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The main theme of The Divine Comedy is the spiritual journey of man through life. In this journey he learns about the nature of sin and its consequences. And comes to abhor it (sin) after understanding its nature and how it corrupts the soul and draws man away from God. The subject of the whole work, taken literally, is the condition of souls after death. But if the work is taken allegorically, the subject is man, how by actions of merit or demerit, through freedom of will, he justly deserves to be rewarded or punishment. It is the story of man's pilgrimage to God.
The political theme running through the poem forms an important minor theme. Political strife had rent Florence into two bitter halves - the Guelf and the Ghibellines. Dante's family was affiliated with the Guelf party. Eventually, because of political reasons Dante was permanently exiled from Florence. Dante’s conception of Hell is partly the product of medieval theology and the violence and misery of constant wars. Some of it, however, is the result of his own inextinguishable bitterness for the long years of impoverished exile, living on the charity of noblemen. While he could have been an honored man in Florence.
The poem starts with the Pilgrim's fear and confusion as he finds himself lost and confined in the dark woods. Virgil's appearance on the scene infuses energy and hope in him. Although ‘Inferno’, as the name suggests is mostly about sin and punishment, the mood of the poem is not just morbid and sober. The education Dante received each step of the way is an affirmation of life and goodness. So the ‘Inferno’ imports a lot of energy to its readers. Another dimension of the ‘Inferno’ is that of wonder and breathless anticipation as new sinners and their punishments unfold. The final Canto reveals, and Dis (Lucifer) is the point where all eagerness and fear crystallize and the final effect is of victory because one sees evil trapped, defeated and punished.