The Plagiarist’s Plight

This poem is an imitation of contrapasso in Dante’s Inferno.

In this ring of hell find you
the stealers of others’ words,
the plagiarists, if you will.

Strapped to wooden chairs in superheated rooms,
surrounded by literary works,
they repeatedly duplicate for eternity.

An endless supply of content
lies randomly piled on their left,
blank bound books and pencils by the buckets on their right.

Red, blistering, and bleeding fingers
are left cramped and twisted,
and their eyes burn red as fire while they tarry with no end in sight.

These stealers of words
for purely self-seeking reasons
now copy for others’ gain, and not their own.

Hours upon hours,
with no rest and no food,
this is the true plagiarist’s plight.

Stripped of free thought
and of options too,
once too lazy to give effort on their own.

They complain and they cry out,
but no one will hear,
as they boil and bake duplicating in fear.

Plagiarism occurs because of laziness or confusion. These sinners find it easier to use others’ thoughts as their own, instead of using the knowledge within them or being willing to put forth the effort necessary to produce their own unique and creative writing. Their punishment takes place in a room superheated by Hell’s flames as they sit, bound in rigid wooden chairs for endless hours. Since their tendency is to steal words for their own benefit, they are now duplicating books for the benefit of others. The books they are duplicating will be used for good, instead of for selfish ends. These books will be transported to some of Earth’s regions that lack adequate literary resources.

The sinners’ task is eternal—the poem indicates an endless supply of content and buckets of materials within reach. Their fingers and hands ache and bleed from eternal writing, and their eyes burn from reading words that must be transposed perfectly for hours on end. They cry out in pain and exhaustion because they were once unwilling to carve out the necessary time to produce their own work. Their ability to think on their own has been taken from them, since they clearly disregarded the ability and opportunity to think on their own when they chose to plagiarize. Their cries are unheard as they remain alone to copy in rooms surrounded by Hell’s eternal flames.

I would place this sin in the eighth circle because plagiarism is a violation of trust—the theft of someone’s original ideas, and the use of them as one’s own. The eighth circle belongs to the thieves and deceivers. In it I would add another pouch for the sin of plagiarism. This is a sin of laziness, but also of intent to deceive for one’s benefit, and therefore would necessitate its own pouch.

Carly Biddlecomb is a student in Dr. Camelia Raghinaru’s Core English 201 course at Concordia University Irvine. Carly’s creative piece and explanation come from a course assignment where students had to create a punishment for plagiarism as it would  appear in Dante’s  Inferno. This punishment, an example of contrapasso (i.e., the punishment fits the crime), had to describe a plariarist being tormented. The explanatory paragraph indicates how the punishment fits the crime and where the writer would locate the plagiarist in relation to the other sinners in hell.