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The Pilgrim’s Progress

John Bunyan

Part II: Author’s Introduction, the First Stage

Part I: The Tenth Stage, Conclusion of Part I

Part II: The Second Stage, the Third Stage

Summary

In his introduction, Bunyan addresses his second book, known as Part II of The Pilgrim’s Progress. He orders the book to follow in the footsteps of Part I, embarking on a pilgrimage of its own. Bunyan calls the book by the name of Christiana and, thereby identifying it with Christian’s wife, Christiana.

Bunyan then imagines Christiana offering him several objections to the proposed pilgrimage. First, she disagrees that some may not believe that she is truly authored by the original writer of Christian’s tale. The author replies that Christiana needs only send for him, and he will arrive to claim her as his own creation. Second, Christiana says that some readers might react angrily to the book. Here Bunyan answers that she should not fear this, since the first book has so many readers across Europe and America. Third, Christiana objects that certain people might dislike the use of allegory. Bunyan defends using fiction to tell what he considers to be religious truths. Finally, Christiana asks about those readers who call Bunyan’s work mere romance, a style of heroic prose and verse narrative. Bunyan says that not everyone can be pleased but reminds Christiana of the long list of vibrant characters the book contains and reassures her that readers will love her.

The narrator recounts his follow-up dream about Christian’s wife and children left behind in the City of Destruction. This time he dreams of an elderly man named Sagacity, who visits to talk about the City of Destruction, and asks whether Sagacity has heard of Christian. Sagacity says that he has and that Christian resides now in the Celestial City. The narrator also asks Sagacity about Christian’s wife, Christiana, and their four sons. Sagacity answers that he knows they packed up and embarked on a journey to find Christian and be reunited. Sagacity now acts as a narrator and offers to tell the story of Christiana’s pilgrimage.

At the beginning of Sagacity’s tale, Christiana invites a fellow townsperson named Mercy to accompany her on the pilgrimage. She offers to hire Mercy as her servant but says that they will share all their possessions on the trip as equals. Mercy agrees, and Christiana is joyful, not only at having a caretaker for her four children on the journey but also at having urged another human toward salvation. Mercy feels pity for those whom she will leave behind. Christiana says that pity befits a pilgrim and that one day those left behind may choose to follow her.

Christiana, Mercy, and the children cross the Slough of Despond. They slip several times but do not fall in. At this point, the narrator says that Sagacity ends his tale, and the narrator himself falls asleep and follows Christiana’s progress in a dream. Christiana’s group comes upon the gate to the path that will lead them the rest of the way to the Celestial City. A frightening dog barks at them. A gatekeeper appears and demands to know who they are. Christiana says she is Christian’s wife, and the gatekeeper expresses admiration for him. He opens the gate and lets in Christiana and her children, but Mercy remains outside the gate. Terrified, she remembers a passage from the Gospel of Matthew in which two women are said to grind at a mill. According to the passage, only one is saved while the other is turned away. Mercy assumes she will be turned away but knocks on the door anyway. The gatekeeper demands to know who she is. Christiana explains. Mercy nearly faints from fear but is allowed in.

After passing through the gate, Christiana and Mercy express relief at having been admitted. Christiana remarks how odd it is that such an ugly and frightening dog should reside with the gatekeeper and asks the gatekeeper to explain. He says that the dog belongs to a neighbor and actually performs a useful service by barking so ferociously, scaring off beggars. By contrast, earnest pilgrims stand up to the dog. The gatekeeper feeds Christiana and her group and washes their feet.

Analysis

By calling Part II “Christiana,” Bunyan addresses the book as if it were a living being. He shows the book fretting with self-doubts that he must soothe. When he encourages the book Christiana to follow in the footsteps of Part I, he tells her to trust her own literary self-worth.

The major difference between the journeys in Parts I and II is that Part II portrays a female point of view. Aside from the old man Sagacity who introduces the tale, the main characters are two women, Christiana and Mercy. Part II shows how a women’s pilgrimage will be different in important ways from the man’s pilgrimage in Part I. Bunyan introduces elements into Part II that were absent from the male-dominated Part I. Christiana and Mercy are two women who have concerns that would have been stereotypically feminine in the seventeenth century. Since a woman could not be expected to travel safely alone, Christiana must hire Mercy as a servant. This introduces a complication, since pilgrims’ theoretical equality before God seems contradicted by one working for another. Christiana aims at equality by promising to share everything on the trip, but the complication remains when she hires Mercy. Furthermore, a mother cannot be expected to leave her children behind, even though the father did so earlier. Since the children must come along, childrearing will necessarily be a part of this pilgrimage. Boss-employee relations and family relations thus already figure more largely in Part II than in Part I.

The Bible figures as importantly in Christiana’s story as it did in Christian’s. As in Part I, characters in Part II appear familiar with biblical passages and quote them easily. Even the servant, Mercy, knows the Bible. She is the first one who makes a reference to the holy book in when she reaches the gate to the Celestial City. But interestingly, the Bible makes her afraid, as it never did Christian. When she is trembling at the gate leading to the Celestial City, she fearfully recalls a passage from Matthew that refers to two women, one of whom is turned away from a desired path. She assumes she will be turned away too, since Christiana has already entered the gate. Christian quoted the Bible confidently as a source of truth. When Mercy quotes the Bible, she applies it wrongly. Thus she faces the possibility of misunderstanding the holy word.

Bunyan emphasizes personal bonds in Part II. In Part I, Christian almost always had a companion, but his companions changed often: Pliable went home, Faithful was killed, and only Hopeful made it to the Celestial City with him. Christian shows only slight distress when he loses a travel companion and does not stop to fret about traveling alone. He is more concerned with his progress toward the Celestial City and does not want to be detoured from his journey. In contrast, camaraderie seems necessary with Christiana and Mercy in Part II. When it appears that Mercy might be shut out of the gatekeeper’s gate, Christiana steps in to lobby on Mercy’s behalf. Her bold resolution to help Mercy may be partly selfish since Christiana needs a servant on her trip. But she values her comrade more urgently than Christian seemed to value any of his.

The episode of the barking dog suggests how much Bunyan’s style has evolved in the direction of realism, away from pure allegory. The dangers in Part I were vivid and often terrifying but usually fairy-tale-like, such as the frightening Giant Despair in his prison-like castle. However, the dangers that arise in Part II are portrayed differently than in Part I. One instance is the barking dog at the gate leading to the Celestial City. The barking dog is a common danger. This is an aspect of the everyday life and it is easy to understand why Christiana and Mercy are afraid. As a result, Christiana and Mercy in the dog episode appear more like characters in a novel than Christian did.

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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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