The Pilgrim's Progress

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The Pilgrim's Progress from This World to That Which Is to Come by John Bunyan (published 1678) is an allegorical novel. Bunyan wrote this book while imprisoned in 1675 for violations of the Conventicle Act which punished people for conducting unauthorised religious services outside of the Church of England. An expanded edition, with additions written after Bunyan was freed, appeared in 1679. The Second Part appeared in 1684. This work is regarded as one of the greatest classics of literature, widely translated into more than 100 languages other than its original English text. The text consists of 108,260 words and, within each of its two parts, is not further divided, e.g. into chapters, but reads as a continuous narrative.

James Baldwin retold the story as an abridged version that excludes all religious elements: John Bunyan's Dream Story: The Pilgrim's Progress Retold for Children and Adapted to School Reading, published in 1913.

Burdened Christian flees from home
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Burdened Christian flees from home


Contents

Characters of the First Part [the main ones in capitals]

  • CHRISTIAN, whose name was Graceless at some time before in his life, the protagonist in the First Part, whose journey to the Celestial City is the plot of the story.
  • EVANGELIST, the religious man who puts Christian on the path to the Celestial City.
  • Obstinate, one of the two residents of The City of Destruction who run after Christian when he first sets out in order to bring him back
  • Pliable, the other of the two, who goes with Christian until both of them fall into the Slough of Despond. Pliable then returns home when he gets out of the slough.
  • Help, Christian's rescuer from the Slough of Despond
  • MR. WORLDLY WISEMAN, a resident of a place called Carnal Policy, who persuades Christian go out of his way to be helped by a Mr. Legality and then move to the City of Morality
  • GOODWILL, the keeper of the Wicket Gate through which one enters the "straight and narrow way" (also referred to as "the King's Highway") the Celestial City. In the Second Part we find that this character is none other than Jesus Christ Himself.
  • Beelzebub, literally "Lord of the Flies," one of the devil's companion archdevils who had erected a fort near the Wicket Gate from which he and his companions could shoot arrows at those who are about to enter the Wicket Gate. He is also the Lord of Vanity Fair.
  • THE INTERPRETER, the one who has his House along the way as a rest stop for travelers to check in to see pictures and dioramas to teach them the right way to live the Christian life. He has been identified as the Holy Spirit. He also appears in the Second Part.
  • Shining Ones, the messengers and servants of "the Lord of the Hill," God. They are obviously the holy angels.
  • Formalist, one of two travelers on the King's Highway, who do not come in by the Wicket Gate but climb over the wall that encloses it at least from the hill and sepulcre up to the Hill Difficulty. He takes one of the two bypaths that avoid the Hill Difficulty but is lost
  • Hypocrisy, the companion of Formalist. He takes the other of the two bypaths and is also lost.
  • Timorous, one of two who try to persuade Christian to go back for fear of the chained lions near the House Beautiful. He is a relative of Mrs. Timorous of the Second Part. His companion is:
  • Mistrust
  • Watchful, the porter of the House Beautiful. He also appears in the Second Part, and receives "a gold angel" coin from Christiana for his kindness and service to her and her companions. "Watchful" is also the name of one of the Delectable Mountains shepherds.
  • Discretion, one of the maids of the House Beautiful, which represents the church
  • Prudence, another of the House Beautiful maidens. She appears in the Second Part
  • Piety, another of the House Beautiful maidens. She appears in the Second Part
  • Charity, another of the House Beautiful maidens. She appears in the Second Part
