Dante's use of allegory in the Inferno greatly varies from Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" in purpose, symbolism, characters and mentors, and in attitude toward the world. An analysis of each of these elements in both allegories will provide an interesting comparison. Dante uses allegory to relate the sinner's punishment to his sin, while Plato uses allegory to discuss ignorance and knowledge. Dante's Inferno describes the descent through Hell from the upper level of the opportunists to the most evil, the treacherous, on the lowest level. His allegorical poem describes a hierarchy of evil. Conversely, Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" describes the ascent from ignorance to knowledge, as one prisoner is freed to make his way up towards the opening of the cave and experiences sunlight, the unavoidable truth.
Symbolism is an essential element of both works. In Plato's allegory symbols are used to represent truth, ignorance, society and the fear of cha...