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Tyler Pontello

Miss Skirtich

English 10: World Literature

22 January 2019

Roadblocks for Dante on the Highway Through Hell

In every good book the main character has a set of challenges in front of them. This is

especially true for Dante in The Inferno by Dante Alighieri. Dante faces many obstacles both

mental and physical while journeying through Hell, including overcoming negative emotions,

physical barriers in Hell, and Dante’s need to become more “grown up.”

Dante faces many obstacles both mental and physical while journeying through Hell,

including overcoming negative emotions. In the first five cantos of the book, he faints multiple

times after feeling overwhelming fear. He hears the wailing and moaning of sinners and it causes

him to pass out, “As she said this, the other spirit, who stood by her, wept so piteously, I felt my

senses reel and faint away with anguish. I was swept by such a swoon as death is, and I fell, as a

corpse might fall, to the dead floor of Hell” (Alighieri 40). Later in the book, he overcomes these

events and is strong enough to ignore the negativity all around him. Another example is Dante

not feeling worthy to travel through Hell and looks down on himself. He simply cannot compare

himself to those who have done this before him, so it makes him feel bad, “But I- how should I

dare? By whose permission? I am not Aeneas. I am not Paul. Who could believe me worthy of

the vision? (Alighieri 11). Aeneas was a Greek character who was said to travel through Hell, as

well as Paul the Apostle to Jesus. It will take self-confidence that Dante does not possess this

early in the book to accept that he is chosen for this journey. Dante faces and must overcome

negative emotions like self-doubt and fear.


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Additionally, Dante faces many obstacles both mental and physical while journeying

through Hell, including physical barriers in Hell. The first set of these that he encounters is the

She-Wolf of Incontinence, Lion of Violence, and the Leopard of Fraud. Dante tries to leave the

Dark Wood of Error to enter Heaven, but these creatures stand guard and become the reason that

Dante has to journey the long way through Hell, “And lo! Almost at the beginning of the rise I

faced a spotted leopard, all tremor and flow and gaudy pelt. And it would not pass, but stood so

blocking my every turn that time and time again I was on the verge of turning back to the wood”

(Alighieri 5). They block his path and represent that there is no easy way out of his situation.

Another physical barrier that stands in Dante’s way is the Gates of the city of Dis, in Canto 9.

Dante and Virgil are stopped by a legion of Furies, Fallen Angel, and other hellish creatures who

are blocking the gate, and they have to wait for help from an angel to blast open the gates, “And

he turned me about himself, and would not trust my hands alone, but with his placed on mine,

held my eyes shut,” (Alighieri 68-69). In both of these instances Dante has to rely on other

people, primarily Virgil, to get him through. However later in the book Dante matures enough to

start handling things by himself. Dante faces physical barriers at multiple points throughout his

journey, and passes them with the help of Virgil, God and His will, and Beatrice.

Furthermore, Dante faces many obstacles both mental and physical while journeying

through Hell, including Dante’s need to become more “grown up.” The first example of this

behavior is shown in Canto 6, where Dante is gullible and feels compassion for sinners in Circle

Two, Paolo and Francessca Rimini, who cheated on each other, “Then turning to those spirits

once again, I said, Francesca, what you suffer here melts me to tears of pity and pain” (Alighieri

39). This pitying is childish on Dante’s part and he later grows out of this behavior. The second

instance that shows Dante has to mature is when he relies heavily on Virgil. This happens a few
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times, one is in Canto 5 where Virgil firmly defends Dante when Minos questions why they are

traveling through Hell, “And my Guide to him: That is not your concern, it is his fate to enter

every door. This has been willed where what is willed must be, and is not yours to question. Say

no more” (Alighieri 36). Virgil’s steely confidence in the matter proves to outwit Minos, who

allows the duo to continue on their journey. An obstacle for Dante early on is his maturity level,

which irons itself out later in the book.

Dante faces many obstacles both mental and physical while journeying through Hell,

including overcoming negative emotions, physical barriers in Hell, and Dante’s need to become

more “grown up.” His experiences early in the text prove to be learning moments that he uses to

mature in order to prepare himself for what is to come. We can all relate to this type of struggle,

and it is imperative for one to use mistakes and moments of immaturity to learn from to better

ourselves.