If you are going through hell, keep going. –Winston Churchill
Dark Forest: Inferno begins in the year of 1300 in a dreadful night of Good Friday eve, Christian holiday condoling the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and his demise between 30 and 33 of common era. The story embarks from the dark wood where Dante gets lost in the darkness with anxiety and extreme dismay.
Mount Delectable: The ultimate heaven which Dante tries to unsuccessfully climb before three vicious creatures: leopard, lion, she-wolf appear to block him out of the entrance to heaven. His initial intention is to accomplish his quest of seeking sunlight and escaping the misery of the wicked wood.
Entry of Hell: A big gate with inscriptions “abandon all hope those who enter here”. It is also a location that leads to the banks of the river Acheron where souls are rejected from either paradise and the underworld. This place possesses innumerable number of wasps.
Acheron: The first infernal river that circles around the vestibule of the damned underworld. It can easily be passed through by a boatman escort, Charon, who ferries passengers back and forth towards the first circle of hell.
Limbo: The very first circle of the so-called hell where people had been heathen, virtuous pagans and unbaptized individuals, when they were alive or were born before Christianity. This is eternal home for people like Virgil as he died fourteen years before Christ’s capital punishment. People here are not being penalized, but they are forbidden from heaven.
2nd Circle: This site is guarded by Minos, the judge to whom the sinners confess their fault and the character who is obligated to sentence the souls by wrapping its tail around their bodies multiple times to specify which circle of hell is suitable for each of them. The second circle of hell, being windy and dark, is where people who drowned in their own lust were classified.
3rd Circle: This region rains for eternity for the souls that suffer from gluttony, an habitual greed and over-consumption of food. This ring is also protected by Cerberus, a three-head hound of Hades which prioritizes dead people who intend to escape from hell and claw the gluttons.
4th Circle: The warden to the fourth circle of hell where greed is punished is Pluto, the former Greek god of wealth. The avaricious sinners of the ring here are condemned to roll massive rocks repeatedly for infinity. Legend has it that heavy labor force might constantly remind people not to desire more than they already have.
Styx: The second infernal river which separates the fourth and sixth circles of hell rather than the boundary of Hades in common sense. This setting, the penalty of wrath, conjure the damned souls to strangle each other in the mud of Styx and some sullen spirits eventually get buried deep within, gurgling pathetically and completely covering in mud. This is the last ring of incontinence, sins that are indulged by natural passion and craving. The grumpy devil escort who owns the ferry here is called Phlegyas.
Wall of City of Dis: Barrier of the city entirely on fire that defends the greater inner circle of violent hell from any intruder. The City of Dis is wholeheartedly safeguarded by demonic fallen angels and furies which threaten to use the head of Medusa to freeze Dante and Virgil into stones.
6th Circle: Location where heretics, people who believe and practice religious heresy that contradicts Christianity’s rules, are being punished. This particular circle of hell has coffins which hold heretics everywhere and, to be worse, they are burning in eternal flame within their personal open boxes. Despite all of these, souls here are very arrogant and nasty.
7th Circle: This circle is a staggeringly broad category for sinners who committed violence against God, nature, and themselves. Minotaur, half-man and half-bull, is a generous security guard here with many other friendly centaurs whose jobs are to shoot the unfortunate souls who defied God each time they take off from the boiling river of blood.
Wood of Suicides: Horrific forest with poisonous thorns and harpies where all of the haunting trees used to be people who committed suicide or violence against themselves. As a result, they are stuck with limitless sorrow in the very mystical wood where harpies keep on tearing off their leaves.
Blazing Plain: This territory holds major displeasure against sinners ranging from blasphemy to defiling nature. This means souls here were people who take nature for granted including, but not limited to, littering and even despising trees. This desert tortures those souls with an enormous plain where it continuously rains fire.
Abyss: A giant and seemingly bottomless chasm before the darkest stage of hell, fraudulence or deception, is occasionally controlled by Geryon, a gigantic reptile with human face and large wings. This creature is responsible for lifting the two main characters to the eighth circle of hell.
Malebolge: The eighth ring of hell where ten fraudulent actions are being punished. Those sins are seduction, flattery, simony, fortune-telling, politicians, hypocrites, thieves, malicious counselors, sowers of discord, and falsifiers. Each phase shares a diverse range of punishments lining from chasing by nasty demons to having heads snapped backward.
