The Pilgrim’s Progress
Part II: The Eighth Stage, Author’s Farewell
Christiana and her group arrive at the spot where Christian once met Little-Faith. There they meet Valiant-for-truth standing with his sword drawn. Valiant-for-truth says three thieves jumped him, and after much strenuous combat he repelled them. Great-heart expresses amazement that one man could turn away three attackers and asks why Valiant-for-truth did not call for aid. Valiant-for-truth says he asked the Lord for help silently and received it. He then tells the story of his pilgrimage and how he passed through the same obstacles that Christian did. When Valiant-for-truth admits he learned from Christian’s example, Great-heart is pleased that Christian’s story has spread so widely.
The pilgrims travel onward, accompanied by Valiant-for-truth. In the Enchanted Ground, they become weary, and the landscape grows dark around them. They stumble, drag their feet, and eventually they come upon a place of rest, an arbor with couches. They warn themselves not to rest there, since the place is a trick to thwart pilgrims. Proceeding on, they find another arbor with two pilgrims, Heedless and Too-bold, asleep on couches inside. The pilgrims try to awaken the sleepers, who make nonsensical replies to them. Great-heart says they talk in their sleep and that their words are spoken without reason. Great-heart lights a lantern to brighten the group’s way onward through the darkness.
Beyond the Enchanted Ground, they find a pilgrim kneeling in prayer. His name is Standfast. Valiant-for-truth asks him why he is on the ground. Standfast explains that he has just turned away a tall, attractive dark woman who offered him her bed, her money, and herself. The woman spoke smoothly, smiling at the end of each sentence, and fingered her purse while talking. Standfast says he rejected her, and Great-heart recognizes this woman as Madam Bubble, whom some see as a goddess but who has no real powers. According to Great-heart, she loves parties and money and has been stirring up trouble since biblical times. Great-heart commends Standfast for rejecting her.
The pilgrims arrive in the land of Beulah, home of the Celestial City. The locals clothe the pilgrims in fresh garments. The local children bring them perfumed bouquets. A special-delivery letter arrives for Christiana announcing that the Master expects to see her before him within ten days. The messenger gives Christiana a token to assure her of his legitimacy: an arrow that enters her heart and spreads love there. Christiana visits each of the pilgrims and bids them farewell.
Each of the remaining pilgrims also receives a special post from the Master. Ready-to-halt wishes to leave a legacy, so he bequeaths his crutches to his son before departing. Feeble-mind regrets having nothing to bequeath. He leaves too, as does each of the others. The narrator says he does not know what happened to Christiana’s sons and their families. He left before he found out, but he has heard they are still alive.
The author succinctly says goodbye to the reader.
The emphasis on women in Part II culminates in the figure of Madam Bubble, the last thwarter met by any of the pilgrims. Madam Bubble is a vibrant and colorful character. She is evil but also scintillating. To accentuate her character, Bunyan adds realistic details about mannerisms and gestures that he rarely grants to the other characters, such as the way Bubble smiles and touches her purse while she speaks. This vibrant representation of her character reinforces her majesty and power, which some may understand to be divine. Strong and dominating, Madam Bubble is the opposite of the strong female pilgrims in Part II. She is the anti-heroine whose wicked power balances the good power of the positive heroines Mercy and Christiana.
Heedless and Too-bold display the importance of communication in The Pilgrim’s Progress. Bunyan insists that pilgrimage demands understanding as well as travel. These two failed pilgrims have done almost everything right, having reached the very outskirts of the Celestial City. Obviously they made it through the Slough of Despond, past Giant Despair, and survived all the challenges facing the other pilgrims. Clearly Heedless and Too-bold are admirable characters. However, the pilgrims’ only failing is that they talk in their sleep. This flaw summarizes their failure to communicate rationally and their failure to deeply understand pilgrimage. They may have performed all the deeds of a good pilgrim, but they can only babble about the meaning of their achievements. In the end, they have failed.
The pilgrims’ encounter with Valiant-for-truth demonstrates again how Christian’s earlier pilgrimage affects the present one. They meet Valiant-for-truth at the exact spot where Christian met Little-Faith, whom the same thieves attacked. Bunyan directly contrasts the two characters by involving them in distinctly parallel situations. Where Little-Faith is known for his cowardice, Valiant-for-truth is known for his courage and skill. The second pilgrimage does not just repeat the first pilgrimage but grows from it and expands on it. The fact that Valiant-for-truth and so many other characters have learned from Christian’s example shows that Part I is more than a prequel to Part II. Christian’s journey also provides a lesson that the characters in Part II learn from.
The detail about Christiana and the others meeting their maker suggests that their final destination is death. Unlike Christian in Part I, Christiana’s group not only arrives in the Celestial City but actually die and meet their maker, the Master, who seems to be God himself. They fulfill their pilgrimage more dramatically and solemnly than Christian did at the end of Part I. Christian arrived at his joyous destination but without any mention of an encounter with God. Ready-to-halt seems to understand that he will not return from his trip to see the Master, and this is evident when he arranges to give his crutches to his son. While Christian’s tale ended with his heavenly joy, Bunyan suggests in Part II that this joy comes after life is over.
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