The Guardians of the Inferno (Dante)


The Guardians of the Inferno

Dante\'s Inferno is one of the best written works of all time because it was written as an
allegory inside an excellent story. A key part of this allegory was how Dante used
different guardians in the various circles of hell. These guardians were used to symbolize
the punishments of the sinners.
Minos is the guardian of Circle II, the circle of the Lustful. He symbolizes an accusing
personality because his job is to give punishments to the sinners. The bodies of the sinners
confess the sins automatically, and that shows the sinners know everything about
themselves when it is too late to repent. Minos is important because he is used to stress
that none of the sinners can doubt which sins they have committed, and that the crime will
receive a matching punishment. The lustful were carried away by their passions in their
previous lives, and therefore they are thrown about by a black wind. Dante considers lust
to be the highest sin because it is mutually committed to the pleasure of both parties.
Cerberus is the guardian of Circle III, the circle of the Gluttons. Cerberus is meant to
portray the image of uncontrolled appetite. In mythology, he was known to devour
people who approached hell, and therefore is a glutton himself. However, being a glutton,
he must surrender himself to his appetite. His appetite just overtakes him when Dante
throws dirt in Cerberus\' mouth, and the poets are allowed to enter the circle. Cerberus is
an example of how everything must submit to the glutton\'s appetite, including his soul.
This is a dark sin because they now worship food instead of God, and this is reciprocated
by the rain, which belies the jolly nature of gluttons and gives them dark temperaments.
Gluttony is a sin which involves one person, and it is more of a selfish sin, but the
gluttonous are alone because they always ate alone.
Pluto is the guardian of Circle IV, the circle of Misers and Spendthrift. Pluto is meant
to symbolize riches, as he is the god of wealth that springs from soil in ancient mythology.
This is appropriate because he guards those who hoarded money and those who spent it
foolishly. This is a different type of appetite, as these people hate each other because
everybody wants to have all the money or spend all of it. These people conflict with each
other, and their mutual hatred for each other is symbolized by their rolling rocks against
each other. They actually give the punishments to each other. This is also a selfish sin,
but it is also hating others who are also selfish. This is why the Misers and Spendthrifts
are always battling, with Pluto watching them.
Phlegyas is the guardian of Circle V, the circle of the Wrathful. The circle is really the
Styx river, and Phlegyas is the ferryman. Phlegyas is the symbol of supreme rage, as he
burned Apollo\'s temple after his daughter Coronis fell in love with him. There are two
types of wrath, active rage and silent sulleness. The raging ones fight on top of the marsh
and the sullen ones just sigh deep in the mud. They symbolize the worse sin yet, the
hatred for all of man. The raging ones want to harm people, and therefore they hit each
other. The sullen ones are stuck in the bottom because they bottled up their wrath for
others inside themselves, and they withdrew into a black sulkiness. Dante is attacked by
Filippo Argenti, and he begins to feel wrathful towards his old enemy. For the first time
there is no sympathy for these people, as they hated others. Phlegyas is a good example of
how the guardian can portray the people he guards.
The Furies are the guardians of Circle VI, the Heretics. They are the avenging
goddesses who went after great sinners. They symbolize remorse that does not lead to
repentance. This is how the Heretics are. They deeply feel remorse for the fact they
interpreted things outside the judgment of the Church, preferring their own judgment
against the Church\'s. However, they still do not change their ways. The fitting
punishment is that they would be buried in iron tombs and surrounded by fire. However,
none of the fire is inside the tomb. This shows how the outside appearance of holiness is
different from the inside one of hereticism. The iron symbolizes the unwillingness to bend
towards the church\'s decisions.