Term Paper: Twelve-Step Program to Escaping Dante

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[. . .] It was only the direct intervention by a heavenly messenger that broke the deadlock.

Acknowledging that a higher power is necessary to lean on leads one to the fourth step in the program. Recovering alcoholics are instructed to conduct a comprehensive and truthful self-examination (Alcoholics Anonymous, 1955, 59). Another way of putting it is, the self-examiner must confront the beast of a previous lifestyle. "Dante realizes he must face evil (Satan) and rise toward the stars to the promise that is found in Heaven. The stars stand as a symbol of divine order and hope." (http://www.*****/essays/Literature/danteinferno.shtml,3).

However, before reaching the stars, Dante must travel through Hell. As Dante progresses through the nine circles, with Virgil as his guide, he meets many of his fellow Florentines as well as people he knows who have shaped human history in the various levels of hell. The fact that Dante recognizes most of the people he greets as fellow or rival politicians, friends and enemies belies the same culture they all resided in. Similar culture belies similar opinions on what is right and wrong (and they might not always be right). Also, politicians tended to be members of the wealthier part of the town and therefore were more enslaved by their ambition and appetites than the common man, simply because they could afford it and had less people policing their activities. The fact that Dante's comrades and rivals existed in various levels of Hell implies that Dante would probably have suffered the same fate without heavenly intervention. This speculation is made even more probable due to the fact that Dante often sympathizes with the plight of the sufferers, particularly those who he knew from the material world. Through Dante's encounters with his friends and enemies littered throughout the nine circles of Hell, Dante is compelled to face his own demons, confront his lifestyle choices and deem them right or wrong in the context of the place.

For instance, when Dante enters the First Circle of Hell (Limbo) which harbors non-believers of Christ, and the great literary minds of human history (http://www.sparknotes.com/poetry/inferno/summary.html,1),Dante feels an affinity with this group. "They came to the place where honourable shades were, and Virgil was welcomed by four giants, Homer, Ovid, Horace and Lucan. Dante was very pleased to find himself accepted in their number as the sixth great intellect." (http://www.gradesaver.com/ClassicNotes/Titles/inferno/fullsumm.html,4).Then Dante ventures into the Second Circle of Hell, haven for those who succumbed to Lust (http://www.sparknotes.com/poetry/inferno/summary.html,1).Dante speaks to two young lovers trapped in the Second Circle, Francesca de Rimini and her lover, Paolo. When Dante was 20 years old he would have heard about the scandal that erupted between Francesca and her husband's brother, Paolo. When her husband discovered their affair he had them both killed. "The souls floated over to him, and one of them spoke, telling how she had fallen in love while reading about Lancelot with her lover. She described the great power of love, and the deaths she and her lover suffered for it, deeply affecting Dante, who recognized her as Francesca. The other soul wept, and Dante fainted out of pity." (http://www.gradesaver.com/ClassicNotes/Titles/inferno/fullsumm.html,6).

When Dante enters the Third Circle of Hell, housing the Gluttonous (http://www.sparknotes.com/poetry/inferno/summary.html,1),he encounters a fellow Florentine. "Dante was sorry for his plight." (http://www.gradesaver.com/ClassicNotes/Titles/inferno/fullsumm.html,7).The Fourth Circle of Hell, reserved for the Avaricious and Prodigal (http://www.sparknotes.com/poetry/inferno/summary.html,1-2),appeared to be inhabited largely by religious men. "Many of the misers were indeed 'clergymen, and popes and cardinals, within whom avarice works its excess.' Dante thought he might be able to recognize some, but Virgil said that they were unrecognizable, and that this sight should teach him not to put too much importance in money, since Fortune controlled it." (http://www.gradesaver.com/ClassicNotes/Titles/inferno/fullsumm.html,8).

Upon passing through the Fifth Circle of Hell, sheltering the Wrathful and Sullen, Dante sees his political rival, Filippo Argenti, in torment there and rejoices at his suffering. In the Sixth Circle of Hell, Dante observes the Heretics. He spots another political rival, Farinata, and converses with him at great length. In the Seventh Circle of Hell, Dante encounters souls who committed violence on others, on themselves (people who committed suicide), or on God (blasphemers). Dante encounters his old patron, Brunetti Latini (http://www.sparknotes.com/poetry/inferno/summary.html,2).Dante also met a suicide who had been transformed into a gnarled tree. "Dante was too overcome by pity to speak..." (http://www.gradesaver.com/ClassicNotes/Titles/inferno/fullsumm.html,16).

