The inferno vs. What dream my come
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Since the time that Christianity and other religions introduced the idea of heaven and hell, people started to wonder about that idea. They started to have questions about what is hell and what is paradise, but more important what comes after death. Many thinkers, writers, poets and scientists wrote or expressed their own ideas about afterlife. In this paper I will discuss the similarities and differences between two pieces that depicts hell, Dante’s inferno from the divine comedy and What dreams may come. Dante’s inferno is an allegory about a man’s journey through the nine-circles of hell in order to bring back the woman he loves. She was taken away from him by Lucifer, because of the sins he committed. On the other hand What dreams my come is a story about a man called Chris who went through hell to bring back his wife whose called Anne, whom she went to hell because she committed suicide. The main them here is that love lasts even in the afterlife. The first thing you notice in Dante’s inferno is the traditional way of depicting of hell.
Hell is divided into nine circles, each circle deals with a sin. Moreover, everything is standardized and detailed. For example, the seventh circle which is devoted for the sin of violence and it is divided into three rings. The outer ring contains the people who commit violence against people and property, the middle ring houses people who commit suicide and the inner ring is for the people who commit violence against God. On the other hand if you take a look into What dreams may come, the depiction of afterlife is seen in an orthodox way. In another words the afterlife is different from one person to another the person creates his or her own hell or paradise. In this case Chris, his heaven is living in the paintings of his wife and Anne she created her own hell which is living without her husband and children. Other notable differences are the reasons behind both journeys. In Dante’s inferno he has no choice, he must take the journey. His journey was already planned and orchestrated by God, because he was moving away from the real way of God, so he must take this journey to learn an important lesson. However, in What dreams my come, Chris has a choice. After his death Chris went to heaven, and when he learned that his wife is in hell after committing suicide, he chooses to go to hell to bring her back.
Another difference is how Dante and Chris enter hell physically; Dante enters hell on foot alongside Virgil. They walk through the infamous gate of hell which holds a well-known inscription “Abandon all hope ye who enter here.” (Canto 3, Line 9). When Dante makes it through the gate, he is confronted with sounds and visions of the tortured souls in pain, Dante describes these souls: “the nearly soulless whose lives concluded neither blame nor praise.” (Canto 3, Lines 33-34). However, in what dreams may come, Chris alongside Albert they go to hell by an elevator type transported above a wrecked ship labeled as Cerberus. Aside from the differences there are certainly some similarities, most notable that both Dante and Chris have a mentor-student relationship. Dante has Virgil who is a poet and he had a great deal of influence on Dante’s work. Throughout Dante’s journey in hell, their relationship has grown more than student-mentor relation; they are more like close friends. This could be seen in Canto 23 as Virgil and Dante are attempting to escape the Fiends. Virgil lifts Dante and “as down that hill my Guide and Master bore me on his breast, as if I were not a companion, but a son.” (Canto 23, Lines 45-47).
The same relation could be seen between Chris and Albert. Chris finds a tracker to help through his journey to hell in order to find his wife Anne. Albert in real life was Chris’s mentor; Chris admired and loved his mentor as he learned a lot from Albert. However, Albert dose not reveal his true identity at first because, he does not use his earthly image. He only revels himself in a crucial point of story, and then the relationship develops from a mentor student relation to a friendship relation. Another similarity is the plain with heads sticking out of the ground in What dreams my come, it is quite similar to Dante’s punishment for the egoist. Additionally, you can see the similarity in the imagery used in both works; Chris and Albert travel to hell on a small boat under a gray sky that hold nude bodies twisting on the winds. These figures swell from the water beneath the boat as well and overturn it, dragging Chris and Albert upon their entrance into hell. When they surface they have inverted on a beach with bodies cluttering just like clans of seals. This imagery could also be seen in circle two of Dante’s Inferno for punishment of lust, which Paolo and Francesca suffer in the Inferno.
In both journeys, Dante and Chris meet people they know. Chris meets his friend Albert, his wife Anne, his dog and his Daughter whom she appeared to him as an Asian woman. Dante meets his father whom is suffering from the punishment of creed; he also meets his mother whom she committed suicide. At the end, there are certainly many similarities and differences in both works. They both share some of the imagery in how hell is presented, and most certainly they share the goal of retrieving the ones they love.
However, they differ in defining hell, while the inferno is took the traditional and standard approach of what hell is about, What dreams may come took the approach of creating your own hell. Developing an idea about what hell is about is hard, since the time that Dante’s inferno was finished in 1321 it has influenced many books and films in how they present hell. Personally I do not know what will happen in the afterlife, I do not even think that some who commits suicide goes to hell. I don’t know if hell or paradise do physically exist. Maybe hell is repeating you life over and over again, maybe it’s a place where you stand there alone, and maybe it’s only something in your head. Maybe the whole idea not knowing what will come after this life is hell in its self “For in that sleep of death what dreams may come when we have shuffled off this mortal coil must give us pause.” (Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 1,).
Dante. Inferno. in Maynard Mack et al., ed., The Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces, 6th ed. New York: Norton, 1993. “A Note on the Afterlife.” What Dreams May Come website, http://www.whatdreamsmay.com/makingof/makingof.htm. November 27, 1998. What Dreams May Come. Film. PolyGram Films. 1998.
What Dreams May Come website. http://www.whatdreamsmay.com/whatdreamshome.htm. November 27, 1998. Shakespeare, William. Hamlet (The New Folger Library Shakespeare). Simon & Schuster; New Folger Edition, 2003.