How is Paradiso different from the other two volumes of the Divine Comedy?
In both Inferno and Purgatorio, Dante was relating a journey through a physical space, one with definite and easily understood boundaries, and with a geographical location on the Earth. Paradise is completely different; it is essentially beyond both space and time, so it has less of a sense of definite progression than the other two books. It is less clearly defined and more ethereal in its appearance; the whole thing seems more like a vision than do the other two installments. Additionally, God is present in Paradiso, bringing brilliant light and joy to the place, whereas his absence in Inferno gave the place a dark and gloomy ambience, and his semi-presence by proxy in Purgatorio lent the mountain only a moderate amount of light.
Why is Beatrice the one leading Dante through Paradise?
When Dante was a young boy, he was smitten with Beatrice, whom he loved from a distance, for merely a few years before she was taken away. In his mind, she was always representative of beauty and perfection, the epitome of goodness to lead him on the right path. Since Dante's experience in Heaven is shaped by his own mind (as objective Paradise is far beyond his finite levels of comprehension), naturally Beatrice is the one who guides Dante through Goodness itself, acting as Dante's love, guide, Muse, and temporary savior.
What does the ending mean?
At the very end of Canto XXXIII, the last of the one hundred cantos that constitute the Divine Comedy, God bestows upon Dante the divine knowledge he had been searching for throughout the entire journey; he says, "The truth I longed for came to me, smiting my mind like lightning flashing bright...Already were all my will and my desires turned - as a wheel in equal balance - by the Love that moves the sun and the other stars" (XXXIII.140-145, Esolen trans.). This divine revelation achieves Dante's goal and completes his process of sanctification and perfection, tuning his heart and mind to the Heart and Will of God.
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