on our life’s journey, I found myself
In dark woods, the right road lost.
These famous lines, narrated by Dante, open Inferno and immediately establish the allegorical plane on which the story’s meaning unfolds (I.1–2). The use of such potent words as “journey” and “right road” signifies the religious aspect of Dante’s impending adventure and quickly notifies us that we are leaving the realm of the literal. Likewise, the image of being lost in “dark woods” sets up a clear dichotomy between the unenlightened ignorance involved in a lack of faith in God and the clear radiance provided by God’s love.
The simple contrast between the “dark woods,” which embody Dante’s fear, and the “right road,” which embodies Dante’s confidence in God, makes his challenge clear—he sets out to look for God in a sinful world. His reference to “our life” contributes to the allegorical level of Inferno: the journey upon which Dante is embarking is not solely his but rather that of every human being. He describes his journey in only the vaguest of terms, with no mention of where he is coming from or where he is heading, because he believes that this journey is one that every individual undertakes so as to understand his or her sins and find his or her peace with God.