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DantePaper - 1 The Quest for Identity: The Inferno Rebecca...

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The Quest for Identity: The Inferno Rebecca Ney IECS 140a March 26, 2009 Dante’s Inferno explores the nature of sin as he descends through hell. His journey as a whole represents the human quest for eternal salvation; as a penitent, Dante addresses his sins and vices in a remedial fashion. Dante learns from sinners in the Inferno , such as Virgil, Farinata, Brunetto, and Ulysses about how to make correct decisions to achieve salvation. Dante represents Christ the Judge as his interactions are in the form of confessions during the Last Judgement. In this way, he absolves the sins of humanity in his descent. Dante’s resurrection and rebirth at the end of the Inferno begin with his ascent to Purgatory to initiate the process of change into a whole entity. With each interaction of the Inferno , Dante internalizes the three theological and cardinal virtues. Dante shares a common ground with each sinner that enables him to relate to them: Farinata shares Dante’s passion for Florentine politics, Brunetto shares his desire for literary acclaim, Ulysses shares his intellect, and Virgil shares his epic legacy. From these similarities, Dante distinguishes his own flaws: family and local politics consumed Farinata, personal reputation concerned Brunetto, personal desire for knowledge motivated Ulysses, and pagan beliefs dominated Virgil. In this way, he learns from the sinners’ self-absorbed, self-contained lives to have faith in God and the universal bonds of humanity. Dante’s interactions are part of the process of perfection and therefore eternal salvation in Paradise. In Canto 1, Dante strays from the correct path, and Virgil, the classical epic poet, rescues him from the approaching beasts. Virgil is the personification of reason, yet reason, as Dante learns, can only take them so far in their travels. Dante sees his future as part of Virgil’s epic legacy, especially when Homer, Horace, Ovid and Lucan invite him to join their group in the first canto. Dante’s future is reflected in Virgil’s identity as a Roman author living through and depicting historical moments. Dante says to Virgil, his mentor both as a writer and a guide, “you are my master and my author, you alone are he from whom I have taken the pleasing style that has won me honor” ( Inf. 1.85-87). As a pagan, Virgil is located within Limbo primarily because he lived before Christ’s death. Virgil is, therefore, faithless, and instead, values reason above all else. Dante sees the fault of faithlessness reflected in himself the moment he loses hope on his lost way in the first canto. Virgil reignites faith within Dante upon saving him at this moment. Dante’s faith allows him to
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This note was uploaded on 10/16/2011 for the course ITAL 333 taught by Professor Brownlee during the Spring '10 term at UPenn.

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DantePaper - 1 The Quest for Identity: The Inferno Rebecca...

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