picks them up for the journey.

Discussion and Analysis
Canto XXXI contains many examples of conflict. Dante begins Canto XXXI by commenting on the correction given him by Virgil (person-against-person conflict) and how the conflict is resolved by Virgil himself. Dante feels terror and struggles to control himself during this period (person-against-self-conflict).

The giant creatures that they see in this area, Dante comments, no longer increase. Dante sees this decision as a good decision because neither the shades of a regular size nor the people of the earth are able to protect themselves against these creatures because of their great size. From the place the mantle (cloak) buckles (the shoulder) down is 30 hands. The comparison to hands is significant. Measurement in hands is usually confined to animals, like the horse, and not to humans; this reflects the size of the giants and relegates them a status lower than humans.

The garbled language of the giant Nimrod is a reference to the Tower of Babel, the source of the many languages on the face of the earth according to Genesis. Antaeus is the giant which will carry them to the bottom of sin; Antaeus is a giant which had been invincible as long as he stayed in contact with the earth.

Virgil addresses Antaeus. The vale to which Virgil refers is the vale where Scipio fought against Hannibal and caused Hannibal to retreat; the valley is called the Valley of Bagrada near Zama. Virgil requests that Antaeus carry them to the bottom of sin and not to make it necessary for them to request the favor of the giants Typhon and Tityus. When Dante looks up at the giant, he describes the experience as similar to that of looking at a tower called Carisenda; this structure gave viewers the feeling that the tower was leaning toward them if they looked upward at it. Dante felt that the giant was looking toward him as Dante gazed upward at the giant.

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