  • APOLLYON, literally "Destroyer," the lord of the City of Destruction and one of the devil's companion archdevils, who tries to force Christian to return to his domain and service. His battle with Christian takes place in the Valley of Humiliation, just below the House Beautiful. He appears as a dragonlike creature with scales and bats' wings. He takes darts from his body to throw at his opponents.
  • FAITHFUL, Christian's friend from the City of Destruction, who is also going on pilgrimage. Christian meets him just after he gets through the Valley of the Shadow of Death
  • Madame Bubble, a temptress who tries to get Faithful to leave his journey to the Celestial City
  • Adam the First, an elderly man who also tries to persuade Faithful to leave his journey
  • Moses, the severe violent avenger who tries to kill Faithful for his momentary weakness in wanting to go with Adam the First out of the way
  • Talkative, a hypocrite from the City of Destruction, who lived on Prating Row, known to Christian. Christian and Faithful overtake him on the way.
  • Lord Hate-good, the judge who tries Faithful in Vanity Fair
  • Envy, the first witness against Faithful
  • Superstition, the second witness against Faithful
  • Pick-Thank, the third witness against Faithful
  • HOPEFUL, the resident of Vanity Fair, who takes Faithful's place as Christian fellow traveler. The character HOPEFUL poses an inconsistency in that there is a necessity imposed on the pilgrims that they enter the "King's Highway" by the Wicket Gate. HOPEFUL did not; however, of him we read: "... one died to bear testimony to the truth, and another rises out of his ashes to be a companion with Christian in his pilgrimage." HOPEFUL assumes FAITHFUL'S place by God's design. Theologically and allegorically it would follow in that "faith" is trust in God as far as things present are concerned, and "hope," biblically the same as "faith," is trust in God as far as things of the future are concerned. The other factor is Vanity Fair's location right on the straight and narrow way. IGNORANCE, in contrast to HOPEFUL, came from the Country of Conceit, that connected to the "King's Highway" by means of a crooked lane. IGNORANCE was told by CHRISTIAN and HOPEFUL that he should have entered the highway through the Wicket Gate.
  • Mr. By-Ends, a hypocritical pilgrim who perishes in the Hill Lucre silver mine with three of his friends. A "by-end" is a pursuit that is achieved indirectly. In the case of By-Ends and his companions, it is pursuing financial gain through religion.
  • Demas, a deceiver, who beckons to pilgrims at the Hill Lucre to come and join in the supposed silver mining going on in it.
  • GIANT DESPAIR, the owner of Doubting Castle, where Christians are imprisoned and murdered. He appears in the Second Part and is slain by GREAT-HEART
  • Giantess Diffidence, Despair's wife. She appears in the Second Part, and is slain by OLD HONEST
  • Knowledge, one of the shepherds of the Delectable Mountains
  • Experience, another of the Delectable Mountains shepherds
  • Watchful, another of the Delectable Mountains shepherds
  • Sincere, another of the Delectable Mountains shepherds
  • IGNORANCE, "a brisk young lad," who joins the "King's Highway" by way of the "crooked lane" that comes from his native country, called "Conceit." He follows Christian and Hopeful and on two occasions talks with them. He believes that he will be received into the Celestial City because of his doing good works in accordance with God's will. Christian and Hopeful try to set him right, but they fail. He gets a ferryman, Vain-Hope, to ferry him across the River of Death rather than cross it on foot as one is supposed to, but he is thrown from the Celestial City gate through one of the doorways (by-ways) to hell at the direction of God, the King of the Celestial City.
  • The Flatterer, a deceiver who leads Christian and Hopeful out of their way, when they fail to look at the roadmap given them by the Shepherds of the Delectable Mountains.
  • Atheist, a mocker of CHRISTIAN and HOPEFUL, who goes the opposite way on the "King's Highway" because he boasts that he knows that God and the Celestial City do not exist.

Characters of the Second Part [the main ones in capitals]

