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Written by Timothy Sexton
Mount of Purgatory
The poem describes a Dante’s ascent up the Mount of Purgatory with the poet Virgil as his guide; keep in mind that Virgil is blind. So Purgatory refer to a physical location within the construct of the poem, but that mountain is actual more real in its role as metaphor. Specifically an extended metaphor known as allegory in which every aspect of it the Mount of Purgatory takes symbolic meaning that ultimately situates its physical perfection as the model for what is required to lead a properly penitent life according to Christian precepts.
The Garden of Eden
Situated at the summit of the mountain is the Garden of Eden. Ascension up the mountain representing penitence thus brings the climber ultimately to the seminal metaphor of a life without sin. The garden at the peak of the Purgatory becomes a figurative representation of the loss of innocence and the climb is a symbolic struggle indicating just how difficult reaching the summit actually is.
The dominant use of simile in the Purgatorio is Dante’s comparison of his journey through its various levels to that a voyage aboard a boat. Keep in mind that the obviously problematic topography of a ship setting off a voyage up a mount does not apply since it is simile; he’s not saying he is on a ship, merely that his journey compares to such an experience. But why should the symbolic means of transportation be a water-going vessel at all? Purgatory, it must be remembered is a place where hope of attaining salvation stills exits. What is key to attaining salvation? Washing away one’s sins. Easier to wash your sins away while in a boat than atop a fiery steed or traipsing up a cliff.
The Garden of Eden may lie at the summit of the mountain, but beyond out in the sky is something even grander than paradise on the peak: the sun. The shine is glowing glory all across the expanse of Purgatory and becomes the metaphorical incarnation of that which is everyone in the realm of the world of the read of this epic verse: God. Without the sun, the Mount of Purgatory would wither and die and likewise without God any hope of leaving Purgatory with sins was away impossible.
The Seven Terraces
Beyond the Gates of Purgatory are situated seven terraces which each correspond to one of the Seven Deadly Sins. The terraces offer the means of expiating the sin which is represents through metaphor. Each terrace includes narrative displays; metaphorical renderings specific ways in which one can commit the Deadly Sin the terrace represents so in a way the terraces can almost be described as metaphors within similes within metaphor. At any rate, the seven terraces are metaphorically loaded with symbolic value.
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