In Dante’s Inferno, punishment of sinners is usually by analogy or by antithesis.  Using one of the cantos studied, examine this idea. Thanks!

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coachingcorner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Dante’s Inferno the themes of punishment, justice and redemption are represented very vividly with colourful and arresting images.

'I reached a place where every light is muted,

which bellows like the sea beneath a tempest,

when it is battered by opposing winds.

The hellish hurricane, which never rests,

drives on the spirits with its violence:

wheeling and pounding, it harasses them.

When they come up against the ruined slope,

then there are cries and wailing and lament,

and there they curse the force of the divine.

I learned that those who undergo this torment

are damned because they sinned within the flesh,

subjecting reason to the rule of lust. (Inf. V, 28-39)'

In fact, justice itself, as well as Love, God, and Wisdom are suggested to have designed 'The Inferno' or 'Hell' as we would call it, for the very purpose of education, punishment, rehabilitation but  redemption is more difficult. Dante describes a place which becomes darker and darker which is guaranteed to be scary as we humans are scared of that which we cannot see and there is a suggestion that there might be menacing things out there from which we cannot protect ourselves because we cannot see. So we straight away feel his vulnerability and can engage with his suffering. Earlier readers would have been even more engaged as their idea of a hot and painful hell was very real - they actually thought they were going there as a fact. Bellowing winds driving evil spirits follow, again he has no power to protect himself as nature/God is stronger than a mere weak mortal like him. We guess he will not have not the strength to climb the hill where so many wicked souls have perished before, those who gave in to the temptation of lustful desires, subjecting 'their human reason to the rule of lust," little more than beass with no conscience. So after death, they are punished by an unremitting force, because they couldn't concentrate their mortal will or reason enough to establish self-control. They curse that stronger force (the force of the Divine) for punishing them, wail, cry and scream pointlessly for the damage has already been done and now there is no hope of redemption. There are some theologians who believe that the the real Hell is the absence of God, the absence of the light of inspiration.

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Dante's Inferno

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