  • Mr. Sagacity, a guest narrator who meets Bunyan himself in his new dream and recounts the events of the Second Part up to the arrival at the Wicket Gate.
  • CHRISTIANA, wife of CHRISTIAN, who leads her four sons and neighbor MERCY on pilgrimage
  • MATTHEW, CHRISTIAN and CHRISTIANA'S eldest son, who marries MERCY
  • SAMUEL, second eldest son, who marries Grace, Mr. Mnason's daughter
  • JOSEPH, third eldest son, who marries Martha, Mr. Mnason's daughter
  • JAMES, youngest son, who marries Phoebe, Gaius's daughter
  • MERCY, CHRISTIANA's neighbor, who goes with her on pilgrimage and marries MATTHEW
  • Mrs. Timorous, relative of the Timorous of the First Part, who comes with MERCY to see CHRISTIANA before she sets out on pilgrimage
  • Ill-favoured Ones, two evil characters CHRISTIANA sees in her dream, whom she and MERCY actually encounter when they leave the Wicket Gate
  • Innocent, a young serving maid of the INTERPRETER, who answers the door of the house when Christiana and her companions arrive, and who conducts them to the garden bath, which signifies Christian baptism.
  • MR. GREAT-HEART, the guide and body-guard sent by the INTERPRETER with CHRISTIANA and her companions from his house to their journey's end. He proves to be one of the main protagonists in the Second Part
  • Giant Grim, who "backs the [chained] lions" near the House Beautiful, slain by GREAT-HEART
  • Humble-Mind, one of the maidens of the House Beautiful, who makes her appearance in the Second Part.
  • Mr. Brisk, a suitor of MERCY's, who gives up on her when he finds out that she makes clothing only to give away to the poor
  • Mr. Skill, the physician called to the House Beautiful to cure Matthew of his illness in eating the apples of Beelzebub
  • Giant Maul, a giant that GREAT-HEART kills as the pilgrim's leave the Valley of the Shadow of Death
  • OLD HONEST, a pilgrim that joins them, a welcome companion to GREAT-HEART.
  • Mr. Fearing, a pilgrim whom GREAT-HEART had "conducted" to the Celestial City in an earlier pilgrimage. He was noted for his timidness. He is Mr. Feeble-Mind's uncle.
  • Gaius, an innkeeper the pilgrim's stay with for some years after they leave the Valley of the Shadow of Death. He gives his daughter Phebe to JAMES in marriage. The lodging fee for his inn is paid by the Good Samaritan.
  • Giant Slay-Good, a giant that enlists the help of evil-doers on the King's Highway to abduct pilgrims, murder, and consume them.
  • Mr. Feeble-Mind, rescued from Slay-Good by Mr. Great-Heart, who joins Christiana's company of pilgrims
  • Phoebe, Gaius's daughter, who marries JAMES.
  • Mr. Ready-to-Halt, a pilgrim who meets CHRISTIANA'S train of pilgrims at Gaius's door, and becomes the companion of Mr. Feeble-mind, to whom he gives one of his crutches.
  • Mr. Mnason, a resident of the town of Vanity, who puts up the pilgrims for a time, and gives his daughters Grace and Martha in marriage to SAMUEL and JOSEPH respectively.
  • Grace, Mnason's daughter, who marries SAMUEL
  • Martha, Mnason's daughter, who marries JOSEPH
  • Mr. Despondency, a rescued prisoner from Doubting Castle
  • Much-Afraid, his daughter
  • Mr. VALIANT-FOR-TRUTH, a pilgrim they find all bloody, with his sword in his hand, after leaving the Delectable Mountains
  • Mr. Stand-Fast, a pilgrim found while praying for deliverance from Madame Bubble
  • Madame Bubble, witch whose enchantments made the Enchanted Ground what it is, who is the adulterous woman mentioned in the biblical book of Proverbs

