Sunday, February 12, 2012

Bujold's "Borders of Infinity" and Dante's "Inferno"

It's pet literary theory time!

Here is my theory - and if anyone besides me has noticed this, I haven't read about it, so it's just begging for a English term paper to be written on it - I think that Lois McMaster Bujold's novella The Borders of Infinity is (among other things) a riff on Dante's Inferno.

Why? (Here there be spoilers. For both works.)

1. The Borders of Infinity opens with Miles Vorkosigan thinking, "How could I have died and gone to hell without noticing the transition?" Hell. Yes. That one word is part of my evidence.  But, folks, it's the paragraph, and it sets the tone for the rest of the story. Miles is in Hell.

2. The prison camp is circular. So is Dante's Hell.

3. There are circles within the circles (see the women's section of the camp).

4. Miles has a literary (okay, at least literature-obsessed) guide. Yes, I am saying that Suegar=Virgil.

4a. You could argue that Oliver=Suegar. Okay, go ahead: convince me.

5. There is even someone running in circles. Yes, I know that sounds more like the Purgatorio than the Inferno, but, you know, it's still Dante.

6. BEATRICE LEADS HIM UP.   Yes, I'm shouting. Yes, that's my biggest piece of evidence. (Term paper folks still with me? Okay, here's your paper topic: why does the Virgil figure go up in Bujold's version, while the Beatrice figure falls?  Aaaa. Yes. Hmm.)

6a. If Beatrice is Beatrice, does that make Cordelia the Virgin Mary? C'mon, you can't argue that that's pretty much Cordelia's place in the Vorkosigan cosmology.

7. Just try to count the references to damnation (all the things the prisoners have done with and to each other), redemption, and sin. Just try.

8. What's the theme? The harrowing of hell. Yes it is. (Term paper people: is Miles a Christ figure? What does that mean for his relationship with his mother? Make sure you use the pond incident from Komarr in your answer. Also, reference his fourteen-shuttle-groups-for-the-fourteen-apostles statement.)

9. The saints (i.e., the Dendarii observers, Elena and Elli) are watching and listening to Dante's (Miles') prayers. (Term paper people: is this evidence against the thesis put forth in point 8?)

10. Suegar's scripture is from Pilgrim's Progress, about when the pilgrims finally make it to Heaven. HA! "HA!", I say.

Hee, hee, hee. Okay, that was so much fun.

What do you think? Did I make my point? More importantly, did I miss anything?

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase something through these links, I'll receive a small percentage of the purchase price - for my own shopping! :) (See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.)

1 comment:

Emily (Laundry and Lullabies) said...

You are the biggest literary nerd I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. This is wonderful. Almost (almost!!!) makes me want to go write a term paper. :)