The Pilgrim’s Progress

by: John Bunyan

Part II: The Sixth Stage, the Seventh Stage

Summary Part II: The Sixth Stage, the Seventh Stage

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.