Places in The Pilgrim's Progress

  • City of Destruction, Christian's home, representative of the world (cf. Isaiah 19:18)
  • Slough of Despond, the miry swamp on the way to the Wicket Gate, one of the hazards of the journey to the Celestial City. In the First Part, Christian falling into it, sinks further under the weight of his sins (his burden) and his sense of their guilt.
  • Mount Sinai, a frightening mountain near the Village of Morality that threatens all who would go there
  • Wicket Gate, the required beginning of the straight and narrow way to the Celestial City
  • House of the Interpreter, a type of spiritual museum to guide the pilgrims to the Celestial City
  • Hill and Sepulchre, surmounted by three crosses, emblematic of Calvary and the tomb of Christ
  • Hill Difficulty, both the hill and the road up is called "Difficulty" it is flanked by two treacherous byways "Danger" and "Destruction." There are three choices: CHRISTIAN takes "Difficulty" (the right way), and Formalist and Hypocrisy take the two other ways, which prove to be fatal dead ends.
  • House Beautiful, a fine home that serves as rest stop for pilgrims to the Celestial City. It apparently sits atop the Hill Difficulty. From the House Beautiful one can see forward to the Delectable Mountains.
  • Valley of Humiliation, the valley the other side of the Hill Difficulty, where Christian meets Apollyon. This valley had been a delight to the "Lord of the Hill" Jesus Christ in his "state of humiliation."
  • Valley of the Shadow of Death, a treacherous valley with a quick sand bog on one side and a deep chasm/ditch on the other side of the King's Highway going through it
  • Gaius's inn, a rest stop in the Second Part
  • Vanity and Vanity Fair, a city through which the King's Highway passes where a yearlong fair is held
  • Hill Lucre, location of a reputed silver mine, that proves to be the place where By-Ends and his companions are lost
  • Plain Ease, a pleasant area traversed by the pilgrims
  • By-Path Meadow, the place leading to the grounds of Doubting Castle
  • Doubting Castle, the home of Giant Despair and his wife; only one key could open it, the key Promise.
  • The Delectable Mountains, know as "Immanuel's Land." Lush country from whose heights one can see many delights and curiosities. It is inhabited by sheep and their shepherds, and from Mount Clear one can see the Celestial City.
  • The Enchanted Ground, an area through which the King's Highway passes that has air that makes pilgrims want to stop to sleep. If one goes to sleep in this place, one never wakes up
  • The Land of Beulah, a lush garden area just this side of the River of Death
  • The River of Death, the dreadful river that surrounds Mount Zion, deeper or shallower depending on the faith of the one traversing it
  • The Celestial City, the "Desired Country" of pilgrims, heaven, the dwelling place of the "Lord of the Hill," God.

Plot synopsis and Bunyan's notable insights

The allegory tells of Christian, an Everyman character, who makes his way from the "City of Destruction" to the "Celestial City" of Zion. Christian finds himself weighed down by a great burden that he gets from reading a book (obviously the Bible). This burden, which would cause him to sink into hell (Tophet), is Christian's acute, immediate concern that impels him to the crisis of what to do for deliverance. Evangelist suddenly comes by to direct Christian for deliverance to the "Wicket Gate," which is the direction indicated by a "shining light" that Christian thinks he sees. An insight into what the burden is allegorically is given by Help, Christian's rescuer from the Slough of Despond: "This miry slough is such a place as cannot be mended: it is the descent whither the scum and filth that attends conviction for sin doth continually run, and therefore it is called the Slough of Despond." Christian's burden had caused him to sink even further down into the slough than one who might have been unburdened; hence, the burden allegorically is the weight of the conviction of one's sin.

Christian is led astray by Mr. Worldly Wiseman into seeking deliverance from his burden through the Law, allegorically presented as Messrs. Legality and Civility in the town of Morality, rather than through Christ. Christian is finally relieved of his burden at the "place of deliverance" (allegorically, the cross of Calvary and the open sepulcher of Christ) where the "straps" that bound it to Christian break, and it rolls away into the open sepulcher. This event happens relatively early in the narrative: the immediate need of Christian at the beginning of the story being so quickly remedied. After Christian is relieved of his burden he is greeted by three shining ones, who give him the greeting of peace, new garments, and a scroll as a passport into the Celestial City—these are allegorical figures indicative of Christian Baptism.

Because of the widespread longtime popularity of this classic, Christian's hazards (the "Slough of Despond," the "Hill Difficulty," the "Valley of the Shadow of Death," "Doubting Castle," and the "Enchanted Ground"), his temptations (the wares of "Vanity Fair" and the pleasantness of "By-Path Meadow"), his foes ("Apollyon" and "Giant Despair"), and the helpful stopping places he visits (the "House of the Interpreter," the "House Beautiful," the "Delectable Mountains," and the "Land of Beulah") as phrases have become proverbial in English. For example, "One has one's own Slough of Despond to trudge through."