Giant’s Well: This site is bordered by a great number of biblical giants who are chained to their ground under the well. However, there is one free mythological giant, Antaeus, who happens to be generous enough to lift Dante and Virgil from the upper hill into the ninth circle reserved for the absolute worst of humanity.
Cocytus: The last circle of hell, tremendous frozen lake, where traitors get to suffer for eternity by being embedded under the frozen lake deeper the further the distance goes. Towards the lowest point in hell, the main characters find themselves facing frozen-to-neck Satan, a special-edition ruler of hell with three heads; each one does the “om-nom-nom” job of chewing Judas, who betrayed Jesus, Brutus and Cassius, who are responsible for the assassination of the Emperor Julius Caesar.
Purgatory: The center of the earth where Dante and Virgil are up for another adventure of redeeming Dante from moral offence in order to seek his way to heaven. Rumor has it that the time freezes when the two go through hell; however, others believe it has been ten days and it is currently dawn of Sunday, the celebration of Easter.
The main idea of Dante’s Inferno is the importance and rights of individual’s perception towards philosophy of life such as value of culture, moral nobility, love, personal insight of society, and especially infinite knowledge: eternal growth of human being which signifies the act of one’s intention to find oneself in the middle of the darkness of devastating mortality. Dante places himself as the major character in the Divine Comedy in order to illustrate the fact that he does not think that living is enough unless one is constantly trying to uncover the truth beneath universal ignorance that mundane could not escape. As a human being, Dante believes that he is just one lost star on a quest to find the light which he could never touch without the assistance of love and faith: the hope that the heart can reach when all the eyes see is emptiness of shadow in the gloomy forest.
Value of Culture: Almost every Canto of Inferno reveals the will of God in which Dante strongly believes. This means that everything in life is speculated to be determined by God even the act of traveling through hell for the sake of redeeming oneself before residing in heaven. Such belief can also be reflected in the first circle of hell, Limbo, the everlasting home to Virgil as he was born before Christ. Even though he is Dante’s role model and his hypothesis states that there is only one God in the universe, he could not elude the unfortunate birth in the time period when Christianity has not been introduced to humanity and, therefore, is excluded from heaven forever. Another impeccable example is when the boatman Charon refuses to ferry Dante across river Acheron due to the fact that he is still alive and everybody in hell is not. Despite this, he makes an exception for our main character as long as Virgil informs him that this is God’s will. Such scene shows that God is a very powerful figure that even dead people do not use his name to get away with anything.
Moral Nobility: Inferno is centered on virtue that Dante trusts and his willingness for people to stay away from sins. Many souls are damned in hell due to the fact that they do not follow the path to goodness and, instead, defy the righteous road for the worst ones. In many upper circles of hell of Inferno, sins such as Lust, Gluttony, and Greed are included in Seven Deathly Sins, classifications of Christianity’s capital vices. There are other sins that Dante clearly thinks to be worse by examining the level of hell the sinners are categorized in. The purpose of the published work plays an essential reminder that humans should avoid all types of moral’s sins in the will to find true peace in paradise. It also advises readers that they may be too caught up in their lives that what is right is being forgotten and that every of their deed has its own consequences that they eventually have to endure as an outcome of their choices. Thus, it would generate fear that frightens people until they are totally convinced that the fate of humanity might die in this modern world and every single soul might turn up in hell.
Love: Dante, like everybody else in this world of desolation, is looking for love. He has found love, but he has also lost the love of his life because of cruel mortality. Dante remains loyal to his dead girlfriend, Beatrice, even if she is already in heaven and he is still lost in the dark. Nonetheless, our main character believes that there must be something that he can do to reunite with his significant half; that is perhaps the reason why he is wandering alone within the wicked wood where his weaknesses lay before him for all to see in the beginning of Inferno. Abandoning his pride, Dante clarifies himself to be unworthy to reach the summit of Mount Delectable. However, Beatrice is also faithful to their bounding one true love and decides to summon Virgil to guide Dante in the process of purifying himself. This points out that Dante would do anything for his true love and that hope within his heart remains powerful like wildfire. He believes that “without hope, we live in desire” and dares to sacrifice everything in order to complete the search for something he has lost. Inferno communicates with the readers that without love, humans are stripped free of humanity. Without love, the world is one place of insanity.
