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The protagonist of this epic poem is ‘Dante the Pilgrim’. ‘Dante the Pilgrim’ is the creation of the historical figure ‘Dante the poet’. The former moves in a world of the poet's invention. The ride of the Pilgrim is that of a fragile and inexperienced soul. The Pilgrim is lost in a dark wood (worldly life of sin) and trapped there by fierce beasts. He is rescued by Virgil, who tells him that the only way out is through Hell. Virgil discloses the fact that he has come to the Pilgrim's aid at the behest of Beatrice. This along with Virgil's encouraging words led the Pilgrim to follow Virgin to hell.
Since "The Divine Comedy" is a spiritual book, the antagonist that opposes Dante the Pilgrim is anything that is of a sinful or impure nature. Thus all varieties of sin, ignorance, temptations fall into this category. The protagonist's own weakness or fear also acts as antagonistic forces, hindering his journey (both spiritual and material) forward. The sinners that he meets who try to misled him by engaging his pity can also be seen as antagonistic forces because they ask him to blind his reason and sympathize with those who have willingly sinned.
The Inferno is a description of the various circles of Hell. Beginning with the Limbo onwards, as one goes along, increasing degrees of sin are punished. The sin and its accompanying punishment increase in severity as one goes further into Hell. It is like the building of a crescendo, and it reaches its climax at the center of Inferno, where the figure of Dis (Lucifer) is transfixed in eternal domination.
In spite of his tremendous fear at the sight of Lucifer the Pilgrim follows Virgil and they make their way down Lucifer's hairy body. The pass the center of the earth and climb out of Hell through a rock tunnel. They reach the end of the tunnel where they come across an opening from which they can see the sky again. Thus they emerge safe from the Inferno.