This work is a guide to the reading of Dante's great poem, intended for the use of students and laymen, particularly those who are approaching the Inferno for the first time. While carefully pointing out the uniqueness, tone, and color of each of Dante's thirty-four cantos, Fowlie never loses sight of the continuity of the poet's discourse. Each canto is related thematically to others, and the rich web of symbols is displayed and disentangled as the poem's unity, patterns, and structures are revealed.
What particularly distinguishes Wallace Fowlie's reading of the Inferno is his emphasis on both the timelessness and the timeliness of Dante's masterpiece. By underlining the archetypal elements in the poem and drawing parallels to contemporary literature, Fowlie has brought Dante and his characters much closer to modern readers.