Thursday, September 15, 2016

IB Lit: Infernal Exam Topics

  • How does the Pilgrim's reaction to the sinners change as he ventures deeper in Hell? If Inferno is to be read primarily as an allegory (a narrative functioning simultaneously on two or more levels), how might the Pilgrim's journey and its stages be read allegorically? 
  • Why is Dante allowed to enter the Underworld while he is still alive? Why does he suggest that he entered Hell "midway in our life's journey?" What may this imply regarding the character of the journey and its relation to the concepts of the first and second deaths? Are there any other "living" characters in Hell besides Dante? What does this imply regarding Dante's symbolism of Hell and damnation? When does one enter Hell? At what point (if ever) is it still possible to get out? When does it become impossible to escape?
  • The Virtuous Pagans: If these people are "virtuous," why are they in Hell? What is the quality of their existence there? What does their experience in Hell suggest about Dante's attitudes toward classical culture? How does this image of the afterlife compare with the underworld episodes you have read before? How does Virgil relate to this episode?
  • The Violent against Themselves: What is the setting for this canto, and what other mythical settings does it recall? Why is Pier delle Vigne, a suicide, located deeper in Hell than Paolo and Francesca? Why should sins of violence and malice (or fraud) be punished more severely in Dante's Hell than sins resulting from sensual appetites? What might a Roman, whose culture saw suicide as the ultimate act of stoic self-control and self-determination, have said? Why does Dante put those who destroyed their own bodies with those who waste material goods?
  • What is the symbolic significance of Cocytus, the frozen lake at the bottom of Hell? What about the figure of Satan himself, trapped at the center of the lake? Why is it surprising for the reader to discover that the bottom of Hell is frozen solid? What does the cold symbolize? In what way does the place affect Dante?
You do not need to address each question specifically or individually; rather, use the questions as a general guide for the direction of the essay you plan to write.

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