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: This text explores the "dark, pessimistic truth that pervades the pages of modern texts", setting a theme of Dante's "Inferno" against the work of modern authors including Dostoyevsky, Hardy, Conrad, Wharton, Kafka, Camus, Waugh and Flannery O'Connor. The author's thesis is that these writers exhibit a hostility towards the reader, an anger that the reader should continue to be so deludedly happy when the writer has become so mortifyingly enlightened. Reilly perceives that the writer is determined to communicate the dark truths s/he has discovered, even if it means inflicting pain upon the reader. At its most characteristic, Reilly demonstrates, modern fiction seems to achieve a savage satisfaction in inflicting this pain, to an extent that could be described as sadistic. Reilly traces what he calls this "punitive spirit" to a character in the "Inferno", Vanni Fucci, who suffering himself does his best to make Dante suffer too. Through the study he uses the "Inferno" as a guide to the prevailing attitudes in modern fiction, revealing a parallel between the prohibition of pity within the medieval poem and in the pages of modern texts. He shows the attitude of modern writers to be that fools are being very properly punished for their folly, and the reader is invited to laugh rather than condole.