Snakes Of Time In Dante's Hell

1345 words - 5 pages

"Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit” (Romans 3:13). Snakes have been a universal symbol of fraud in literature since “The Fall,” when God transformed Satan into a beguiling snake and “[c]ursed” Satan to slide “on [his] belly” for all eternity for his deception (Alter 41). Dante uses snakes in his epic poem, the Inferno, to tie the fraudulent nature of thieves to their punishment in the seventh bolgia of the eighth circle of Hell. Snakes have metaphorically slithered through time and shed, taking on new appearances as deceivers in society. In 2005, they revealed a new face, Olatunji Oluwatosin, an identity thief. From his base in Los Angeles, Olatunji Oluwatosin stole private information, such as credit card numbers, of hundreds of United States citizens from the national database ChoicePoint. Oluwatosin, utilizing the snake’s deceptive arts, remained undetected when he began; however, as his crimes progressed, people became aware of his crimes, leading to his eventual capture. Oluwatosin’s crime shows the complex relationship between modern identity thieves and the serpentine thieves of Dante’s Hell. By avoiding detection and transforming, Oluwatosin effectively mutated into a snake until an eventual punishment that embraces Dante’s ideal of contrapasso.
Identity thieves avoid detection by presenting the face of an honest man. Olatunji Oluwatosin could persist in his crime as long as he maintained a different persona. However, James Garrett, a Los Angeles resident, reported to the police that a credit card “in his name had been redirected to another address,” an act which began Detective Duane Decker’s pursuit of Oluwatosin (O’Harrow). During his investigation, detective Decker realized that a customer requested ChoicePoint to send information to a local Kinko’s and that “similar requests had recently been made by others in the Los Angeles area” (O’Harrow). Decker arranged a sting operation to catch this culprit. Caught in this operation, Oluwatosin “dropped the paperwork he had just received” in terror and was taken to the Los Angeles Country Superior Court, where he received an appropriate punishment of “ten years in prison” under charges of identity theft (O’Harrow, Mimoso). Similarly, Dante’s Inferno forces the “naked and terrified” thieves to run from venomous snakes with their “hands behind their backs,” “without a hope of hiding” (Alighieri 251). The thieves who once were concealing themselves are now exposed. Moreover, with Oluwatosin’s numerous stolen identities, his crimes resemble the “chelydri and jaculi, phareans, cenchres, and head-tailed amphisbenes” of Libya (251). Oluwatosin assumed these identities to camouflage himself, much as snakes do in their environment. However, once apprehended, both the thieves of Dante’s fourteenth century Italy and today’s society must endure punishment. As the United States court system sentenced Oluwatosin to ten years in prison, Dante Alighieri arranges a more extreme...

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