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Pilgrimage in Dante’s Inferno and Ch’eng-En’s Monkey Essay

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Updated: Sep 30th, 2020

The Theme of Pilgrimage

Dante analyses the theme of pilgrimage in the Inferno to drive humanity to the status of happiness. This is purely a divine comedy. A journey controlled by divine power is full of love that can move the stars and the sun and take individuals to happiness. Rejecting the divine power is a recipe for people living in misery and they end up harming themselves or others (Dante and Allen 24). This is what Dante calls unhappiness. Divine love is supposed to be embraced in place of ego. People mistakenly use self-interests to pursue happiness and this drifts them away from life and love.

They are instead supposed to use divine love that gives happiness. The author insists that the ego that is pursued by people has made the society corrupt and inhabitable as it stinks from rotten elements. Dante has used various structures in his divine comedy to illustrate the journey that is a pilgrimage. Hell, for instance, represents a perfect visionary image for what he compares to the corrupt and rotten society where people are driven by the ego is trying to look for happiness. He takes the reader through the structure of hell. Some scientists have thought of referring to hell as being below the earth’s surface because of the temperatures.

To begin with, Dante describes hell as being an infinite pit that runs from the surface of the earth to the center. The description of the earth brings out the image of a dark, dead, and dreary place (Dante and Allen 43). The pit that makes up hell gets narrower as it moves from the surface to the center of the earth. The dreary part is felt when he describes the pit as darker with every step towards the center. The description by Dante and Virgil develops claustrophobia in the reader as the image of how hell looks like continues to be formed in their minds. The pilgrimage is scary as the characters are squeezed in a reek and noise that torments them as they get to the lowest point of the center full of ice and there no signs of life at all (Dante and Allen 7).

This description can be used well in the evaluation of Dante’s differentiation of happiness and unhappiness. As the author explains at the beginning, he desires to use his divine comedy to move people from an unhappy life to a status of happiness. He gives a warning to what entails drifting away from life and love. The description of what hell looks like emphasizes his caution at the beginning. In a pyramid that would resemble that of physiological needs by Maslow, occupation in at the bottom of the pitch is structured. Greedy people, those who do not live because others live, those who want everything for themselves, those who surrender to lust easily, the cupid and those, who are quick to anger are destined to occupy the highest levels (Dante and Allen 56). Violent people will occupy the second tier.

The last and lowest layer is reserved for those who deliberately misuse the abilities given to them by the divine power. Human aspects that are misused include the power to speak, think, and the obligation to express truth. The natural bond of love dictates the best way people should live. It is responsible for love and unity of purpose among human beings. Living as a true human being requires people to respect the bonds of love brought by relations and shared values. This includes nationality where sometimes people swear allegiance to serve God who is described as divine power by the author and humanity. The pyramid as visualized by Dante has three layers.

He explains that the people occupying the lowest level of the pyramid are less human because the journey has been so rough and tough, that they hardened and do not feel human anymore. What hardens these pilgrims is the violent way they destroyed the special bond of love that guides humanity (Dante and Allen 30). This corroborates what he stated earlier in the comedy that drifting away from love and life leads a person to unhappiness. The occupants of the lowest cadre deliberately and violently destroyed what guided humanity and as such, the humanity in them was destroyed. That makes it easy to refer to them as being less human.

Dante relates his analysis to the theme of pilgrimage. Two characters, Paolo and Francesca while in the second circle are intertwined in misery. The souls continue to perpetuate the behavior of people on earth. They hate each other and treat them with resentment (Dante and Allen14). People who never cared for each other, those who did not live because others live and who do not value other people, those who use force to get what they want never appreciating humanity are all reflected in hell.

The journey that is traveled by souls in hell mirrors the life of the people while they were still on earth. During the pilgrimage, the circle that surrounds Paolo and Francesca shows that they will still travel together and symbolizes the fate of the pilgrims. The destiny of the people who do not appreciate love and life is tied together and what awaits them is the same fate. The journey is full of sadists. The souls do not recognize that they are suffering and their fate is the same. The souls try to make sufferings for other souls. The pilgrimage is made tough when Ugolino and Ruggieri are stuck in the ice at the bottom of the pit.

