What are the personal and universal elements in Dante's Inferno?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that the personal elements featured in Dante's work are very close to the universal ones.  Dante, as a pilgrim, is struggling with his own mid life crisis and his own loss amongst the spiritually bankrupt nature of the world.  He needs Virgil to guide him and for him to understand the nature and meaning of sin, enduring a process of spiritual purification to emerge in a Paradiso setting where he understands the nature of God as one who fuses opposition in the presentation of a vision of unity, symmetry, and harmony.  The personal analysis in the poem of how man, through Dante, has "emerged in a dark wood" as he has "wandered off the straight path" is something that is both personal and universal.  The struggle to understand moral righteousness and the nature of sin represents both experiences.  While what Dante experiences is specific to him, specific to his political context in Florence,  the manner in which he understand and witnesses the classifications of hell is universal in that the reader is able to see what he sees and make their own classifications of where they fall and where others fall.