Dantes Inferno Essay, Research Paper
The Perils of Pride
In The Inferno, Dante describes his journey through hell. Throughout his pilgrimage, Dante learns from the sinners that he meets along the way. One influential group of sinners is those in Canto X. In this Canto, Dante is warned that those filled with pride suffer eternally. Although the Canto is mainly about heretics, all the sinners involved make bad decisions because of their pride. They are too proud and try to impress others, while in reality, these individuals end up making themselves look bad. The punishment commonly used against these arrogant people is language. For example, individuals who boasted about how great they were during life are issued the punishment of not being able to brag anymore. These people believe and preach that the soul dies with the body; therefore happiness should be obtained in the physical life. This Canto exemplifies the growth that Dante gets from the sinners in each circle. This newfound awareness will allow him to avoid this flaw of his. Dante realizes that if he doesn t change his ways, he too will end up in eternal pain.
The first sinner that Virgil and Dante meet is Farinata. This sets up the potential conflict between the two arrogant men. Farinata is described as standing out tall, with his chest and brow claiming disdain for all this hell (Dante 89). This body language shows his overconfidence in himself and a feeling of being better than everyone else. Virgil instructs Dante to talk to the man but, be sure to choose your words with care (Dante 89). With a superior attitude, Farinata asks Dante and who would your ancestors be (Dante 89)? Farinata automatically tries to place Dante s accent, which is the first reference to language. He describes Dante as, one whose birthplace is that noble city with which in my [Farinata s] time, perhaps, I [he] was too harsh (Dante 89).
How could pride be harmful and not just a bad habit? This question was answered by Farinata who proved that pride in war could cost lives. He was a war leader who could have conquered Florence, but his ego got in the way of his leadership. Instead of conquering the city, he spared it for himself so he could rule it. Again, Dante buys the story of someone trapped in hell as he did with other sinners throughout the journey. This strategic error of Farinata s, due to arrogance, was his downfall.
The second reference to language comes when Dante, who can t stand to be dishonored, goes against Virgil s advice. Because he feels that no lowly person in hell has the right to talk to him that way, he snaps back that although his people were conquered, they came back strong with resilience. What Dante did not know was that the damned, Farinata, could not see the present, but can see the future including the fact that in one year Dante would be exiled.
In Canto X, Cavalicanti is introduced by rising from the tomb next to Farinata. He is a man who thought of himself and his son Guido as geniuses. The symbolism of rising from the tomb like Jesus speaks of his own narcissism. Cavalicanti asks Dante if Guido is still alive. Dante heeds Virgil s advice, but incorrectly and doesn t answer the question. Cavalicanti assumes that his son is dead and collapses back into the tomb revealing the true genius he is. Farinata begins to speak again, but without any reference or knowledge that Cavalicanti had been present. This shows how the arrogant do not even so much as recognize anyone else.
Farinata is one of the sinners in hell who can see the future and the past, but cannot see the present. They cannot see When events are close and were it not for others they would know nothing of your living state (Dante 91). The reason for this punishment is that these sinners are Epicureans who believe that the soul dies with the body. Thus, at the end of time, these heretics will see nothing. Farinata says to Dante, the face of the queen who reigns will glow not fifty times before you learn how hard it is to master such an art (Dante 91). This is one of the many warnings Dante receives telling him that he too will be a permanent resident of hell if he doesn t change his lifestyle.
Dante learned in this Canto that he should always listen to what Virgil has to say and take heed of it. However, what he does not learn is that he should not try to argue with or feel sympathies for the sinners. The use of language was also a main focus with all the symbolic language or lack there of that got the sinners into trouble. Dante has been a proud character up until this point, but he should have learned from this Canto that pride is the most useless gift one can have.