1. WARNING: THESE QUESTIONS CONTAIN SPOILERS FOR THE
What features does Inferno share with Dan Brown's other
Robert Langdon novels: The Da Vinci Code, Angels &
Demons, and The Lost Symbol? In what ways is it
different from those earlier works?
2. Why has Brown used these lines from Dante as an epigraph to
Inferno: "The darkest places in hell are reserved for
those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis"? How
does that statement illuminate the novel? What is the particular
danger of maintaining moral neutrality in Inferno?
3. What accounts for the frenetic narrative pace of the novel?
How does Dan Brown use chapter endings to create suspense? What
other devices create a narrative tension that pulls the reader
4. What are some of the most surprising twists and turns in
5. What role does the setting play in Inferno? In what
ways are Florence, Venice, and Istanbul integral to the plot of the
6. The brilliant biochemist Bertrand Zobrist asserts some
unsettling ideas. He argues that the Black Plague, which killed
one-third of Europe's population, was one of the best things that
ever happened to humanity and ushered in the Renaissance. He also
believes that the human race won't survive unless we have another
mass extinction event, similar in scale to the Black Plague. In his
confrontation with Dr. Sinskey, he rails, "We are on the brink of
the end of humanity, and our world leaders are sitting in
boardrooms commissioning studies on solar power, recycling, and
hybrid automobiles.... Ozone depletion, lack of water, and
pollution are not the disease-they are the symptoms. The
disease is overpopulation" [p. 139]. Is Zobrist right
about these issues? Is his solution the lesser of two evils or is
it too morally repugnant even to consider?
7. How does Langdon use his knowledge of literature, art, and
symbology to decipher the clues that lead him to the location of
Zobrist's virus? In what ways is Dante's great poem, The
Inferno, central to the novel?
8. The Consortium, which allows Bertrand Zobrist to do his work
on the virus undetected, has a philosophy of "Provide the
service. Ask no questions. Pass no judgment" [p. 75]. Is that
a dangerous philosophy, and if so, why? Why does the Provost, by
the end of the novel, realize that "For the first time in his life,
ignorance no longer felt like the moral high ground"? [p. 444]. How
disconcerting is it to learn that the Consortium really does exist,
though under a different name, with offices in seven countries?
9. Sienna Brooks is perhaps the most complex character in the
novel. What kind of woman is she? How has her past influenced who
she has become? How does she change over the course of the novel?
Why does she feel that she has finally found a purpose at the end
of the book?
10. In what ways do issues of trust and betrayal play out in
11. Sienna explains one of the fundamental tenets of
Transhumanism: "We as humans have a moral obligation to
participate in our evolutionary process . . . to use our
technology to advance the species, to create better
humans-healthier, stronger, with higher-functioning brains.
Everything will soon be possible" [p. 453]. Do an internet search
on "Transhumanism" and discuss/debate the motivations and
philosophical assumptions of the movement. What does Dan Brown''s
use of a real-life contemporary movement like Transhumanism add to
Inferno? Does Transhumanism offer valid solutions to some
of the essential problems that confront the human species?
12. In an emotional speech to Dr. Sinskey, Sienna says,
"Bertrand died all alone because people like yourself refused to
open your minds enough even to admit that our catastrophic
circumstances might actually require an uncomfortable solution. All
Bertrand ever did was speak the truth . . . and for that, he was
ostracized" [p. 449]. Does Bertrand go from villain to hero by the
end of the book? Do the ends (saving the human species) justify the
means (releasing a virus that will dramatically limit population
growth) in this case?
13. Why doesn''t Robert Langdon give up on Sienna, even after he
realizes what her motives are?
14. At the end of the novel, Dr. Sinskey invites Sienna to
accompany her to a conference where they will address world leaders
about the virus Bertrand Zobrist has released and discuss the issue
of population control. Is there a significance to having two
women, rather than two men, assume this role?