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The Power of Literature

            "But if your great desire is to learn the very root of such a love as ours, I shall tell you, but in words of flowing tears. One day we read, to pass the time away, of Lancelot, of how he fell in love; we were alone, innocent of suspicion. Time and time again our eyes were brought together by the book we read; our faces flushed and paled. To the moment of one line alone we yielded: it was when we read about those longed-for lips now being kissed by such a famous lover, that this one (who shall never leave my side) then kissed my mouth, and trembled as he did. Our Gelehot was the book and he who wrote it. That day we read no further. And all the while the one of the two spirits spoke these words, the other wept, in such a way that pity blurred my senses; I swooned as though to die, and fell to Hell's floor as a body, dead, falls" (409).
             In Dante Alighieri's Inferno, Dante depicts himself as a pilgrim who undertakes a journey to hell and back. In canto five, Dante reaches the Second Circle of Hell, in which he sees souls of men and women trapped in an eternal wind. He calls out to them and a woman named Francesca and her lover, Paolo come to Dante and Francesca tells him her story of how she ended up in the Second Circle of Hell. Out of pity, Dante the pilgrim faints at the end of her story, but one must realize that Dante the poet intentionally placed Francesca in this Circle of Hell. Dante the poet uses the fate of Francesca and the fainting of Dante the pilgrim as examples to show how the power of a story can evoke uncontrollable emotion and passion. .
             The first example of Dante using a story to induce emotions is when Francesca is reading a book with Paolo and they are infatuated with each other at the words of the book that they read. To show how powerful a story can be, Dante writes about how Francesca's damnation into hell started with a book. Francesca says she will tell her story, but "in words of flowing tears," meaning that looking back, she is regretful of her actions which lead to her eternal separation from Paolo.

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