Emmalee Bravo is a writer at BHSEC, Cleveland-West.
During our lifetimes, we experience ups and downs. Every life is a constant cycle of events, both good and bad. We all go through highs and lows, just hoping that we see the good more than the bad. However, we need to experience both in order to maintain a balanced life and to keep the cycle moving forward. Such is the case in Dante Alighieri’s Inferno, in which Dante himself travels through Hell alongside Virgil, the author of The Aeneid, and experiences the horrors of hell unfolding right in front of him. However, because of his journey through Hell and difficulty, Dante also comes to recognize the beauty of his own world.
Dante travels down into several circles of hell and witnesses the damned souls that are facing punishment for sinning in the mortal world. Dante laments, “I start to see new torments everywhere and new tormented souls, wherever I range or turn myself, wherever I may stare” (22). He recognizes the suffering as unavoidable. No matter which direction he looks to try and escape the horror, suffering, including his own, remains ever-present. Dante then continues on his quest into the deeper circles of hell where he finds souls trapped in the ice alongside Lucifer himself who “stood out above the ice, the emperor of that realm of misery” (130). Dante comes face to face with Satan, the ruler of Hell and the epitome of evil. Dante is given the opportunity to look the bad straight in the eye and see it for what it truly is.. Dante learns what it truly means to suffer through experiencing the horrors of the Inferno firsthand.
Dante has discovered a lot about the bad in his own world on his journey through the Inferno. But from this experience he gains a better understanding of what good means in his life. After escaping the Inferno, Dante questions Virgil about how they escaped and why everything seems distorted and backward now. Virgil then replies, “You think we are still where we have been, on the other side, where I took hold of the hair of the evil worm who gnaws the world from within” (131). In saying this, Virgil explains the transition from hell to a better, lighter place. He shows Dante that by braving one of the worst places imaginable to mankind, he has been able to better himself and change his view of the world. Dante’s point of view and his angle of perception have literally shifted. He can view his life from a different angle and continue on his path to becoming a person more equipped to recognizing beauty in the world after seeing its sorrows. Dante then observes his new surroundings more closely and states that he and Virgil “walked ahead and I behind . . . till we were in sight of a hole that showed some few particulars of those heavenly things that beautify the night. From there we came outside and saw the stars” (132). This is Dante’s way of signifying that there is a new beginning for him. He looks forward and upward into the sky and gazes upon the stars on the horizon, which show his desire to move forward and continue on his quest to behold beauty in the midst of pain. Dante feels inspired and renewed by the events he’s witnessed and he’s gained the motivation to want to move forward. He is finally able to see that there is more beauty to his own world than what he was originally living for.
Dante was forced through the Inferno in order to gain access to Heaven; however, through experiencing all the pain, suffering, and torment of the souls in the Inferno he gains a new drive to better his own life. He now notices things about his own world, like how it is filled with smaller, beautiful things such as stars, that he wouldn’t have noticed before this journey. Dante attains new insight into how his life is blessed because he journeys across challenges. He realizes that he is able to rewrite his story, which helps him to reconsider his world as a whole. His view on the world turns upside down for the better, as do his actions throughout the rest of his life. He becomes an inwardly richer person when he beholds the quiet radiance all around him.