Working with Allegory

If you’ve read B2: Late for Class, you know I’ve thrown away all artistic integrity by talking about an anime. Secretly Akayama DanJay is just fanfiction for Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, but we’ll get to that later. For now let’s talk about Dante’s Inferno.

Jillian Diaz-Jackson has been reincarnated conterminously with their past life, Dan Jones, who loves Dante’s Inferno. This is the second book I’ve name-dropped after The Hitchhicker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but referencing famous 14th-century epic poetry is more respectable than contemporary humor/sci-fi titles, so I’m sure to keep this one. Especially because Dante’s Inferno is so instrumental to the images I want to convey!

In Dante’s Divine Comedy, a trilogy of epic poems of which the Inferno is first, Dante is led through Hell and Purgatory by an ancient Roman poet named Virgil. Near Heaven Dante meets his dead courtly love Beatrice and she leads him through the pearly gates. In writing parallels to the Divine Comedy we might perform a thorough investigation of the afterlife, but I think this approach is overdone. In Chapter A Virgil Blue sends Dan to the afterlife where he meets Anihilato (a stand-in for Satan). That’s enough to get the message across.

Instead, the relationship between Dan Jones and Beatrice will echo the relationship between the real Dante and Beatrice. In real life Dante was infatuated with a woman named Beatrice Portinary, but she married another man and then died. Even after her death Dante was so devoted to her he had a dream God made Beatrice eat his flaming heart. That’s some intense shit. It’s where we get the phrase “Beatific Vision,” meaning an ultimate direct message from God. Wow.

In Akayama DanJay Dan can’t stop looking at Beatrice. In coming sections he will love her and she will be unattainable. He will build her up in his mind until she is taken forever, and then he will idolize her. Faith will be his only remaining connection to Beatrice until she, too, leaves him. Then Dan Jones will be lost in a dark wood until he finds his Virgil.

By focusing on this relationship instead of touring the afterlife, I get to use the Divine Comedy as context for my story instead of just retreading old ground. Lots of people know about Dante’s Inferno but barely anyone knows the obsession Dante had for Beatrice, so their story is ripe for stealing and fictionalizing. Sometimes writing is like poaching stories from the wild and mounting their bodies in exciting poses.

Since Dan has been reincarnated as Jillian backwards in time, readers have seen the conclusion of Dan’s story already. They saw him cleaning out the furnace, touching soot with his bare hands—he might be Dainty in High School, but when he’s in his mid-thirties he won’t mind getting his hands dirty. Readers saw him gamble his soul to save others and lose, done in by his desire to do good. Presenting this resolution first signifies to the reader that Dan—that is, the Dan that Jillian is observing—is a story of secondary importance. When we brush it aside later to focus on Jillian’s story the reader won’t mind. While Dan, Beatrice, and Faith act out an allegory, Jillian will get to the bottom of this whole ‘existence’ business.

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