Personal Insight of Society: Dante is often found discussing politics with the doomed souls in hell as he is featured as a person who cares deeply about social situations. Even though he might not even step on the earth again as he is already taken off for paradise, he still divides his attention for Florence’s well-being, and occasionally gets into an argument with the sinners in hell because their political views clash. Dante’s message for this is to never abandon where you come from even if it is the darkest place you have ever been to. In a sense, it is where all one has is offered to make oneself complete as a citizen and an intact human. It might not feel like home, but one must not be selfish and must always be grateful of that particular place where one is welcome to form a proper life and grow. There are always better places out there and there is always greener grass on the other side. But without the struggle of the pain and disdain, success would mean nothing. Without dead field of grass, greener grass would mean nothing. Without the wrongful dread, goodness would mean nothing. Just like beauty; if it could be seen by everyone, then it might not be beautiful anymore. Just like human; without bittersweet past and development, strength does not mean as much.
Personal Growth: It is difficult to know life purposes and it is even more difficult to know if that purpose is what you really want. The most important day in life is the day when you know why you were born. Until then, you are always in the process of finding yourself. That is what Inferno tries to teach the readers; if you do not know who you are, then chances are you are being lost in the darkness just like Dante in the first scene. By this, Dante can easily highlight that life is a maze in which you are too busy trying to avoid the exit without realizing what exactly you do avoid it for. Unlike Dante, we are on our own and there is no special goddess to help us like Beatrice and Virgil help the main character in the book. However, we can decide whether we get lost in the forest and lose hope or run forward until we fly. The meaning of life does not lie on doing what one is told, nor does it lie where humans repeat their daily routines. The meaning of life lies where we find something worth living for and give it all we have got because it is also worth dying for. It is just like Dante and his purpose of finding love.
Dante: is a man beyond describing. This guy is almost impossible to be defined. What really comes up first and foremost for all readers is that he tends to be quite sensitive. Dante faints quite too often every time he comes across something emotional. For example, on the ferry across river Acheron, Dante is the only living person among the passengers on the boat. Despite the fact that nobody even talks to him, he loses his consciousness for the entire ride. Moreover, Dante could not help but cries out loud until he knocks himself out in the second circle of hell where those beautiful and lusty ladies continue on babbling about how stressful and difficult their lives were when they were alive. Dante is not afraid to show his sympathy for people even in the very negative moment of time. Secondly, Dante could not protect himself. He relies entirely on God, his girlfriend and Virgil to assist him in the process of finding heaven. However, he is very friendly and positive. He talks to everyone everywhere without discrimination or prejudice that they are dead and is not even disappointed when Virgil throws “stop sign” for him to stop talking here and there. Dante is extremely loyal and committed to the people that he loves. He would do anything to reach his goal even if it means risking his life and screaming his lungs out because he is too scared. Not being perfect, Dante has so many fears but he does not let them stop him.
Virgil: is a bad-tempered man (or dead man) who is constantly angry with Dante for being talkative and childish even though he is already thirty-five years old. However, Virgil is very helpful and protective in every way possible. Without him, the quest to find Beatrice would not be feasible as he always is the hero of the day who gets Dante through every phase in hell without so much as an effort. Virgil is a very strong and brave character. He tends to stick around and look out for Dante selflessly through thick and thin. To be specific, he covers Dante’s eyes when the furies bring Medusa’s head to freeze Dante without caring about himself in front of the City of Dis. If he was alive, he would make a great friend. Additionally, Virgil is a responsible figure. He is obligated to take Dante across hell and he does it well. His reputation as one of the greatest poets and philosophers in the pages of history does not have it against him. Overall, Virgil deserves to be someone Dante looks up to. His name spectacularly deserves to be remembered for centuries for the help that Dante could not repay alone.
Beatrice: is a reminded character who empowers the book to happen. Beatrice is the heart and soul of Inferno as Dante would not intend to go to heaven or think about philosophy of life as much if it was not for the love of his life. Beatrice is also an admirable character who never forgets her origin from the ordinary world where she was a loving soul that could not be forgotten. Even when she becomes an angel living in the world of prosperity and eternal happiness, she still remembers poor Dante back in the human world where they struggle together to obtain the satisfaction they are looking for. She even summons Dante’s favorite poet from the underworld for him to cross hell and Purgatory with; she could not have been a better girlfriend. Beatrice proves that the love in this world could never be taken away even if one dies and lives an entirely new life.
