The Pilgrim’s Progress
Part II: The Second Stage, the Third Stage
Christiana, Mercy, and the boys continue on their journey. Christiana sings of her happiness at being a pilgrim at last. They spot a garden on the other side of the wall. The boys mischievously climb over the wall and steal some fruit from the garden, which belongs to the devil. Christiana chastises them, not knowing that the fruit belongs to a great enemy.
As they proceed, two Ill-Favored Ones come up to meet them. Modestly, Christiana and Mercy veil their faces. The two strangers do not mean to rob them, but say they seek something else from the women. Christiana and Mercy are terrified and cry for help. A helper, called the Reliever, emerges from a nearby house. He drives away the Ill-Favored Ones. Mercy and Christiana express their gratitude, and the Reliever asks why the women did not request a “conductor,” or guide, for their journey from the Lord. Christiana realizes her folly and apologizes for it.
Christiana and Mercy arrive at the house of the Interpreter, who once sheltered and instructed her husband. Inside the house, the Interpreter shows the women various meaningful scenes in his Significant Rooms, just as he did before with Christian. Christiana sees a man raking muck and realizes this man represents humans who are overly absorbed in carnal matters, never looking up to heaven. Next the Interpreter shows Christiana an empty room with a spider on the wall. Christiana recognizes the spider as sin.
The Interpreter then leads the women into a room where a butcher kills a sheep that meekly accepts its death. He explains that all Christians should accept their deaths in this way. Next the Interpreter guides them through a garden of flowers, all beautiful in different ways, but the flowers do not quarrel over one another’s beauty, which suggests that humans too should accept the lot they are given. The Interpreter points out several more moral emblems in his house, including a robin with a spider in its mouth. The Interpreter explains that the robin is like a “professor,” or one who claims religion without living it sincerely, since robins seem bright and clean but secretly eat sinful spiders.
The Interpreter invites his guests to eat and asks them how they decided to begin their pilgrimages. Christiana explains she was moved to join her husband but was held up by neighbors, who frightened her. Mercy says that when she stopped by Christiana’s house and saw her packing up to leave she was compelled to join her. In the morning the Interpreter bids them to wash before leaving. After their baths they are clothed in fresh garments and are ready to continue their journey.
The Interpreter sends them on their way accompanied by his manservant, Great-heart, who takes weapons and armor with him and rides ahead on the way toward the Palace Beautiful. During their travel, Christiana and Great-heart engage in a deep and detailed theological discussion of pardon in word and in deed. They pass the spot where Christian lost his burden, and Christiana feels elated. They also pass three rogues named Simple, Sloth, and Presumption who had crossed paths earlier with Christian. Now they hang in chains on the side of the road.
Christiana’s group climbs the hill called Difficulty. The sun is hot, and Christiana pants while the boys cry. Mercy says she must sit and rest, but Great-heart urges them to go a bit farther and rest in the Prince’s arbor. Mercy remarks how sweet a relief it is to rest after labor. Christiana feeds them all some pomegranate and honey the Interpreter gave her.
Bunyan emphasizes in various ways that Christiana both repeats her husband’s journey and alters it. Clearly she travels the same path that Christian traveled earlier, only with a more companions than Christian ever had. She crosses the Slough of Despond and gains entry past the same gate leading to the Celestial City just as he did. When she walks by the spot where Christian lost his burden by Christ’s sepulcher and passes the three rogues hanging in chains, she understands and follows her husband’s path. The narrator also emphasizes this repetition for the reader. Christiana’s course differs from her husband’s because she does not fall into the Slough of Despond but does encounter the devil’s dog. While Christiana may be cut from the same Christian cloth as her husband, she is an individual with her own path to follow.
Bunyan interprets the Christian symbol of the stolen fruit. First, the very mention of taking fruit from a forbidden tree evokes the Tree of Life in Genesis, from which Eve takes the apple that casts the first couple out of paradise forever. With these references to crimes involving fruit, Bunyan emphasizes that Christiana and her entourage are not perfect pilgrims but mortals with a capacity for sin. Yet, in the scene, no one in Christiana’s group recognizes the significance of stealing fruit from a tree nor does anyone compare it to the Bible. Bunyan also has his own interpretation of the story of Adam and Eve. The gender of the criminals is reversed: it is not the female Eve who transgresses, but the males, Christiana’s sons. The roles may have been reversed to emphasize the female mind and presence in the second part of The Pilgrim’s Progress.
Christiana’s pilgrimage is not mainly solitary like her husband’s but is a group project demanding people-management skills. Parenting is a good example of Christiana’s people-oriented outlook as a pilgrim. When walking past the devil’s garden, Christiana does not commit any sin, but her sons do, and she is affected by their wrongdoings. In contrast, she does not focus on her own progress like her husband did and must constantly take into account the moral behavior of those around her, including her own. Similarly, when walking up the hill of Difficulty, Christiana does not think of how tired she is because she needs to take care of those around her. When it is time to eat, she must share the food, which she gladly does. Unlike his wife, Christian never had to share on his journey.
Christiana is portrayed not only as a wife and a mother but also as a full human in her own right. In the seventeenth century, women were characterized as less intelligent than their husbands. However, in The Pilgrim’s Progress Christiana appears sharper and more quick-witted than Christian at various moments. A good example is Christiana and Christian’s experiences at the house of the Interpreter. Christian needed a lot of help figuring out the means of the Significant Rooms, but Christiana frequently gets the point on her own without guidance from the Interpreter.
Christiana not only needs to protect her soul on the pilgrimage but also her body. Christian’s body hardly figured into his progress except to the extent that he needed legs to carry him forward. On his pilgrimage, he possessed no sexuality, and little hunger, eating mainly as a social ritual as a guest in someone’s house. In contrast, Christiana is fully embodied. When she takes out her pomegranate and honey, the reader sees that she has bodily needs and gets hungry like ordinary humans. She also must look out for her children and Mercy and make sure they have enough strength before they continue onward. When the two Ill-Favored Ones approach and hint at raping Christiana and Mercy, Christiana fears for their sexual safety. Christian’s journey may have seemed unsafe because he mostly traveled alone, but Christiana’s pilgrimage is more dangerous because before meeting Great-heart, she did not have anyone to protect her.
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