The Pilgrim’s Progress

by: John Bunyan

Part II: Author’s Introduction, the First Stage

Summary Part II: Author’s Introduction, the First Stage

Analysis

By calling Part II “Christiana,” Bunyan addresses the book as if it were a living being. He shows the book fretting with self-doubts that he must soothe. When he encourages the book Christiana to follow in the footsteps of Part I, he tells her to trust her own literary self-worth.

The major difference between the journeys in Parts I and II is that Part II portrays a female point of view. Aside from the old man Sagacity who introduces the tale, the main characters are two women, Christiana and Mercy. Part II shows how a women’s pilgrimage will be different in important ways from the man’s pilgrimage in Part I. Bunyan introduces elements into Part II that were absent from the male-dominated Part I. Christiana and Mercy are two women who have concerns that would have been stereotypically feminine in the seventeenth century. Since a woman could not be expected to travel safely alone, Christiana must hire Mercy as a servant. This introduces a complication, since pilgrims’ theoretical equality before God seems contradicted by one working for another. Christiana aims at equality by promising to share everything on the trip, but the complication remains when she hires Mercy. Furthermore, a mother cannot be expected to leave her children behind, even though the father did so earlier. Since the children must come along, childrearing will necessarily be a part of this pilgrimage. Boss-employee relations and family relations thus already figure more largely in Part II than in Part I.

The Bible figures as importantly in Christiana’s story as it did in Christian’s. As in Part I, characters in Part II appear familiar with biblical passages and quote them easily. Even the servant, Mercy, knows the Bible. She is the first one who makes a reference to the holy book in when she reaches the gate to the Celestial City. But interestingly, the Bible makes her afraid, as it never did Christian. When she is trembling at the gate leading to the Celestial City, she fearfully recalls a passage from Matthew that refers to two women, one of whom is turned away from a desired path. She assumes she will be turned away too, since Christiana has already entered the gate. Christian quoted the Bible confidently as a source of truth. When Mercy quotes the Bible, she applies it wrongly. Thus she faces the possibility of misunderstanding the holy word.

Bunyan emphasizes personal bonds in Part II. In Part I, Christian almost always had a companion, but his companions changed often: Pliable went home, Faithful was killed, and only Hopeful made it to the Celestial City with him. Christian shows only slight distress when he loses a travel companion and does not stop to fret about traveling alone. He is more concerned with his progress toward the Celestial City and does not want to be detoured from his journey. In contrast, camaraderie seems necessary with Christiana and Mercy in Part II. When it appears that Mercy might be shut out of the gatekeeper’s gate, Christiana steps in to lobby on Mercy’s behalf. Her bold resolution to help Mercy may be partly selfish since Christiana needs a servant on her trip. But she values her comrade more urgently than Christian seemed to value any of his.

The episode of the barking dog suggests how much Bunyan’s style has evolved in the direction of realism, away from pure allegory. The dangers in Part I were vivid and often terrifying but usually fairy-tale-like, such as the frightening Giant Despair in his prison-like castle. However, the dangers that arise in Part II are portrayed differently than in Part I. One instance is the barking dog at the gate leading to the Celestial City. The barking dog is a common danger. This is an aspect of the everyday life and it is easy to understand why Christiana and Mercy are afraid. As a result, Christiana and Mercy in the dog episode appear more like characters in a novel than Christian did.