Italian writer Dante Alighieri is most famous for his epic poem, “The Divine Comedy”, a work dating back to the 14th century and is still considered one of the greatest pieces of literature of all time. Back then, Italian literature was of two categories; tragedy and comedy. They were in two different dialects aimed for the elite class and the general civilians respectively. The title was so named as a comedy, because it was written for the general public in vernacular and not because it was the least bit humorous.
The Divine Comedy consists of three parts- ‘Inferno’, ‘Purgatorio’, and ‘Paradiso.’ The three parts speak of the supposed journey of Dante through Hell and Purgatory, to finally uniting with his unrequited love Beatrice, in Heaven, guided by the Roman poet Virgil. The ominous and stark imagery of Dante’s Hell aroused fear among the readers and was the inspiration for many more poetry, art and famous writings. In fact, Dante’s ‘Inferno’ inspired Sandro Botticelli’s ‘La Mappa dell’Inferno’ or ‘The Map of Hell’, an exquisitely detailed and terrifying painting of the nine rings of Hell, as penned down by the poet.
Sandro Botticelli’s ‘La Mappa dell’Inferno’
With ‘All hope abandon, ye who enter here’, inscribed above the nine rings of Dante’s Hell, the painting portrays eternally damned souls in various forms of suffering and punishment for the grave sins they’ve committed in their lives. The nine rings depict the deadly sins in increasing graveness; limbo, lust, gluttony, greed, wrath, heresy, violence, fraud and treachery with Satan depicted as a three-headed beast, trapped in the ninth ring himself. A frozen lake beside the beast, born of the tears of a statue of an old man, represents humanity’s corruption. The painting inflicts fear on all those who set eyes on its copies with its vivid horrors, and the original is; up to date; preserved in the Vatican Library in Rome.
Dan Brown’s ‘Inferno’
Inspired by this masterpiece of Dante, Dan Brown; famous American author who is well known for his works, ‘Angels and Demons’ and ‘The Da Vinci Code’; takes his protagonist, Robert Langdon, through yet another sinister plot while revitalizing Dante’s ‘Inferno’, Botticelli’s map of Hell and other famous historic masterpieces and locations that still stand today, through his bestseller, ‘Inferno’. The plot follows the Harvard symbologist Langdon and young doctor Sienna Brooks through a breakneck search for a virus created by a scientist who followed the works of Dante and believed that the population should be curbed before it creates an Earthly Inferno itself once man turned to sin to survive deprivation. With unexpected and drastic plot twists, Dan Brown undoubtedly succeeded in addressing yet another major problem- Overpopulation.
A Silent but Pressing Problem…
According to the UN, the global human population reached 8 billion by mid-November 2022. It is expected that humans will be adding another 2 billion persons to the overall population in the next 30 years only and peak to 10.4 billion by 2080’s.
As much as pandemics and low fertility rates have reduced populations, increased longevity and high birth rates in the Asian and African continents have had a significant influence on the population’s growth curve. While with increasing population, as much as great minds will be born and countries might economically thrive with a larger working population, there will also be an increase in the demand for food, housing, energy and such. The failure to meet these demands will only increase segregation between the privileged and the deprived. Brown conveys that it will lead to more conflicts and threats to global peace and humanity, more greed and wrath, and those underprivileged will suffer with no proper healthcare, education or other basic facilities because the population will be too much to help everyone. The factory and industrial outputs will have to increase, stressing ecological systems and the environment that is already deteriorating under human influence.
In fact, just as Dan Brown highlights, the world might be living Dante’s Hell, with Nature dying and sin rending the fabrics of humanity because of inequality and unfulfilled human needs.
Is It Enough?
Even though many organizations do implement awareness and educational programs on reproductive health, contraception and family planning and provide facilities for most who need them, there are still regions with none or with no implementation of plans. The segregation between the rich and poor is intensifying. There’s increasing stress on the environment around us with increasing pollution and urbanization. Social, religious beliefs have discouraged the use of contraceptives. Many females are still less educated about health and child birth in many regions of the world. The world sadly still sees violence, underaged mothers born from abuse, and many families that struggle to survive.
The reach these awareness programs and aids have are still limited and selective, too slow when compared to the overwhelming crises taking over. People are opting for illegal, inhumane ways of acquiring money and fulfilling their needs in a world that fails to meet them due to the increasing population. There’s more violence in hopes of survival.
There is only so much of time until the whole ecological system collapses with the weight and consequences of overpopulation and inhumanity corrupts the peace and unity of the world. It is essential that we address this problem more openly, implement solutions for sustainability on a greater scale, sought solutions for poverty and unrequited human needs and educate generations on tackling this problem, for the greater good.
- Dante’s “Inferno” is a journey to Hell and back: https://www.nationalgeographic.co.uk/history-and-civilisation/2022/10/dantes-inferno-is-a-journey-to-hell-and-back
- Population- The United Nations: https://www.un.org/en/global-issues/population
- Overpopulation: Cause and Effect: https://www.populationmedia.org/blog/overpopulation-cause-and-effect
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