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To succeed or fail in school is a student’s choice. Whichever happens, is not an accident but a reflection of the kind of academic environment created by the student while in school. It is this atmosphere that molds the nature of the student; good or bad. A good or bad student does not necessarily imply that he/she tops or tails. He/she is good based on his/her behavior in class. For instance, a good student is well distinguished by his/her thoughtful questions he/she raises in class following his teacher’s lectures. These questions show how enthusiastic the student is to learn. This particular student researches keenly other sources of relevant knowledge. He/she frequents the library to enrich what has been presented to him/her by the teacher. Above all, a good student is always conscientious in class.
Dante Alighieri, the hero and the writer of Dante’s Inferno pictures two characters, Dante, who plays the role of a student, and Virgil-his guide and teacher. Just as a good student ranks him/herself below the teacher, Dante refers to Virgil as his “master and author” (Canto I), an indication of Virgil’s influence on Dante’s life, not only as a student but also as a poet. It is worth noting that though Dante is not literally in school, he is referred to as a student through the way he presents himself before Virgil. Throughout the story, Dante presents himself as a good student through the way he posits questions to Virgil, listens to him as he narrates the sinner’s stories and the way he feels under him although there is an exceptional instance when he behaves like a bad one.
As aforementioned, Dante’s inquisitiveness qualifies him as a good student. For instance, he posits several questions to Virgil. When he realizes that he is lost in wood after noticing the beasts ahead of him, he is lucky to notice Virgil, who in turn offers to guide him through the eternal world. Their conversation on their way is dominated by Dante’s questions. For instance, he asks, “Master, who is those folk whom the black air so castigates?” (Canto V). This is no more than a journey between a teacher and a student, as characterized by Dante’s (student) questions to Virgil (teacher). His being lost in the wood and his desire for a guider Virgil are symbolic. It shows how a beginner student feels ‘lost’ in the world when he/she initially knows nothing about it. His/ her going to school is likened to Dante’s desire for a teacher. On their way, Dante asks, “Art thou then that Virgil and that fount which pours forth so large a stream of speech?” (Alighieri Canto I). Dante realizes that Virgil his time with Virgil is a valuable opportunity that once tapped will leave him knowledgeable of the strange world. He opts to ask Virgil any burning question, so that he can understand because according to him, Virgil knows better than him. He posits, “Thou art wise, thou understand better than I speak” (Alighieri Canto II). In this scenario, Dante is like a student who questions his/her teacher, who he/she feels is conversant with a variety of subjects. According to Dante, Virgil is familiar with hell unlike him and thus in his hell pilgrimage, he has to enquire a lot about it from Virgil, hence, a good student. His eagerness to learn stands out in their journey too.
Dante’s yearn for knowledge is seen when they arrive at the initial circle of hell that accommodates the spirits of those who led a life of non-Christianity. Virgil, addressing Dante says, “Thou dost not ask What spirits are these that thou see now I would have thee know” (Canto IV). This depicts the teacher’s realization of Dante’s desire to know more about this spiritual world, just like a student wishes to know about a particular topic. Dante says, “Tell me, my Master, tell me, Lord… who are they, that” (Canto IV). In this episode, Dante encounters a lot of strange things in this particular strange world, which he decides not to take for granted. He wishes to know what they are and why they are the way they are. Virgil, the teacher is always ready to tackle his ‘student’s problems’, leaving him satisfied. This depicts no more than Dante’s yearning for knowledge, which is an attribute of good students, hence qualifying him as one. His attention as Virgil explains to him identifies him as a good student as expounded next.
When Dante and his master arrive at the sixth circle, Dante is keen on listening to Virgil as he explains to him about his (Dante) ancestors. Dante tells him, “according to thy pleasure, speak to me and satisfy my desires” (Canto X). This stands out as an opportunity for the teacher to speak to his student- Dante. Dante’s attention is evident when he replies to the various questions posited by Virgil in the course of the story. For instance, Virgil asks Dante, “Who were thy ancestors?” (Canto X). After listening keenly to the issue of ancestors, he can now attempt to answer the question. It is only the attentive students who can find the answers to the several questions that their teachers pose to them. Dante is not an exception. His attempts qualify him to be counted as one of the best students.
However, there is an outstanding instance when Dante takes after a bad student. A scenario when Beatrice scolds Dante for not learning to be careful stands out in the story. For instance, Beatrice asks Dante, “Tell me why you have not been more prudent…” (Canto II, 82-84). This implies that Dante is not always good. Moreover, Virgil scolds him for not learning lessons from the stories he has been listening to of hell. “The inscription on the Gate of Hell… Dante’s difficult to comprehend it” (Canto III). Though a good student is quick in learning lessons, Dante cannot learn that he ought not to pity the hell people, hence not a good student.
In conclusion, asking questions, keenness, respecting the character of the teacher, among others, distinguish the good from bad students. Dante’s interaction with Virgil stands out as a teacher-student life where Dante, the ‘student’ in this case, reveals all the aforementioned characteristics and hence qualifying to be a good student. However, a few instances depict him as a bad student as discussed above.
Alighieri, Dante. “Inferno” U.S.A: Santa Monica, 2007.