In the Eighth Circle of Hell, the seducers, panders, astrologers, diviners, flatterers, Simonians, people who accepted bribes, hypocrites, thieves, false counsellors, gossipers and maligners, and the falsifiers lived out their punishment (http://www.sparknotes.com/poetry/inferno/summary.html,2).Dante recognizes people like Venedico Caccianemico (an acquaintance who was a pander in life), Alesso Interminei of Lucca (another acquaintance who seduced a girl before abandoning her), and the Ulysses (from the Homer epics, punished for his part in the Trojan Horse trick) (http://www.gradesaver.com/ClassicNotes/Titles/inferno/fullsumm.html,20-28).

The Ninth Circle of Hell, where the people who betrayed their families, their country and their benefactors are forced to play out eternity encased in ice, is the only place where Dante does not encounter an acquaintance or great man in history. In fact, Dante is even cruel towards the people who suffer in this section of Hell, pulling the hair out of one of the sufferers and teasing another (http://www.gradesaver.com/ClassicNotes/Titles/inferno/fullsumm.html,34-36).As time progresses and Dante travels further into Hell, Dante gradually sees divine justice being meted out accurately and ceases to question the validity of what he observes.

This empathy that Dante originally feels for the Hell-dwellers, particularly for the souls he recognizes, leads us to the fifth step of the Alcoholics Anonymous 12-Step Program.

Recovering alcoholics must admit to God, themselves and to others the exact nature of their sins or crimes (Alcoholic Anonymous, 1955, 59). Dante does not confide in Virgil or the reader on the exact nature of his transgressions that warranted Beatrice and the other heavenly entities to intercede on his behalf. However, the fact that Dante often sympathizes with the souls he sees suffering in the different levels of Hell, speaks volumes on the affinity he feels with their situation and the reason behind their placement. In fact, this sometimes compels Virgil to impatiently urge Dante forward rather than waste time and entertain the unhappy stories of the sinners. Dante does not hide his empathy towards the Hell-dwellers. He visibly weeps, becomes overcome with pity and faints, depending on the circumstance.

The sixth step in the program involves being entirely prepared and willing for God to eradicate all the defects in character that contributed to the propagation of the addiction (Alcoholics Anonymous, 1955, 59). Dante's willingness to have these experiences change him for the better is clearly demonstrated in his willingness to follow the lead of Virgil (from the onset), despite the horrifying sights and smells Dante is subjected to. Dante accepts rides from beasts and demons and even slides down the back of Lucifer. It's interesting to note that it is not in Virgil that Dante trusts completely, it is in the divine order given to Virgil from God which allows Dante to put his complete trust in his sponsor. There have been times when Virgil was fearful, particularly when they awaited the heavenly messenger to come down and help them gain passage through the gate of Dis which was blocked by the fallen angels (http://www.gradesaver.com/ClassicNotes/Titles/inferno/fullsumm.html,10).Another indication of Dante changing his mindset and conforming his judgments to those of God's is the fact that he questions the punishments less as he progresses further into Hell.

The seventh step in the program deals with meekly requesting God to eradicate the recoverer's shortcomings (Alcoholics Anonymous, 1955, 60). Dante is seen to comply with this step in the program through his faithful following of Virgil without neither question nor doubt as to the destination and allowing his mind to see the justice being meted out in such a harsh climate. Also, the fact that Dante at the end of the journey is clearer in thought and stronger in conviction than the person who embarked on the journey to Hell - confused, fearful and emotionally vulnerable.

The eighth and ninth steps in the program details compiling a list of people the recoverer has hurt and to make direct atonement for their bad behavior towards those people (Alcoholics Anonymous, 1955, 60). Although Dante does not visibly make a list of these people, we do know that his escape from inner confusion and Hell is primarily due to the love and concern on the part of Beatrice, the Virgin Mary, the two blessed ladies, God and Virgil. Dante shows his respect for Virgil as well as the others by complying with Virgil's directions to the letter and not doubting Virgil's words. Dante also shows his love and compassion for Beatrice by using his desire to be re-united with her as his impetus to soldier on. "Dante's entire imaginary journey throughout the afterlife aims, in part, to find Beatrice, whom he lost on Earth because of her early death." (http://www.sparknotes.com/poetry/inferno/characters.html,2).Literary experts believe Beatrice manifests spiritual love (http://www.sparknotes.com/poetry/inferno/characters.html,2).

The tenth step in the program involves the continuation of taking personal… [END OF PREVIEW]

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