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Sleep represents a symbol that can either be inspirational
or paralyzing on a pilgrim’s journey toward the Celestial City.
Whenever the pilgrims grow sleepy on their journey, danger awaits.
The Enchanted Ground threatens to lull travelers into sleepy forgetfulness
of their spiritual mission and derail their salvation. Indeed the two
saddest failed pilgrims that Christiana meets on her journey are Too-bold
and Heedless, who make it to the very outskirts of the Celestial
City only to fall asleep in the deceitful arbor. Their sleep appears
more than a natural failing and seems like a spiritual disaster.
When they babble incoherently in their sleep, their guide explains
that they have lost the use of their reason and thus cannot attain
their spiritual goals. Sleep here symbolizes loss of direction and
spiritual bankruptcy. But loss of direction can also be positive, and
sleep can spur pilgrims on their spiritual journey. The narrator has
lost his direction in life at the very beginning of the book, but when
he falls asleep, sleep brings him a vision of spiritual improvement.
He cannot dream without sleeping.
The pilgrims in Bunyan’s book begin in a city and end
in a city, and in between they wander through huge stretches of
wilderness. The wild outdoors frame the journeys they undertake
throughout most of the book. The motif of the wilderness has famous
biblical precedents. Christ spent forty days in the wilderness,
and the Israelites wandered through it for forty years. The uncivilized
outdoors symbolize not just solitude but a place of spiritual test,
a place of despair and hardship that strengthens faith. The difference
between the biblical instance of wilderness and Bunyan’s wilderness
lies in their locations. In the Bible, wilderness is an actual desert,
a physical locale. In The Pilgrim’s Progress, wilderness
shines as a motif of an inward state, except perhaps at the very
beginning when the narrator says he wandered in the wilderness before
dreaming of Christian. However, in every example of wilderness that
follows, from the Slough to the hill of Difficulty, the outdoors
remains a symbol of inner struggle, the hard path that the soul
must follow every day. When Christian almost drowns and fails to
reach the Celestial City in the end, he recalls his faith in Jesus
Christ and is suddenly filled with renewed strength and hope to
reach the Celestial City. These inner struggles in the wilderness
test the pilgrims and separate the spiritually strong from the weak.
The Pilgrim’s Progress portrays sensual
pleasure both negatively and positively. In one way the pleasure
of the senses are devalued in the book. Christian and Christiana
and her group hardly express any wish to stop and reflect on their
previous lives because an important journey lies ahead. Examples
of sensual pleasure often threaten to thwart the pilgrims’ advancement,
as when Christiana’s son enjoys the taste of the devil’s fruit and
then falls sick, or when Madam Bubble tempts Standfast with sensual
pleasures. Bunyan seems to affirm the basic Puritan attitude toward
all pleasures of the flesh, which views the senses as dangerous
diversions for the soul that must be rejected. However, Bunyan actually
admits that in the right circumstances, sensual pleasure can be
acceptable and even beneficial for pilgrims. When the pilgrims stop
at the Palace Beautiful, sensual beauty surrounds them, and they
eat tasty food with no danger to their immortal souls. When they
rest with the shepherds in the Delectable Mountains, they are free
to hear the birds sing and savor the whole experience. And finally
the Celestial City itself is as a strong affirmation of sensual
pleasures, including fragrant flowers and golden streets. Sensual
enjoyment is perfectly acceptable if it is in the service of spiritual