In order to understand and better reject the total emptiness of sin, the pilgrim must set foot into the Inferno. The path weaves through evil so that sin may be exposed for the nothing it is. This exposure prompts a human being to turn from sin in search of redemption.
In the circles of hell, the pilgrim sees souls tortured by raging storms, others lying beneath a blanket of snow and some that forever combat with each other. Further down the terraces the slothful gurgle in a swamp while the wrathful fight like sharks in the mud. In the lower levels of hell, charity is extinct. The center of hell is a frozen pool. This is so because it is the farthest thing from the warmth of God’s love.
The poet expects his audience to be revolted by sin and to take pleasure in God’s justice, the remedy. Turning from a world of ignorance and hate, enveloped in the night, the soul of man, which naturally longs for the light of truth and goodness, flies in search of its Creator. The soul is willing at last to leave behind the real horrors of evil so as to be healed by divine and restorative beauty.
Everyone to some degree undergoes spiritually what the poet and pilgrim underwent physically and literally in the action of his great poem. Human beings often find themselves lost and wandering into bad habits.
If their situation awakens fear in them, they experience a longing to escape. It is at such times that man needs a true friend and guide to stand by him. This guide is needed to illustrate what evils and horrors have come about by man’s behavior, and also to direct him out of the maze of evil and back into the freedom of goodness.