31 October 2016
Throughout Dante Alighieri’s Inferno, the Pilgrim tries to improve his relationship with God. The Pilgrim struggles, moving forwards and backwards in his wavering journey with God. Because Virgil is sent by Beatrice to guide to the Pilgrim throughout his course, Virgil symbolizes God and his interactions with the Pilgrim. Preceding Canto XXI, the relationship between God and the Pilgrim can be seen progressing and regressing with each of the Pilgrim’s interactions with the characters in each circle. Explicitly in Canto XXI, the Pilgrim’s character regresses which is a result from the doubting of Virgil and the challenging of God.
Firstly, the Pilgrim’s character regresses because he doubts Virgil’s decisions. Virgil trusts that Malacoda will not deceive the poets as they travel on their journey. Virgil believes God would not aid them this far on their journey to abandon them. On line 82 Dante writes:
“Do you think, Malacoda,” my good Master said,
“you would see me here, having arrived this far
already, safe from you and every dread,
without Divine Will and propitious Fate?”
Virgil knows of a heavenly reason why the Poets have survived this far. On the other hand, the Pilgrim does not share the same faith in God as his mentor. The Pilgrim responds to Virgil’s trusting nature on line 127:
“In the name of heaven, Master,” I cried, What sort
of guides are these? Let us go on alone
if you know the way. Who can trust such an escort!”
Here the Pilgrim has an opportunity to improve his relationship with God. By trusting Virgil’s decision of putting faith in the demons to keep them safe on their journey, the Pilgrim is trusting God. Virgil and the Pilgrim’s relationship mimics that of God and the Pilgrim. Because of the Pilgrim’s disagreement with Virgil’s choice of guides, the relationship cannot move forward and the Pilgrim is not progressing in his journey and relationship with God. Therefore, the Pilgrim is regressing from the progress he makes in previous Cantos. The Pilgrim is not stuck with this regression. As the book continues, the Pilgrim will continue the pattern of moving forwards and backwards in his journey.
Secondly, the Pilgrim’s character regresses because he does not trust Virgil to protect him. Dante writes on line 100:
I pressed the whole of my body against my Guide
And not for an instant did I take my eyes
From those black fiends who scowled on every side.
The Pilgrim’s body language here shows he is scared of the demons around him as he presses himself against Virgil. A response to fear in the situation presented is to be expected. However, the Pilgrim does not dare take his eyes off of the demons. This action shows that the Pilgrim does not put his full trust in Virgil. The Pilgrim feels that he still has to be on the lookout even though he leans into Virgil for protection. Half-commitment does not exist when it comes to God. Half-committed to Virgil...