They have the same fate as Paolo and Francesca as they are joined together by hatred forever. Since they never recognized each other while on earth, the two characters do not realize what has befallen them. They are seriously gnawing each other. This continues to emphasize that they still desire other people to suffer more. So far, the description has centered on the pilgrims and on their way to hell that is unhappiness. Virgil and Dante are the representatives of the other end of the extreme (Dante and Allen 22). The relationship between the father and the son that is Virgil and Dante respectively is affectionate. Virgil is a caring, loving, and kind father while Dante is the obedient and grateful son.

The appearance of Satan is horrible for as much as Dante describes it. He uses the choreography in Milton’s Paradise Lost to illustrate some of the worldly features that Satan uses to attract members (Dante and Allen 27). He is beautiful and has powers to give people what they want while on earth. His figurative speeches that are fantastic were used to convince Eve. The speeches still flow and can make a person accuse God of not existing. The pilgrimage could be described as a journey to hell and heaven.

A journey to the west

The theme of the pilgrimage

Chinese classical literature has produced the greatest works and the journey to the west is one of them. Tang Sanzang was a monk who traveled from China to India to get the Buddhist scriptures. The monk is accompanied by three of his disciples who appear very stubborn. The monkey king who is also the monkey is Sun Wukong is one of the disciples (Wu, Waley, and Hu 13). He is reputed to have rebelled against the powers from heaven only to be subdued by the boss, Buddha. The Pig also called the pigsy is Bajie Zhu. His character is described as queer having been excommunicated from heaven for attempting the princess. He is the former chief commander of the navy (Wu, Waley, and Hu 17). Sha Wujing is the third disciple and the fourth pilgrim. He is referred to as the Sand, or simply sandy. He was expelled and sent to the earth and reincarnated into a sand demon after he broke a vase in heaven.

The theme of pilgrimage is described the same way as in the Inferno by Dante. People are supposed to reject too much desire for worldly things to attain Buddha-hood. The pilgrims must defeat several demons during their journey. Temptations that are similar to bad behavior in the inferno harmfully outweigh the strength of the disciples (Wu, Waley, and Hu 23). The Monkey is too proud. He values himself more than any other creature, so there is no wonder that he is the monkey king. This character is not needed if a person must get Buddha-hood. The pig had too much lust while Sandy was quick to anger and full of revenge. Sanzang is the person on the other end of the continuum. He becomes the agent of change that the three use to reform. Though it appears a form of punishment to be employed, it is an opportunity for them to get the company of someone who is deeply religious. He serves as a very good role model to the disciples as he advises on the better ways to live.

Through the monk, the disciples have a chance to redeem themselves and try to find their place back in heaven. It is a tough journey from China to India but they deserve the torture because they have to pay for their sins if they have to be cleaned to attain Buddha-hood (Wu, Waley and Hu 33). The journey is tedious but must be traveled. The two novels present the themes of pilgrimage from different perspectives but drive the same concept. They both present two ends of a continuum. A person is faced with the chance to choose what he wants. However, those who are easily convinced by worldly things are likely to lack self-control. People are supposed to be cautious to avoid slipping to things that will give them life now but unhappiness in eternity.

Works Cited

Dante, Alighieri, & Allen Mandelbaum. The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri: Inferno, New York, Bantam, 1982. Print.

Wu, Chengen, Arthur Waley, & Shi Hu, Monkey: folk Novel of China, New York, Grove, 2006. Print.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Pilgrimage in Dante's Inferno and Ch'eng-En's Monkey." September 30, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/pilgrimage-in-dantes-inferno-and-cheng-ens-monkey/.


IvyPanda. (2020) 'Pilgrimage in Dante's Inferno and Ch'eng-En's Monkey'. 30 September.

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