The Pilgrim’s Progress

by: John Bunyan

Part II: The Fourth Stage, the Fifth Stage

After a month in the House Beautiful, it is time for Christiana and her group to leave. Great-heart arrives at the door to accompany them again. Christian gives the porter a tip of a golden angel, a coin of considerable value. Along their way, the group sees a pillar noting where Christian slipped on his way down. A bit farther on, they find a monument commemorating Christian’s victory over Apollyon. As they proceed into the Valley of the Shadow of Death, darkness surrounds them and snares tangle their feet.

A giant named Maul appears. He speaks reproachfully to Great-heart, telling him that Great-heart has been forbidden many times from guiding pilgrims through this region and accuses Great-heart of kidnapping Christiana and the others. Great-heart and Maul fight for over an hour, and Great-heart finally cuts off the giant’s head. The pilgrims rejoice.

Analysis

Unlike her husband, Christiana reflects on the past and looks forward to the future throughout her pilgrimage. Christian hardly ever looked back on his previous life in the City of Destruction. His focus was on the straightforward path through the present. Yet Christiana follows a path that constantly refers back to the past and ahead to the future. Christiana confronts the past as an important part of her pilgrimage when she sees the pillar stating where Christian slipped on his way into the Valley of Humiliation and finds the monument erected where he fought Apollyon. She follows in her husband’s footsteps, so she has a lot to reflect on and look forward to when coming across some of Christian’s landmarks. When Mercy dreams of future glory that Christiana interprets as a sign of happiness to come, she confronts the future too. Christiana moves forward in her pilgrimage by jumping sometimes to the past and to the future.

Bunyan does not emphasize the presence of Christiana’s sons until they discuss Christian doctrine with Prudence in the Palace Beautiful. Earlier the sons were vague presences, and the name of only one is mentioned, James. However, in the Palace Beautiful the narrator refers to them all by name. They are assumed to have more or less the same personality. When Christiana’s sons are singled out for special attention, their individual characters have a moral message behind them. For example, Matthew is the only one who gets sick from the stolen fruit, even though his brothers ate it too. Because Matthew is the oldest, his sickness means more from a moral perspective. As the oldest, he should have warned his younger siblings away from fruit, which represents sin. Therefore it makes sense that he is the one who most deserves punishment.

The abundance of food and drink mentioned in these chapters demonstrates the importance of everyday bodily activities in Part II. While Christian’s pilgrimage focused on the soul, referring to bodily danger as metaphors for threats to the soul, his wife’s pilgrimage focuses on body and soul together. For example, while Christian forgets his certificate and must return for it, his wife returns to look for her bottle of alcohol. The first mishap has only a spiritual meaning, while the second is physical. Similarly, when Matthew falls prey to the devil after becoming ill from the stolen fruit, Christiana does not summon a spiritual guide to cure him but instead seeks a physician whose medicine heals both body and soul. The notion of what a human is, in Part II, embraces both the spirit and the flesh.

Through the character, Maul, Bunyan may offer a glimpse of the skepticism toward absolute notions of good and evil that will blossom in England in the coming century. As a character, Maul adds moral complexity because he considers himself a good monster, unlike the other monsters encountered by Christiana and Christian, such as Giant Despair and Apollyon. He is obviously an evil being, since a giant would be considered one in an allegory. The pilgrims do not doubt for a second that Maul must be slain, and they rejoice when he dies. But nevertheless, Maul is portrayed as a character that considers himself good and only protecting his master’s kingdom. Therefore he speaks as if Great-heart breaks the law, not him. Maul thinks Great-heart has kidnapped the group of pilgrims in his company and tells Great-heart he must be punished. While the pilgrims and Great-heart disagree, Bunyan makes an interesting point when showing Maul appearing to believe that he himself is good, while Great-heart is wicked.