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The Pilgrim’s Progress

John Bunyan

Key Facts

Important Quotations Explained

Study Questions & Essay Topics

full title ·  The Pilgrim’s Progress From This World to That Which Is to Come: Delivered Under the Similitude of Dream

author · John Bunyan

type of work · Short narrative

genre · Religious allegory

language · English

time and place written · Bedford, England, 16771684

date of first publication ·  1678 (Part I), 1684 (Part II)

publisher · Nathaniel Ponder

narrator · An anonymous person wandering in the wilderness who stops to sleep and dreams the stories of the pilgrims Christian and Christiana. The narrator does not have a consistent presence in the book and focuses mainly on the characters’ actions and basic feelings, like fear and joy, with little psychological complexity.

point of view · The narrator speaks briefly in the first person at the beginnings of Part I and Part II but then quickly moves into a third-person account of the pilgrims in which their stories are told objectively, as an outside observer would perceive their actions. Once in a while the narrator becomes omniscient and explains the emotional states of the characters.

tone · Earnest, sermon-like

tense · Past

setting (time) · Unspecified

setting (place) · A fictional realm that allegorically maps out a spiritual journey

protagonist · Christian (Part I), Christiana (Part II)

major conflict · The pilgrims face a series of obstacles and thwarters on their way to the Celestial City.

rising action · The pilgrims approach Mount Zion, overcoming obstacles one by one.

climax · In Part I, Christian nearly drowns in the river near the Celestial City but survives. In Part II, Christiana’s group slays Maul and vanquishes Giant Despair.

falling action · Christian takes up residence in the Celestial City at the end of Part I. At the conclusion of Part II, the Master calls the pilgrims to their deaths.

themes · Knowledge gained through travel; the importance of reading; the value of community

motifs · Sleep; the wilderness; sensual pleasure

symbols · Houses; Christian’s certificate; gates

foreshadowing · Evangelist predicts that either Christian or Faithful will die in the town of Vanity, and then Faithful dies there. Christian and Hopeful glimpse the Celestial City through the shepherds’ telescope before they arrive. When Mercy dreams of heavenly bliss, Christiana assures her she will later attain it in the Celestial City.

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The man in the iron cage

by Ewan_Wattameye, July 14, 2013

I would take a certain issue with the observation that Bunyan invokes his own imprisonment when he writes about the man in the iron cage. Certainly Bunyan would have been sensitive to the idea of imprisonment, and this sensitivity could very well have emboldened his passion to warn others of the unwanted consequences of certain behaviors, but I believe there the similarity ends. Bunyan had been imprisoned for preaching the gospel without an official sanction from the religious establishment of the day; the unjust result of extreme obedienc

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