Describe Dante's Inferno as a representation of this life and afterlife.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Dante's Inferno can represent this life and the afterlife in its depiction of human transgression.

Dante's Infterno is seen through the eyes of a "pilgrim."  The poet Virgil leads Dante through the different levels of hell.  In the process, Dante's journey becomes a representation of the lives human beings lead.  The different realms of the underworld directly correspond to the actions of human life, showcasing the choices human beings make in their temporal condition.

Dante does not see sin as something as fated.  Rather, the choices that human beings make in their current birth are the reason why they are placed in the different echelons of the Inferno.  For example, those who are "neither faithful nor unfaithful to their God, / but undecided in their neutrality" are in hell because of their lack of faith.  This is an active choice they have made in their lives.  Their free will is what creates their placement in the Inferno. Those who have spent their lives following their "appetites" and individuals who have knowingly caused pain to others have found their respective places in the Inferno.  The actions of this life have placed individuals in their particular predicament in the Inferno.

There is no release for these souls.  As Dante passes through all of the inhabitants of hell, it becomes clear that these individuals are not leaving.  Dante is the pilgrim.  He is the guest.  The souls he witnesses are staying there forever.  On some level, Dante makes clear that these individuals have chosen to turn away from God.  The result is that their soul remains condemned to an infernal condition.  This is where the Inferno is a representation of the afterlife.  Dante creates the Inferno as a binding condition of the life after death.  There is no liberation for the souls in hell, as they spend eternity in their placement.  Dante creates an afterlife of pain and suffering, corresponding to sin in the mortal condition.  For example, those who hoard money and those who sqaunder it are condemned to an afterlife where each asks "Why waste" and "Why save."  They torture one another in the afterlife with their questions, reflective of the choices made in this one.