Dante is the protagonist of the Inferno and the story is written from his point of view; the use of first person in particular invites readers to experience the journey along with Dante. The Inferno opens with Dante saying, “I found myself in a dark wilderness / for I had wandered from the straight and true,” which indicates that the Inferno will use first person. It also implies a distinction between Dante the character, who actually travels through Hell, and Dante the poet, the future version of Dante the character, who has survived his trip through Hell and is now writing about it.

What this distinction means is that while Dante the character is often confused about Hell in the story, relying on Virgil’s teaching to correct and guide him, the Inferno itself, written by Dante the poet, is reliable; there is no need for the reader to tease out what the storyline is hiding or distorting. Dante also uses first person to address readers directly. Dante urges readers to “gaze on the doctrine that is hidden” in his story, urging them to figure out what the story says about spiritual truths. Clearly, Dante intends readers to be not only excited by his dangerous voyage through Hell, but also educated by it.