Living in Dante’s Hell - Every Action has Consequences
In Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy - Inferno, each type of sinner is punished with living in a different part of hell. Depending on the severity of the sin, the people have to endure a harder or less hard punishment. According to Dante, all people are responsible for their own future and have to deal with the consequences. As in The Divine Comedy - Inferno, this is also true in real life, where people’s actions always have a consequence, may it be instant or in the long run.
Every day, people have to make choices. Some of them are good, and some of them are bad. However, one can never be sure whether the action taken will result in a positive or negative outcome. What is undisputable is that there will be a consequence. This effect is more generally known as the “Butterfly Effect,” a theory saying that “when a butterfly flaps its wings, it can cause a hurricane on the other side of the world” (Szuszkowski). Therefore it is proven that every action taken by human beings results in some change. In The Divine Comedy - Inferno, several groups of people are introduced who made the wrong decisions, therefore resulting in negative consequences also known as hell. However, Dante’s work must be seen as an allegory, meaning that hell is simply a representation of the negative effects that will come from making bad, selfless choices. People are rational beings, so they also have to be responsible for the consequences of their actions.
As an example, many people nowadays are very materialistic. They have lost the ability to acknowledge having a family and spending time with close people, and now they focus more on being successful at work, making money, and acquiring material goods. In Dante’s work, these people are described as the avaricious and the prodigal. Their errors are not of the worst nature, so one can find the avaricious and the prodigal in upper hell. “They bump against each other and then all turn, / pushing back the load and crying, / ‘Why do you hoard?’ or ‘Why do you squander?’ ” (Alighieri Canto VII, 28-30). As this quote shows, not even the two materialistic groups of avaricious and prodigal people can get along. Both believe that their behavior is right, while the others’ behavior is wrong. This is proof for two things. For one, people do not understand that they choose their own hell. They believe that if something bad happens to them, that it is a mistake. At the same time, they are quick at judging other people’s actions, claiming that they deserve their punishment. Another group of people mentioned by Dante, which is responsible for its position in hell, is people committing gluttony. Gluttons only put their mind on eating, “[a]s a barking dog, longing for food, / grows quiet after he has seized it, / since he thinks only of eating” (Alighieri Canto VI, 28-30). These people choose to desire more than necessary, so they also choose the punishment for it. Nowadays, society has become a place where obesity is normal and ever-growing. An increasing number of people is dying due to their high weight and the consequences pertaining their health. Nevertheless, gluttons are responsible for all of this, even if many look for excuses. Due to a physical condition, it may be harder for some people than for others to lose weight or to not gain weight. However, obesity will not happen if one eats healthy. People who gain weight due to gluttony choose their fate and are therefore punished for it.
Dante also mentions the angry and the sullen, people who focus either on external things (angry) or on the self (sullen). Virgil describes one of the people by saying that “[i]n the world he was an arrogant person; / no kindness adorned his memory, / so his shade is furious here (Alighieri Canto VIII, 46-48). Many people fit into this category of people, and they forget how happy they could be in life. They become negative persons and rather self- centered, not remembering that it feels good to do good. Nevertheless, there is nothing that feels better than the smile from a person that one has just helped. However, many do not understand that what you give, you get back 1,000 times. Some stay like this forever, always focusing on themselves and reacting angry to others, fearing that everybody else wants something bad for them.
In the long run, consequences are always inevitable. There can never be an action without a ramification. For example, the avaricious and the prodigal were doing well for a certain amount of time, acquiring more and more goods or money and enjoying it. However, at some point in their life, this will change. Materialistic people are also the same persons who mostly do not shy away from bragging about their riches. At first, they might be admired for it, as many still believe that money does not make happy, but it is sure better than being poor. Nevertheless, materialistic people have it a lot harder in life to retain long-lasting relationships. At some point, they will alienate most of their acquaintances, either by neglecting them and focusing on more properties, or by annoying them with their blatancy. This can also be described as karma; people who do something good in life will get good things back, and people who sin will be punished.
Nevertheless, negative consequences can be reversed and turned into positive effects. One never gets stuck at a certain point in life. Through making new decisions and taking new actions, a new series of effects will follow. Gluttons can turn away from their love for food, eventually leaving the hell they were in. With the right power of will, they can fight obesity and have a healthy relationship with food. Subsequently, humans have the ability to constantly influence their lives and their actions; so although every action brings a consequence with it, it is up to each individual whether he or she will go to hell or life a happy life after all.
Alighieri, Dante. “The Divine Comedy - Inferno.” Literature of the Western World, Volume I: The Ancient World Through the Renaissance. Ed. Brian Wilkie and James Hurt. 5th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2001. 1408-1543. Print.
Szuszkowski, Bob. "When a Butterfly Flaps Its Wings..."When a Butterfly Flaps Its Wings... Myteacherpages.com, n.d. Web. 05 Dec. 2012.