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The righteous person who follows the "right path" will find himself traveling towards enlightenment, upon a path that bears no grief or fear; it will, instead, guide them towards safety and peace. Accordingly, many believe that deviating from enlightenment, is living in the darkness, equivalent to being hopeless and blind. While one deems that the right path leads to Nirvana, another may have faith that it brings one closer to Heaven. Both Herman Hesse and Dante Alighieri demonstrate through the use of literary techniques how easy it is for one to stray away from the "right path" towards enlightenment.
Siddhartha's symbolic, rebellious act of leaving the Samanas bears the meaning of wandering. To Siddhartha, the Samanas and their beliefs was the "right path." He vehemently believed that learning from the Samanas would bring him closer to enlightenment. However, it did not take Siddhartha and his friend Govinda, long enough before they realized that they could practice self-denial and endurance for years but not achieve peace. In Siddhartha, Hesse makes a valid point when stating that the oldest and most wise Samana has not yet attained Nirvana. This is symbolic to Siddhartha's belief that one cannot obtain Nirvana with the Samanas. Nevertheless, it is the path with the Samanas in which Siddhartha had once believed was the right way, but he later strays away from it, convinced that one can never learn from teachings.
Similarly to Siddhartha's actions, Dante Alighieri illustrates people who are harshly punished for their insolence and disregard of God through The Inferno. Here, Alighieri demonstrates that a person can be reprimanded for many different accounts, but these sinners are all similar because they have strayed from the path towards Heaven. "Midway in our life's journeyâ€¦ alone in a dark wood." (Alighieri 28) As the first line in Dante's Inferno, it seems quite grasping and significant that the protagonist finds himself in a "dark wood," knowing very well that he has strayed from what he calls "the straight path."
Alighieri's mention of a "dark wood" depicts to readers the punishment that awaits those who sinned in God's world. This quote foreshadows the area in which Dante himself, learns of the ways one sins and how they are punished, and from this, deduces that in God's world, if rules are not followed and the straight path not taken, it becomes quite simple to digress and wander off into the darkness, into the dark woods. To see in the mere beginning of the play, that characters such as Dante stray from the right path, brings upon the question of how one loses their way. For Dante and many others who reside in Limbo, the rejection of God and the lack of his light in their lives is their "ticket" to Hell. It is here, in both narratives, that the concept of easily straying from the path destined towards enlightenment is exemplified.
Hesse depicts Siddhartha as a nomad, one who travels with others for years, searching yet finding nothing, taking the wrong path and living a life in darkness and despair. Sometime after Siddhartha leaves the Samanas, he joins the merchants, and comes to find that he had been leading a life he was not aware of. "Then he saw clearly that he was leading a strange lifeâ€¦ His real self wanderedâ€¦ nothing to do with his lifeâ€¦" (Hesse 71) It is at this point that Hesse finally shows Siddhartha's conscience and how he recognizes that he has spent his time carelessly, disregarding his true "self" and letting it wander off course.
Hesse's use of such words and insight seems to indicate that this is the first time Siddhartha clearly notices how far he has gone astray. To Siddhartha, this is the breaking point in which he notices his lost, wandering soul. From here, Siddhartha tries his hardest to become his self once more and bring back all that was lost. It seemed easy for him to ignore the right path and be ignorant towards it, neglecting enlightenment, rather than to work tediously in order to achieve it. By indulging in all that was not prosperity and peacefulness, Siddhartha's soul became one that had nothing to do with his real self in reality. Hesse's use of symbolism and foreshadowing further depict how easy it is for one with such strong faith to stray from the ultimate goal. Siddhartha felt as if he had lost his soul, his purpose and lived in pure invisibility and nothingness.
Similarly, Alighieri uses the technique of an allegory to illustrate the simplicity of losing all faith and sense of the right path through Circle One: Limbo. Here, Dante, the poets and Virgil begin to cross into Circle One, where they find the Virtuous Pagans who suffer the punishment of no hope. "They were bornâ€¦ are not tormented." (Alighieri 49) Limbo depicts a region in Hell that is not quite in Hell. Alighieri states that these who have sinned do not deserve God's light; nevertheless, they do not belong in Hell because they did not commit treacherous crimes.
Through the use of incluing (background exposure/setting), Alighieri has set the stage for the readers upon their journey through Hell. In Limbo, one who was born without the light of God- without baptism and belief that a God existed- was forced to live in what is similar to Hell- Circle One. Because they do not have this light, they cannot attain a place in Heaven, however, they cannot be tormented either. If these people had simply believed in God and put their faith in His hands, then it would be entirely possible to have live in Eternal Bliss. Alighieri goes to show how a simple thing like belief and losing faith, can be the cause of such misery and pain.
Herman Hesse further illustrates to readers the ease of straying from the right path through the use of possessions and materialistic things, neither of which will grant one peace nor enlightenment. At this point, Siddhartha makes note of all that has caused him to diverge from the path towards Nirvana. "The world had caught himâ€¦ trapped himâ€¦ they had become a chain and a burden." (Hesse 78-79) Finally realizing all that has gone astray, Siddhartha complies all of his negligence and materialistic views and begins to change for the better.
Through the use of anthropomorphism, Hesse gives these non-human objects- pleasure, idleness, property and riches- human-like qualities, stating that all of these inhumane things "trapped" Siddhartha, keeping him from continuing onto the path of self-righteousness. To come to a realization is key: it shows that Siddhartha has strayed only slightly, and still has faith in his self, which makes "returning back to his true purpose" easier. We are all subjected to "get lost" at one point or another in our lives. The materialistic things that are presented to us are often the source of the lack of faith and the only way we can maintain our purpose is by ignoring the desire of that which will bring no revelation into our lives.
In Alighieri's extended piece of poetry, the simplicity of wandering from the right path towards enlightenment is exemplified through his use of imagery. In Circle Two: the Carnal, Dante is faced with the punishments of those who sinned through lust and adultery. "There they blaspheme the power of God eternal. And this, I learned, was the never ending flight of those who sinned in the flesh, the carnal and lusty who betrayed reason to their appetite. (Alighieri 58-59) Alighieri states that these sinners of Hell placed their lustful appetites over their sound reason, and because of this, are forced to spend eternity in a miserable storm.
Through Alighieri's use of imagery, readers can see characters such as Paolo and Francesca harshly punished in Circle Two. The couple is embedded in the midst of a treacherous storm, and they are lashed by the heavy winds that keep them flight, traveling in endless circles, wailing as they fly by. Readers can paint this picture in their minds and see how simple love can turn into lust, and this strong urge to be physically bound pulls people off of the right path toward Heaven. In both narratives, Hesse and Alighieri depict the simple ways in which one can lose their self: everyday aspects of life are the simple keys which keep one from enlightenment.
As portrayed through many uses of literary devices and techniques, authors Herman Hesse and Dante Alighieri demonstrate the effortlessness of drifting from the right path. This path bears reward, whether it be Nirvana or Heaven. Siddhartha yearned to learn from experience and from his self; he grew eager to listen to the sound of perfection and Om. In Dante's case, his journey throughout Hell illustrates the certain things that are frowned upon and can lead to Hell. For both protagonists, it is simple to see where one can "take a wrong turn," and how deviation from the ultimate goal furthers one's misery and contempt.
Works Cited Page
Alighieri, Dante. The Inferno. New York, New York: Signet Classic Printing, Inc., June 2001
Hesse, Herman. Siddhartha. New York, New York: New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1951.