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The Inferno by Dante Alighieri - Barron's Booknotes
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These are the Profligates, those who squandered the source of
their sustenance in life. It makes sense that they share the
same ring as the Suicides: both denied themselves the life they
were intended. These Profligates are different from the
Spendthrifts in Circle Four. The Profligates willfully
destroyed the social order that provides for the continuation of
life; the Spendthrifts are guilty of simple extravagance. For
example, Jacomo, the soul who was torn apart by the ravaging
bitches, had a habit of burning down the houses of his workers
for the fun of it. Today, rock groups who smash their
instruments on stage and wreck their hotel rooms would
certainly end up here; they aren't just extravagant, they're
willfully destructive.



One of the Profligate shades, Jacomo of Saint Andrea, tries to
take refuge in a thick bush, but the pursuers tear into the bush
and grab the sinner, ripping him apart and carrying away the
pieces. The Suicide embodied in that bush has been
inadvertently wounded; he yells questions of "My me?" after
the pack. This Suicide, who tells Dante and Virgil only that he
is Florentine and has hanged himself, begs the poets to gather
the scattered leaves and branches near the base of his bush
before leaving.

Try to see Dante's image of sin and his concept of Divine
Order in the image he has chosen for the Suicides. Again,
Dante feels that sin is chosen with free will; eternal placement
is simply a continuation of whatever was chosen during life.
Suicides chose to separate body from soul and are, thus,
eternally separated, even when other shades will regain their
bodies. They chose a violent separation and are continually
preyed upon by the violent Harpies. They chose to defile a
form given by God and are continually defiled in form. They
denied the purpose of Christ's crucifixion, and their bodies
will be crucified forever. One thing that cannot be denied,
however, is the eternal life of the spirit. Just as Dante must
make this arduous journey because his laziness has threatened
his eternal life, so the Suicides must continue to live, are
forced to sprout and grow branches. This spiritual life cannot
be denied. Man is free only to choose its form.

You may still think that Dante is cruel to those whom life has
treated cruelly enough, but you have to admit that he is
consistent in his application. You will see, too, that Dante puts
his friends as well as his enemies in Hell. (One is coming up
in Canto XV.) Apparently he doesn't want to put his own
feelings before the Divine Order.

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