Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Dante's Women!

When I was explaining what I write to a friend, I had to revisit my ideas about Dante and I thought through it a little differently.

When I wrote about Dante, I had to deal with his (to our minds) odd ideas about love. He famously fell in love with one woman, Beatrice, with whom he never had a "real" relationship. Later in his life, he married a woman, Gemma, with whom he had four children (IIRC the number) and by all accounts was successful in their marriage (by the standards of their time). Of course, in our modern age, we try (often unsuccessfully) to combine those two roles (lover to oneself and parent to one's children). And when I went to give a fictional version of Dante, I had to think how I'd work those elements in.

Now, I didn't consciously think through the problem (which is the difference between writing a story and writing an essay), but it worked out nicely, I think. Because I had Dante meet and fall in love with a woman (toward whom he was very chaste throughout their adventures). But she neither met his expectations of an "ideal" woman (no girly-girl, she), and she was pregnant when they met (so clearly she's a mother, and with her recounting of her life, clearly a good one, but it's not HIS). And perhaps most differently from his relations with either Gemma or Beatrice, he's engaged in a fairly active project with her - bashing in zombies heads to save both their lives (a task which she's up to, but still needs his help, so he can feel both vulnerable toward her, and still feel like her savior). So they're "partners" in something, which I feel is what missing in his (non)relation with Beatrice: she's just an object, an ideal, not an active, subjective part of his life.

Again, none of this was deliberate as I wrote, but looking back on it, it's a nice balance and takes account of the women in his "real" life!


Blogger Gestalt said...

This sounds so intriguing I can't wait to read it.

11:46 AM  
Blogger CRwM said...

I always felt that Beatrice was "active" in his life in the same way, say, Jesus or God would be - an unreachable perfection that holds inexplicable dominion over you in a way that ensures your salvation?

Despite the hint of blasphemy there, Dante did claim that God himself appeared in a dream, showed him Beatrice, and told Dante that Beatrice was "his heart."

In a nice zombie touch, God then had Beatrice eat Dante's heart. I don't know if you worked that into your book, but a little divine cannibalism wouldn't be out of place.

12:02 PM  
Blogger KPaffenroth said...

I should've noted that all this is following up on the ending image of Dawn or Day of the Dead - of a pregnant woman going forward into the uncertain zombie future with a male protector other than the baby's father.

I do think Beatrice was "active," as you say, as an ideal, but then I was trying to create an ideal woman who was also real, flesh and blood. That to me is the challenge of his idea(s) of love.

12:59 PM  
Blogger Bobbie Metevier said...

In a modern twist, this reminds me of the conversation John Cusack had with his girlfriend near the end of High Fidelity. Though in his case EVERY woman was Beatrice . . . (And why wouldn't EVERY woman be Beatrice for him? He didn't, after all, have to look at THEIR over-washed and over-faded cotton panties hanging in the shower stall every Monday morning).

8:40 AM  

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