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Dante’s Inferno – A Religious and Morally Challenging Experience

Dante’s Inferno – A Religious and Morally Challenging Experience

Dante Alighieri, one of the greatest poets of the Middle Ages, was

born in Florence, Italy on June 5, 1265. He was born to a middle-class

Florentine family. At an early age he began to write poetry and became

fascinated with lyrics. During his adolescence, Dante fell inlove with a

beautiful girl named Beatrice Portinari. He saw her only twice but she

provided much inspiration for his literary masterpieces. Her death at a

young age left him grief-stricken. His first book, La Vita Nuova, was

written about her. Sometime before 1294, Dante married Gemma Donati. They

had four children.

Dante was active in the political and military life of Florence.

He entered the army as a youth and held several important positions in the

Florence government during the 1290’s. During his life, Florence was

divided politically between Guelphs and Ghibellines. The Guelphs supported

the church and liked to keep things as they were, unlike the Ghibellines.

The Ghibellines were mostly supporters of the German emperor and at the

time Dante was born, were relieved of their power. When this change took

place, the Guelphs for whom Dante’s family was associated took power.

Although born into a Guelph family, Dante became more neutral later in life

realizing that the church was corrupt, believing it should only be involved

in spiritual affairs.

At the turn of the century, Dante rose from city councilman to

ambassador of Florence. His career ended in 1301 when the Black Guelph and

their French allies seized control of the city. They took Dante’s

possessions and sentenced him to be permanently banished from Florence,

threatening the death penalty upon him if he returned.

Dante spent most of his time in exile writing new pieces of

literature. It is believed that around 1307 he interrupts his unfinished

work, Convivio, a reflection of his love poetry philosophy of the Roman

tradition, to begin The Comedy (later known as The Divine Comedy). He

writes a book called De Vulgari Eloquentia explaining his idea to combine a

number of Italian dialects to create a new national language. In 1310 he

writes De Monarchia presenting Dante’s case for a one-ruler world order.

Among his works, his reputation rests on his last work, The Divine

Comparing Suffering in Crime and Punishment and One Day in the Life

Suffering in Crime and Punishment and One Day in the Life

of Ivan Denisovich

Survival trough suffering is a general theme running through the novels.

Different forms of survival occur because in different scenarios. In One

Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, the story takes place in a prison camp,

whereas in Crime and Punishment takes place in society. During the course

of the two novels, it becomes quite apparent to the reader that some

characters have a reason that helps them drive forward through times of

suffering. The types of suffering are differentiated for each character

and so is their own individual way of tolerating the pain. For example, in

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, the main character, Shukov, suffers

due to the harshly cold conditions that he has to deal with in the prison

camp. In Crime and Punishment, the main character, Raskolnikov, suffers

from his guilt which he induces on himself when he realises that killing

the old moneylender was wrong. Therefore, this essay is similar to an

investigation into how the main characters of each novel manage to cope

with each of their individual sufferings.

In One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, the main character, Shukov, is

coping with a tremendous amount pain. “But try and spend eight years in a ‘

special’- doing hard labour. No-one’s come out of a ‘special’ alive.”

This shows how severe the conditions are as no-one has ever lasted a mere

eight years. “A couple of hundred grams ruled your life.” Here, he tells

the reader that a few hundred grams of bread would determine a man’s life

in that camp showing how little food is given to the prisoners. He is

forced to live and work in conditions that would repulse the average person

today. “The belly is a rascal. It doesn’t remember how well you treated it

yesterday , it’ll cry out for more tomorrow.” The way these people were

treated were inhumane and intolerable, yet Shukov continued to survive.

Work was used as a distraction from thinking about his pains, problems and

family.

Physical labour was one of two elements of Shukov’s life that help him

survive. “And now Shukov and the other masons felt the cold no longer.

Thanks to the urgent work, the first wave of heat had come over them.

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