Symbolism Found in the Inferno | Inferno (Dante) | Hell

Symbolism Found in the Inferno Dante’s Inferno is a treasure trove rich in symbolism.

As you flip through the book, symbolism is always right in front of you, teasing you with irony or providing a solid example of symbolic retribution. This term means that the punishments are dealt according to their crimes committed on earth. Let’s take a look at Circle 3 for several clear examples of this poetic justice. The gluttonous dwell in a torrent of dirtied rain, lying in slush, and awaiting the fearsome jaws of Cerberus to clamp down on their souls. Now, gluttons are people who consume with clear obsession, whether that is for people’s finances, hospitality, or food. These people endure their punishment for a specific reason: they are both consumed by the endless rainfall and consumed by Cerberus as he ravages this circle in Hell. The symbolic retribution shown here is that the gluttons endless consumed during their time on Earth, and now they must endure an eternity being consumed under God’s watchful eye. Dante’s use of irony in the entire Inferno really allows the reader to enjoy the suffering of the eternally punished, since they clearly are at fault for committing any one of these unforgivable sins. Another interesting thing about symbolism is that there can be multiple meanings hidden within one topic. I already discussed how Cerberus can be viewed as a retributive punishment symbolizing endless consumption for those who consumed all of their lives. When speaking from the Christian allegorical point of view, Cerberus can be seen as a deformity of the Trinity, showing how Hell is truly a blasphemous land specifically created to harbor the ones God chooses to separate from his kingdom. Cerberus is also represented in other cultures as a fearsome beast, but, specifically in Greek and Roman mythology, Cerberus’ creation came about not from God, but from being the child of two hybrid gods. What I also found interesting is that the weather condition, while seeming insignificant at first, holds symbolic meaning as well. The freezing cold terrain that the gluttons like naked upon hinders their ability to consume. The frigid temperatures slow down their movements and freeze their joints literally to the bone. This also means that they can never escape their inevitable consumption from Cerberus. Each soul is also consumed on by blocking their senses: hearing is consumed by the sounds of Cerberus howling, the pouring rain hitting the murky slush, and the wailing of other distressed souls; any sense of smell is drenched in the filthy landscape the gluttons lay upon; all sense of touch is lost as the chilling rain numbs their nude bodies; taste is ruined with the flavors of mud puddles and blackened snowfall; sight, surprisingly, is the only thing allowed to be kept. As you can plainly see, symbolism isn’t just a briefly mentioned issue in the Inferno: it makes up a large portion of how Dante explains his journey and how the reader perceives it.

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