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The Pilgrim’s Progress

John Bunyan

Part II: The Sixth Stage, the Seventh Stage

Part II: The Fourth Stage, the Fifth Stage

Part II: The Eighth Stage, Author’s Farewell

Summary

The pilgrims pause to celebrate their victory over Maul at the spot where Christian first met Faithful. Traveling onward, they meet an old pilgrim named Old Honest asleep under a tree. Old Honest wakes up scared, mistaking Christiana’s group for thieves. Learning that Christiana is the wife of Christian, he calms down.

Great-heart asks Old Honest if he knew a pilgrim named Fearing, and Old Honest says that Fearing was his former companion. Great-heart explains that he guided Fearing to the gate of the Celestial City and tells of their journey. Fearing boldly faced the challenges that terrify others but feared hell, because he was unsure of his commitment to the Celestial City. Christiana, the boys, and Old Honest discuss how fear is a spur to goodness and the love of God if it is used properly. Old Honest tells of another wayward pilgrim named Self-will, who did whatever he pleased. The pilgrims express their disapproval. After recapping both stories, Old Honest adds that many who consider themselves pilgrims fail in some basic way.

The three robbers who robbed Little-Faith in Part I approach the group. The pilgrims take refuge in the house of Gaius, who says he opens his doors only for pilgrims. Gaius invites them to eat and talks at length about various religious matters. He delivers a long defense of women, arguing that although sin came into being through a woman, so too did salvation when Mary mothered Christ. After the meal, Gaius proposes that they all go out to find a giant named Slay-good that has been ravaging pilgrims lately. The pilgrims find Slay-good in a cave about to devour Feeble-mind, a weak pilgrim. They defeat Slay-good and free Feeble-mind.

During the month spent with Gaius, Christiana’s eldest son, Matthew, marries Mercy, and her youngest son, James, gets engaged to Phebe, Gaius’s daughter. As the time for departure nears, Great-heart invites Feeble-mind to accompany them. Feeble-mind resists, saying he is too ignorant for pilgrimage. Great-heart insists that he is obligated to help the feeble-minded. A handicapped pilgrim named Ready-to-halt also joins them. On the road, Old Honest and Great-heart discuss many characters that Christian met on his pilgrimage, including Faithful and Hopeful.

They lodge at the home of Mnason, who invites them to dine with his various friends, including Contrite. Contrite says that the locals feel a burden of guilt after the unjust execution of Christian’s friend Faithful and have since become more moderate. The pilgrims spend a long time with Mnason. During this time, Mnason’s daughter Grace marries Christiana’s son Samuel, and his daughter Martha marries Christiana son’s Joseph. A fierce dragon with seven heads emerges from the woods and frightens the pilgrims. The dragon menaces the children of the village. Great-heart joins forces with Mnason’s friends to subdue the monster.

The pilgrims climb the hill called Lucre where Demas tempted Christian with silver. They find a man who cares for the children of pilgrims, and Christiana, now a grandmother, tells her four daughters-in-law to hand over their babies to him. The group proceeds onward. Great-heart, Old Honest, and Christiana’s sons decide to slay Giant Despair. After killing him, they spend seven days demolishing his castle. The group rescues the prisoners Despondent and his daughter Much-afraid, who are nearly starved.

Arriving in the Delectable Mountains, the pilgrims meet shepherds who show them Mount Innocent and Mount Charity. The shepherds take them to a palace where Mercy takes a fancy to a mirror hung in the dining room. She begs Christiana to buy it for her, saying she fears she will miscarry if she doesn’t get it. The mirror reflects the face of Christ back to any gazer. The shepherds give it to Mercy in thanks for the pilgrims killing Giant Despair.

Analysis

Old Honest’s story about Fearing shows an important distinction among different types of fear. Curiously, the pilgrim Fearing was actually quite fearless in some ways, as Old Honest explains. Fearing courageously faced the lions that terrified Christiana’s group. His courage was misdirected, since he had not enough fear of God and therefore not enough assurance that he would make it to the Celestial City. Despite his timidness, he still made it to the Celestial City. In the end, Fearing basically feared himself and his own insufficient faith. Old Honest explains that good fear, like the fear of God, is necessary because it spurs the pilgrim onward to higher achievement. Fearing’s fear of himself, however, raises obstacles for a pilgrim.

The marrying of Christiana’s sons emphasizes how much time has passed on the pilgrimage. At the beginning of the pilgrimage they were young boys. At the opening of Part II, Bunyan portrays Christiana as a young mother. By showing her sons now as young adults of marriageable age, Bunyan displays that the pilgrims’ journey is their life itself. Children grow up and generations shift. By the end of these chapters, Christiana has become a grandmother several times over. The marriage of two of Christiana’s sons to Gaius’s two daughters also emphasizes the marriage of classical and Christian marriage themes with The Pilgrim’s Progress. Gaius is a Roman name and therefore not an obvious description like other characters’ names. Yet Bunyan portrays Gaius as strong a Christian as Christiana, and he implies that Gaius’s contribution to the book is just as important as the other pilgrims.

Christiana’s handing over of her grandchildren to the childcare facility is controversial, considering the pilgrim’s belief that religious devotion runs counter to child abandonment. However, Christiana’s abandonment of the babies has some good reasons behind it. First, the pilgrims have a hard enough time with their physical travel over hills, down valleys, and through rivers, even without babies to tote. Second, babies cannot go on pilgrimages because they are not mature enough to understand the meaning. Since pilgrimage is more than mere travel and requires understanding too, only young adults like Christiana’s sons can be pilgrims.

The killing of Giant Despair displays the heroic effectiveness of Christiana’s group. In Part I, Christian, for all his fortitude, did not slay Giant Despair but was nearly killed by the monster. Christiana’s pilgrimage is in this way more successful overall than Christian’s, and Bunyan emphasize this point throughout Part II. Part of Christiana’s success is owed to her capacity for encouraging teamwork. Christian was more or less a loner, rarely accompanied by more than one fellow pilgrim at a time. In contrast, Christiana has a huge group. Wherever she goes, her group multiplies. At dinner with Gaius and Mnason, the host invites along his friends, who join Christiana’s group. Her example shows that spirituality must be private, but pilgrimage can be social.

The joining of Feeble-mind and Ready-to-halt on the pilgrimage emphasizes an expansion in the definition of pilgrimage. Bunyan portrays this difference when he shows Old Honest and Great-heart discussing Christian and Hopeful traveling together. They have this conversation right after the two disabled pilgrims have joined their ranks. The contrast is clear: Christian’s cohorts were as strong as he, or stronger, and Christiana’s cohorts may be physically or mentally weaker, yet they are still deemed fit companions. Therefore Part II emphasizes charity toward the weak. When Feeble-mind and Ready-to-halt are assessed as worthy pilgrims, it is understood that pilgrimage is about more than physical fitness and traditionally male virtues like strength and aggression.

Bunyan’s depiction of the mirror episode demonstrates the generous attitude toward women that runs throughout The Pilgrim’s Progress. In another book, a pregnant woman gripped by an irrational desire for a mirror could be an accumulation of many negative stereotypes, including female vanity, emotionalism, and a general tendency to cause trouble. Yet Bunyan gives the scene a positive ring and portrays Mercy’s desire as religious and commendable. The mirror does not play into human vanity, since it reflects the image of Christ back to the viewer. And the shepherds are delighted to give it to her, implying that the mirror is a worthy possession.

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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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