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The Irony of the Afterlife
The narrator is being allowed to tour the afterlife, even though he is not in fact dead. The very idea that a living soul should witness life after death is paradoxical and ironic. The heavens were created for the unencumbered soul and life for the ignorant soul, so needless to say the narrator is experiencing a reversal of convention and doubtless will be forever changed by the experience.
The Irony of Dante's Conception of the Heavens
Dante believes the planets in the sky are the levels of heaven. Each one represents a layer closer to God himself. This is ironic because Dante was writing in a period of time where the physical properties of planets were understood according to basic astronomy. He would have known that his theory was untenable.
The Irony of Emperor Justinian
Emperor Justinian was not a Christian during his life. His works were completed for the glory of Rome more than anything else, but his devotion to this higher cause seems to have earned him his position in heaven. Although he is only in the second heaven, he does belong there because of his devotion to excellence.
The Irony of Peter's Anger
The Apostle Peter's life was characterized by his volatile anger and chaotic relationship to Christ. He, more than any other apostle, really desired to understand God, but his emotions often clouded his judgements, such as when he sliced off the soldier's ear who came to arrest Jesus. In heaven, Peter speaks angrily about how the Pope has corrupted the church, for whose establishment and preservation Peter takes credit, but he was not indeed the recognized founder of the early church. That honor goes to the Apostle Paul. Peter's anger is ironic because even here in heaven it is his defining characteristic and seemingly still misplaced.
The Irony of Caccuiguida
During his journey, the narrator encounters his great grandfather, Caccuiguida. This moment is ironic in and of itself because the two men are like different aspects of the same soul. Their similarities extend beyond genetic ancestry to their very souls. Caccuiguida speaks of the satisfaction of completeness at having become acquainted with the narrator, a sort of future self of his.
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