Satan: is not the protagonist, but the worst form of humanity emphasized in the book. Satan, the fallen angel Lucifer or the former light-bringer of heaven, is no longer worthy here as he is stuck nipple-deep in the frozen lake of Cocytus for eternity for moving God’s supremacy and having too much pride. All he does in hell is chewing infinitely on three of the world’s most famous traitors. Satan is very arrogant and his evilness can be defined as lack of virtue. That is probably why bad things are helpless compared to good ones. It is a wonder how Virgil and Dante could just jump over his shoulders and reach out of hell in a blink of an eye.
GOD: This is Christ we are talking about. The entire book might as well have been dedicated to him directly if he never left the human world for paradise. According to the book, God has everything precisely planned and everyone on board must follow the will of his; otherwise, their actions would be considered as defiance and they would be boiled in the river of blood of the seventh circle. God is a representative of humanity, a judge over everything people do in order to find justice and draw a line between what is right and what is wrong.
Inferno begins on a gloomy night, the eve of Good Friday, when a man named Dante is lost alone in the forest without any escape route or any way to get out. Trying to solve the problem at stake, Dante wills himself to climb any hill in order to experience the sunlight once more as it might help him to get away from the wicked wood. When he finally finds one, Dante starts climbing the mountain until three vicious creatures, a leopard, a lion and a she-wolf, slide down the summit of Mount Delectable and prevent him from reaching the ultimate heaven because he is not worthy enough to do so. Just before he can be harmed by anyone of the mighty creature, Virgil appears out of nowhere to save his life and protect him. Summoned by Dante’s dead girlfriend, Beatrice, Virgil is one of the most famous poets in Augustus era of Roman Empire and Dante’s most favorite role model/celebrity crush. Dante could not stop being thankful as he is led to the entrance of hell where the process of redeeming himself begins.
Welcome to hell. It is believed that souls that enter here must lose all hope as no one can ever escape their punishments that they deserve. Before the first circle of hell, there are souls rejected by either hell and heaven just because they have not been baptized but they never wrong anybody or commit sin. This particular place in hell is full of wasps and bugs to sting people who inhabit here. Dante and Virgil, then, have to be ferried across Acheron by the help of Cheron, who fills his boat with dead passengers that scare Dante until he faints. When he wakes up, they reach the other side of the river where the first circle of hell is located. This place is called Limbo storing people who were born before Christianity such as Homer, Horace, Ovid, Lucan and other classic heroes of the history including Hector. Dante would not stop being friendly with all of the people in the first rings until Virgil drags him down to the second circle where lusty souls are being punished. In there, there is an occasional storm with windy and dark atmosphere for sexiest souls in history like Cleopatra and Helen of Troy. Although he faints once more after hearing the tragic story of one of the souls there, Dante wakes up shortly only to face the third circle of hell where gluttony sinners are being punished. This site rains forever with Cerberus waiting to claw people if any of them are willing to escape. Because Dante is Virgil’s guest, he is free to roam around this circle with no trouble. When they reach the fourth circle, sinners of greed are eternally pushing rocks back and forth in order to fulfill a sense of accomplishment. Without so much as interactions, they move on to the fifth circle of hell, river Styx, where there is continuously underwater fist fight between people who could not control wrath, and the sullen souls are buried deep within the mud, waiting for somebody to notice how tormented and pathetic they are. Getting ferried across the fifth circle of hell, Dante finds himself in front of a huge gate of the City of Dis surrounding a city burning in flame. Here, fallen angels are circling overhead because they do not want the main characters to pass through the gate, whereas furies fly everywhere in order to attack. While Virgil is busy fighting the angels off, the furies bring Medusa’s head in the hope to freeze Dante to death. Fortunately, Virgil covers his companion’s eyes immediately right before messenger from heaven orders the obstacles to stop and to permit them to cross to the deeper circle of hell.
