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The Inferno: Metaphor Analysis

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Hell, Wind, Birds and Walls
The whole Divine Comedy is one great metaphor, in which the true nature of the life of human beings on this earth as they move either toward or away from God is imaged in the realms of the afterlife, and the story of one human being's spiritual transformation is told as the story of a journey through those realms. Indeed, one basic definition of allegory is that it is a kind of extended metaphor, a narrative in which the story has meaning on at least two levels. The dominant metaphor in the Inferno is Hell itself, an image presenting movement away from God as descent into an ever narrowing pit full of strife and noise and stench, with ice at its core.
Within that overriding metaphor are many others-here are a few examples. The black wind on which the lovers of the Second Circle are blown forever is an image of the horror of abandonment to passion when all centeredness is lost, and the constant comparison of the lovers to birds suggests how completely those who give themselves up to passion have lost their human capacity to think clearly about what they are doing.
The hard walls of the City of Dis are an image of the hardened will, of the state of mind in which people say to themselves things like, "My problem was that I was too nice and worried about hurting other people. OK, no more Mr. Nice Guy! Now I'll go for what I want and the hell with everyone else."
When Dante faces the closed gates of Dis, he is threatened with a sight of Medusa there and with the possibility that he may have to give up his journey, but an angel opens the door for him effortlessly. Medusa is an image of despair, the despair that can come over someone who has decided to look within with total honesty in order to grow, and who then realizes that all the suffering of life has come from a willed choice of separation from God. Such a realization may lead to despair or to giving up the quest for union with God, and only the divine grace imaged by the angel makes it possible, even easy, to go on.




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