Divine Grace And Justice In Dante's Inferno

1540 words - 6 pages

Divine Justice and Grace in Inferno

The purpose of the pilgrim's journey through hell is to show, first hand, the divine justice of God and how Christian morality dictates how, and to what degree, sinners are punished. Also, the journey shows the significance of God's grace and how it affects not only the living, but the deceased as well. During his trip through hell, the character of Dante witnesses the true perfection of God's justice in that every sinner is punished in the same nature as their sins. For instance, the wrathful are to attack each other for all eternity and the soothsayers are forever to walk around with their heads on backwards. Furthermore, Dante discovers that hell is comprised of nine different circles containing sinners guilty of one type of sin, and that these circles are in order based upon how great an opposition the sin is to Christian morality and the ultimate will of God. We see here how Christianity plays a major role in the structure of hell and the degree to which each sinner is punished. Lastly, we can look at the story and see the importance of the grace of God not only to Dante during his journey, but how it affects the souls in hell and purgatory as well.

Upon entering hell with Virgil, Dante becomes witness to the true perfection of the justice done to sinners after their earthly life is over. This divine justice inflicted by God chooses to punish the souls in hell in a way very similar or representative to how the souls sinned on Earth. For instance, those guilty of the sin of wrath "tear each other limb from limb" (133), a punishment which directly relates to the actions of the sinners. However, there are also punishments that are more symbolic of the actions of the sinners, such as the punishment for the lustful. Those guilty of the sin of lust are "being forever whirled about in a dark, stormy wind" (109). Since these souls lived their lives in a windstorm of emotions and feelings, their penalty represents the literal way in which they sinned. In addition to the punishments relating to the sins of the sinners, there are also punishments which contrast with the actions of the sinners and represent what the sinner was lacking in life. For example, the neutral souls were people who could not choose between good and evil during their life, being untouched by cares of religion and faith. As punishment in hell, they have to forever chase a blank banner in circles and are constantly stung by wasps and hornets. By taking no action on Earth in regards to their faith, they have to spend an eternity running after a banner with no hopes of catching it. And because they were untouched by cares, hornets and wasps symbolically sting them forever. The neutral souls' retribution was opposite of their sin, but most punishments represent the crimes in an ironic fashion. By choosing this method of eternal punishment, God is able to inflict the most pain on the souls in hell because they are constantly reminded of their...

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