The Inferno comprises the first part of Dante's Divine Comedy, the initial segment of a spiritual journey that will take the poem's narrator, the "pilgrim Dante," through purgatory and into paradise. Dante conceives the entire journey as a learning process for its central protagonist and for the reader, the former serving as a kind of Christian everyman whose status as a sinner and need for redemption is shared by all humans. In his theological views, Dante was a strictly orthodox adherent of Medieval Catholicism, who embraced the doctrine of original sin. Beyond the consequences of the Fall, however, the pilgrim Dante stands in peril, not because he is guilty of any specific transgression but because at the "mid-point" in his life he has "wandered off from the straight path" (I, l.3). At this stage in his earthly existence, a type of indifference or lethargy has undermined the narrator's desire to do God's will. Sin, for Dante, begins with being intellectually inattentive, and the poem's purpose is to reawaken the central character (and, by extension, the reader) to the reality of sin and the accompanying need for confession, repentance, and a return to the straight path that leads to eternal salvation.
It is through a divine command that Dante's narrator is given the opportunity to travel through the realm of sinners, furnished with a guide in...
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