During the course of his journey Christian has two companions: Faithful, a former resident of the City of Destruction who is martyred at Vanity Fair, and Hopeful, a resident of Vanity Fair who accompanies Christian the rest of the way to the Celestial City.

The Second Part of the story concerns Christian's wife, Christiana, and sons, who once denounced his ideas and later follow his path to the Celestial City. It takes longer for the these pilgrims to reach the end of their journey, which includes both marriage and child birth. The Second Part better illustrates the pilgrimage of the Christian figuratively traveling through life from this world to heaven.

By using feminine heroines, the Second Part illustrates how women—not only men—can be brave pilgrims as well. Gaius, the pilgrim's host, at one point extols women: "I will now speak on the behalf of women...God sent forth his Son, made of a woman [Gal. 4:4]. Women rejoiced in him, before either man or angel [Luke 1:42-46]. I read not that ever any man did give unto Christ so much as one groat; but the women followed him, and ministered to him of their substance [Luke 8:2,3]. Twas a woman that washed his feet with tears [Luke 7:37-50], and a woman that anointed his body at the burial [John 11:2; 12:3]. They were women who wept when he was going to the cross [Luke 23:27], and women that followed him from the cross [Matt. 27:55,56; Luke 23:55], and sat over against his sepulcher when he was buried [Matt. 27:61]. They were women that were first with him at his resurrection-morn [Luke 24:1], and women that brought tidings first to his disciples that he was risen from the dead [Luke 24:22,23]. Women therefore are highly favored, and show by these things that they are sharers with us in the grace of life."

Alexander M. Witherspoon, professor of English at Yale, writes in a prefatory essay: "Part II, which appeared in 1684, is much more than a mere sequel to or repetition of the earlier volume. It clarifies and reinforces and justifies the story of Part I. The beam of Bunyan's spotlight is broadened to include Christian's family and other, men, women, and children; the incidents and accidents of everyday life are more numerous, the joys of the pilgrimage tend to outweigh the hardships, and to the faith and hope of Part I is added in abundant measure that greatest of virtues, charity. The two parts of The Pilgrim's Progress in reality constitute a whole, and the whole is, without doubt, the most influential religious book ever written in the English language" [Pocket Books, Inc. edition, New York, 1957, Introduction, p. vi].

The Pilgrim's Progress in Literature and Culture

The allegory of this book has antecedents in a large number of Christian devotional works that speak of the soul's path to Heaven, from the Lyke-Wake Dirge forwards. Bunyan's allegory stands out above his predecessors because of his simple and effective, if somewhat naïve, prose style, steeped in Biblical texts and cadences. He confesses his own naïveté in the verse prologue to the book:

. . . I did not think
To shew to all the World my Pen and Ink
In such a mode; I only thought to make
I knew not what: nor did I undertake
Thereby to please my Neighbour; no not I;
I did it mine own self to gratifie.

John Bunyan himself wrote a popular hymn that encourages a hearer to become a pilgrim like Christian: All Who Would Valiant Be.

The Pilgrim's Progress's explicitly Protestant theology also made it much more popular than its predecessors. Finally, Bunyan's gifts and plain style breathe life into the abstractions of the anthropomorphized temptations and abstractions Christian encounters and converses with on his course to Heaven. Samuel Johnson said that "this is the great merit of the book, that the most cultivated man cannot find anything to praise more highly, and the child knows nothing more amusing." Three years after its publication, it was reprinted in colonial America, and was widely read in the Puritan colonies.

The book was the basis of an opera by Ralph Vaughan Williams, premiered in 1951; see The Pilgrim's Progress (opera).

E. E. Cummings also makes numerous references to it in his prose work, The Enormous Room.

John Buchan was an admirer of Bunyan and Pilgrim's Progress features significantly in his third Richard Hannay novel, Mr Standfast which also takes its title from one of Bunyan's characters.

Alan Moore in his League of Extraordinary Gentlemen enlists The Pilgrim's Progress protagonist Christian as a member of the earliest version of this group known as Prospero's Men. This group disbanded in 1690 after Christian found his "heavenly country" and departed this world.

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Online Editions The original non wiki text available online below - The Pilgrim's Progress

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