The Varied Self In Dante's 'Pilgrim'

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The idea of Dante’s’ fragmented self can be clearly found within the opening passages of his poem. In the introductory lines of his writing we find our character thrown into the action already. The beginning is the middle of Dante’s life, the present reality in which he finds himself lost. “Midway on our life’s journey, I found myself / In a dark woods, the right road lost. (Canto I, 1-2) We can see that Dante finds himself at a point where he is searching for himself. He is lost with no clear path in which to follow. The Pilgrim is not himself any longer and the split or duality within him is already present. He refers to his personal life journey not as a singular thing but instead chooses to use the plural in saying “our life’s journey”.…show more content…
“After I had rested my weary body awhile / I started again across the wilderness, / My left foot always lower on the hill, / And suddenly --- a leopard, near the place / The way grew steep... / Blocked the path, she stayed before my face / And more than once she made me turn about / To go back down.” (Canto I, 22-29) The faith and hope to find himself is the idea of reaching the sun over the hill. But Dante sees that it is not easy to achieve that. Dante is driven back down the hill twice more. “A lion came at me, his head high as he ran, / Roaring with hunger so the air appeared to tremble. / Then, a grim she-wolf – whose leanness seemed to compress / All the world’s cravings...” (Canto I, 36-39) It is here, after the third attempt that Dante realizes that his journey will be far greater than a quick assent up the hill to the light. “…she put such heaviness / Into my spirit, I lost hope of the crest. / Like someone eager to win, who tested by loss / Surrenders to gloom and weeps, so did that beast / Make me feel, as harrying toward me at a lope / She forced me back toward where the sun is lost.” (Canto I, 40-45) Dante realizes that in order to continue upward he must first go down into the depths. And idea that said in modern terms could mean that he must reach rock bottom before he can rise again and become someone better and fuller. The psychological breakdown can seem a bit simpler: in the moment of impasse, or when one is back into a corner with no way to go but backwards, all of ones emotions are wild beasts--the uncontrollable part of who they are that stands between us and the embitterment of one’s own

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