One of the main themes in Dante's Inferno is the symbolic punishment that Dante shows to the individuals he comes in contact with during his plight in Hell. Throughout the Inferno, Dante uses symbols to evoke "the will of God." What this means is that the way Dante created the structure of Hell "supposedly" was the way God wanted it, or at least in his eyes. In today's society, we view this as an "eye for an eye." It also means that the way each sinner was punished was a reflection of their errors in sin against the will of God on earth. This essay will be discussing three critics' idea of this symbolic retribution with supportive evidence sustaining their opinions. Each critic finds that Dante's view of symbolic penalty is a reputable outlook on punishment. .
Dante feels that sinners must have a just punishment, which explains his reasoning behind punishing these individuals. Joseph Kameen states," In Dante's poem, punishments must arise from the crime itself, not from the damage it has caused" (Kameen). Basically stating that Dante is showing the readers that the severity of the sin doesn't necessarily depend on effect it had on the victim, but the crime itself. Kameen states that, "Each sinner suffers a different severity based on his or her unique sins" (Kameen). This is where Dante comes into play. For example, the third circle of Hell is for the gluttonies. "More often than not, however, the punishment is much more complex, as can be seen in the punishment for gluttons in the third circle. This punishment could be interpreted as a storm meant to overwhelm those who craved stimulus in life, or as a storm obscuring those who hungered for fame, or the storm could be seen as an oppressive force holding the fat to the ground, or even as a fecal metaphor" (Kameen). Basically stating each punishment could be taken many ways.