For the sixth circle of hell, each heretic is being put in blazing coffins and they are so arrogant that they would not even talk to Dante. Virgil, then, warns him to stop being friendly because they have reached the more nightmarish parts of hell and it does nobody any good to be kind to dead people who do not appreciate it. There they go on to the seventh circle reserved for violence either against themselves, the world or their neighbors. Dante becomes really excited here as Minotaur and the Centaur guards are all being friendly and cheerful to see them except for the fact that they have to shoot souls who escape from the boiling river of blood full of violent conquerors of the past including Alexander the Great and so on. With the help of the generous centaurs, they are finally able to get to another part of the circle which is the horrific forest full of dangerous thorns, and harpies that keep tearing the leaves off trees which used to be people. Those people once committed violence against themselves, specifically suicide, and Dante could not help but return the leaves to one of the trees before he goes on. The last part of this circle contains a mammoth desert where it rains fire as a penalty for people who do not pick up their trash. Getting out of this circle is not that easy as Dante and Virgil require help from a giant reptilian monster with human face to lift them from the cliff to the next circle of hell.
The eighth circle of hell, Malebolge, belongs to fraud of various types. Nasty demons chase seducers, flatterers beat themselves up, people with simony which is selling religion for money are dumped heads first into the hole and have their feet set on fire and astrologers and false prophets have their heads twisted around backward. Further down, it has been saved especially for the horrible breed of mankind: politicians. Demons pop out, dropping politicians one by one into the river of boiling tar until Dante meets his least favorite politicians who keep talking to him. The demon takes the opportunity to mess around by picking them up again and shredding their bodies until they fall back into the river. The demon goes mad and picks the demon up again until he gets stuck himself in the tar and blame Dante for it. Leaving him with no choice, Virgil took Dante hurriedly to the next part where thieves are being punished by a giant pitfall of snakes. These snakes have the ability to bite souls and rob them off their true form by turning them into random objects or even ash. Moving on to the lower part, each person who uses power to commit fraud owns their personal bubble ring of fire around themselves, sowers of discord and falsifiers suffer through every disease known to humankind simultaneously.
The ninth circle of hell is the place in where the current champion of the lowest part of Inferno resides. That is nobody other than Satan himself with three-head who is frozen up to the nipple in the river of Cocytus. To be worse, he has to eternally chew on three of history’s worst traitor including Judas, Brutus, and Cassius. Virgil quickly lifts Dante up and they pass the Ruler of Hell by the shoulder and suddenly pop back up to the surface of the earth. It has been ten days and it is now a new adventure across Purgatory where Dante is obligated to cross in order to reunite with Beatrice in heaven.
The trip to hell has finally ended. Personally, I find the story very considerate and creative. Dante, the author, has this way of writing a poem with its visibility flashing before the readers’ eyes if one is committed to giving the book one’s full attention. The world is very well-built for a middle-aged man who still believes deeply in imagination and a dimension beyond. To be perfectly honest, the book is hilarious; Dante basically captures almost every Greek figure and puts them all in hell like he holds a grudge against the Greeks as leftover wrath from the Trojan War. In addition, he makes his Dante character very humble and sensitive. That alone would make readers die in an ocean of humor. The best insight of the book, for me, is the faith that Dante holds on to even in the darkest moments of life. He does not give up whether it is on God or on Beatrice, no matter how impossible life may look like. He does not stop hoping even when he has to go through hell or whatsoever for the sake of his significant other. He might have endless fears of various types of torture in hell, but expressing himself is not one of them. That is why we are still reading that book today, seven hundred years after its first publication when the real Dante is long gone.
The value of culture, moral nobility, love, personal insight of society, especially infinite knowledge and more…make Dante’s Inferno stand out from the rest of the crowd. At first, I admit, the book can be a little confusing because that realm I have yet to see has been amazingly structured. I have come a long way from being annoyed by this book to being obsessed with it and I will definitely continue to read books by this author in the foreseeable future. I would recommend every of my friend to read this fantastic masterpiece as it surprises me that humans of all time are alike. I used to think that I was the only one, but literature taught me otherwise. We are lost stars, a speck of dust within the galaxy, trying to seek the truth and the main purposes of life. We are all trying to grow up, looking back to a life well-lived. We are all trying to find ourselves. And in that process of finding ourselves, we are always looking for love. In that process of finding ourselves, we are always looking for happiness. In that process of finding ourselves, we are looking forward to doing something that somebody cannot repay us back. It has been a pleasure, crossing hell with you. I am looking forward to doing it again sometimes.
© VITAK CHEAV