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The Inferno: Novel Summary: Canto 31

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Canto 31

Summary
Healed by Virgil's forgiveness, Dante moves on with him, moving up the bank out of the Tenth Bolgia and on into the darkness. Dante can see little, but he hears the blast of a horn and, looking toward its source, thinks he sees towers. Virgil warns him that these shapes are not towers but giants, each standing around the edge of the deepest pit of Hell, but so huge that they tower up out of the pit. As Dante sees them more clearly, he is filled with fear, but in fact they are no threat to him. The first is Nimrod, who (according to the Book of Genesis) built the Tower of Babel in a proud and defiant attempt to reach Heaven and so caused the one language human beings had spoken up to that time to be lost. He can only babble meaninglessly. Next comes one of the giants who tried to unseat Jove, and he is bound. Finally they come to Antaeus, an old antagonist of Hercules, who can speak and is not bound, and he is easily flattered into setting them down at the bottom of the pit. Virgil holds Dante fast, but Dante is still pretty terrified when he sees Antaeus bend his vast shape toward them-Dante would have preferred another road. But Antaeus sets them down safely.
Analysis
This canto is almost comic relief, after the ugliness of the ten bolgias of Malebolge, the Eighth Circle. Yet the likeness of the giants to towers was perhaps meant to suggest the towers from which so many aristocrats afflicted the countryside in Italy, towers that were to Dante emblems of humanity destroyed by pride and violence and brute force ruling. Certainly they could be seen as symbols of the forces that run the world when the bond of love that by nature should rule in human hearts is destroyed.




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