Summary: In this allegorical novel, a pilgrim named Christian travels a journey in which he loses the heavy weight of his sins, is tempted to sin again, and eventually reaches paradise.
My thoughts: I’m not sure why this is the most printed book in English, other than the Bible. I love allegory generally, but this allegory beat you over the head with obviousness. Everyone and everything was given a name (like Christian) that said explicitly what the character or impediment represented. The story itself was interesting enough, I suppose, as a concept, I just wish it were more subtle. This is also not a book for non-Christians, unless they are reading for the sake of learning about classic literature.
This is my analysis using the method proposed by Susan Wise Bauer in The Educated Mind. It will contain spoilers.
👽What is the most central life-changing event?
Meeting with Evangelist after discovering the prophecy that his city would be destroyed by fire was the life-changing event which lead Christian on his journey. Evangelist told Christian what path to follow to lead to paradise.
👽Am I transported? Do I see, feel, and hear this other world?
Not really. It all felt a little flat because of the obviousness of the allegory.
👽Can I sympathize with the people who live there? Do I understand their wants and desires and problems? Or am I left unmoved?
Yes, I understood exactly what was wanted by each character, as they were named after their characteristics.
👽Is this a fable or a chronicle?
This novel is a fable. It represents a spiritual journey rather than actual events.
👽What does the central character want? What is standing in his or her way? What strategy is pursued to overcome this block?
Christian would like to reach paradise, but it often led astray by temptation and hardships.
👽Who is telling you this story? Is this person reliable?
The story is third person limited. It told exactly what was happening to Christian (allegorically), but did not tell the thoughts of the other characters.
👽Where is the story set?
The story is set in a fantastic land which Christian has to traverse in order to reach paradise. It is filled with both glorious and horrible things. It is a universe that cares deeply about Christian, whether its motivations are to lead him astray or to encourage him to reach paradise.
👽Images and metaphors: Are there any repeated images? If so, is this a metaphor, and if so, what does it represent?
I’d say the most repeated image is the cross and the savior – but every character and impediment that Christian comes across is a metaphor.
👽 Does the end have a resolution or a logical exhaustion?
Christian eventually reaches paradise, which is the resolution to his problems.
👽Do you sympathize with the characters? Which ones, and why? Did the author choose characteristics to make a statement about the human condition?
I guess I sympathized with the character in the sense that I would not like to burn in Hell. 🙂 Yes, every character and impediment in the story made a statement about the human condition. The human condition was represented as destined for destruction unless a straight and narrow path were followed to the safety of paradise.
👽Does the author’s technique give you a clue as to her argument: her take on the human condition?
Oh yes, it does. The human condition is pounded into the story with hammer and ax.
👽Is the novel self-reflective?
Yes. This story represented the struggles that Bunyan went through in his younger years (and expected to go through in his later years). At first, he struggled to see the goodness of God, but eventually repented his feelings of sin and moved on to a life that he hoped would lead to paradise.
👽Is there an argument in this book? If so, do you agree?
The argument to the book is that if you don’t follow a straight and narrow path, you will not be led to paradise. As a Christian, I believe it is true for myself, but I do not judge those who follow other religions or no religion at all. That is their choice, and I believe that, for the most part, that choice is right for them.
7 thoughts on “Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan”
I have been meaning to read this for years. As you know I am not a believer but I am fascinated by religious ideas. Plus, as you mention, this is such a popular book, it has influenced so many other things. The obviousness of the allogory is surprising.
I feel like I have a lot of complaints about the classics I’ve been reading lately, which makes me wonder if my mood is leading me to dislike something I would normally like. Pilgrim’s Progress certainly had obvious allegory, but perhaps I missed something that makes it such a powerful book to so many people.
I didn’t know this is the most printed book in English, other than the Bible!Glad you found the story interesting! I’m one of those that would dread it just to learn about classic literature. *winks*
lol. I usually love classic literature, though right now I’m not doing a great job of enjoying it. Perhaps I’m just not in the right mood.
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I finally posted my Pilgrims Progress review focusing on the Well-Educated Mind, which means I can finally read yours!
I agree with your logic because our perspective in the modern Protestant era views religion so differently than how they did in the late 1600s. It feels like a completely different world, and it took me till reading some reviews at the end of the book to finally find a moderate view to help me relate to the narrative. But once I did it changed my perspective and it makes sense as to why this book was/is so popular.
I’d love if you took a look at my thoughts on Pilgrims Progress! Let me know if I make sense.
I’ll certainly pop over to your blog and check out your review. I’m glad you were able to find a more moderate view on the subject. I am wondering if my mood is affecting how much I’m enjoying the classics I’m reading at the moment. It may be time to take a break and read a few easy books.
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