What do you think was Dante's purpose in writing Inferno?  

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iandavidclark3 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Like the rest of The Divine Comedy, Dante's Inferno is a vast work encompassing many ideas, questions, and themes. However, Dante had a few major reasons for writing this first part of his epic poem. First of all, Dante wanted to write an account of the search for spiritual atonement and salvation, and this desire drew heavily from Dante's own experiences. Dante was living in exile while writing Inferno and so, much like his poetic counterpart, he felt like he had lost his way and needed direction. In that case, Inferno is in many ways Dante's attempt to work through his own feelings of being lost and unsure of himself, especially in spiritual terms. Secondly, Inferno is a critique of the corruption of both the Catholic Church and Italian government, especially the government of his native Florence. Many of the tortured souls that Dante encounters in Hell were actually real people, and many of them were high ranking Italian politicians or Catholic Church officials. Thus, Dante uses the poem as a method of critiquing the most powerful Italians of his day, and so the poem is not only an account of a spiritual journey, but also an attempt to motivate real social change and reform by exposing the wrongdoings of those in power. 

Joshua Taylor | Student

       The purpose of Dante's The Devine Comedy was to act as a critique of Italian government at the time. The Inferno is the first of three parts of The Devine Comedy and is intended to display sin in a revolutionary new way, hierarchically. Dante, through his portrayal of the nine circles in Hell, conveys the different sins punishable by an eternity of hell while also ranking them in severity. Dante the pilgrim (the character in the story) witnesses these sins, and their related punishments, and judges them with reason and sympathy. This represents the Italian governing style of the time (controlled mostly by the Church), which was one of growing leniency to the Christian followers. But along his way through Hell, Dante comes to realize that sins are punished by God and that this is "right". This is the initial critique, representing his feelings toward the sin of the Church controlled government and their followers. That sins will be punished by God without remorse, and the only way to not be punished is to commit to a life of God by returning to Christian values. The important thing to take away is that the Church was developing it's own set of what are sins, and how they will be punished. Dante, in essence, says NO! We need to return to core Christian beliefs and values, and in his Inferno gives a very descriptive representation of what will happen if not.

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