The Pilgrim’s Progress
Study Questions & Essay Topics
1. In some ways Christian seems to learn various things in the course of his pilgrimage, but in other ways he hardly appears to change at all from the beginning to the end of the book. Does Christian evolve or develop as a character?
2. While Bunyan hardly mentions money or social status in his book, social differences do exist in The Pilgrim’s Progress. How do differences in social rank in the book play into the characters’ experiences of pilgrimage and the religious doctrine that supports it?
3. Standard Christian doctrine in Bunyan’s day taught that women were created by God to be the servants and inferiors of men. How do the female characters in the book support or refute official Christian teaching about female status?
Suggested Essay Topics
1. Marriages and male-female bonds in general have an ambiguous significance in the book. In a sense, religious awakening must be an individual, solitary experience. Male-female relations sometimes appear as dangerous diversions from one’s true spiritual path, as with Madam Bubble. Some marriages look evil, like Despair’s marriage to his wife. But, on the other hand, Bunyan shows a positive side of marriage too. According to The Pilgrim’s Progress, is marriage good or bad for a pilgrim?
2. The narrator insists at the beginning that the reader should not accept details in his book at face value but should look beneath the surface to the hidden meaning. Yet Gaius at dinner tells Christiana’s son that sometimes apples are just apples, not symbols of sin. Are these views inconsistent? Why or why not?
3. Christiana’s pilgrimage is obviously very similar to her husband’s earlier one. She starts from exactly the same point and proceeds to the same destination. Many of the obstacles she passes through, like the Slough of Despond and the Doubting Castle, were Christian’s obstacles too. How does Bunyan avoid creating the impression that Christiana simply repeats what her husband already did? How is her pilgrimage unique?
4. Christian and Christiana both spend time with hosts during their separate pilgrimages, sometimes with the same hosts. Yet their interactions with those hosts are very different. What do those differences suggest about Christian and Christiana as pilgrims? Do they differ in their general attitudes toward others?
5. Christian ends his journey abiding in the Celestial City and rejoicing in its glories. Christiana, by contrast, arrives in the Celestial City only to make another departure. She is sent off to see the Master. Her end is just as successful as Christian’s, since her pilgrimage has reached its desired destination. But it is darker than the ending of Part I. What is the significance of Christiana’s ending a different emotional tone?
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