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00817--The Summary of THE PILGRIM’S PROGRESS by John Bunyan



The Summary of THE PILGRIM’S PROGRESS by John Bunyan

‘The Pilgrim’s Progress’ is a dream allegory remarkable for its intense presentation of human character and incident virtually.  It is the prose-epic of puritanism.

Main characters

Christian: A simple earnest man making a pilgrimage from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City.

Evangelist: Christian’s faithful guide through his revival.

Faithful: A fellow pilgrim who receives his heavenly reward when he is martyred in Vanity Fair.

Hopeful: Christian companion during the latter part of his journey, who keeps up his course even in Doubting Castle and the River of Death.

Mr. Worldly Wiseman: A man of the world who tries to lead Christian astray with tales of town life. 

Apollyon: A giant fiend who nearly kills Christian.

Giant Despair: The blood thirsty master of Doubting Castle who keeps Christian and Hopeful prisoners.

The Summary
Wandering through the wilderness of this world, John Bunyan falls asleep in a cave, and has a dream.  In it he sees Christian dressed in rags and carries a Bible in his hand and a great burden on his back.  Christian cries out that he has left his city because he has read in the Good Book that the wrath of God is about to descend on it.  His family has refused to escape with him from the city of Destruction, and he doesn’t know which road to take in order to reach the Celestial City. 

 When Evangelist the Preacher of Christianity, shows Christian a vision of the destruction to come, he tries to warn his family and neighbours, but they all think he is mad.  Evangelist tells him to go at a wicket gate where he will find Eternal Life, but Christian does not know the way to the gate.

He is joined in his search by two neighbours; Pliable and Obstinate who ask him where he is going.  When the answer is given Obstinate turns home in disgust but Pliable promises to go with Christian.  Not noticing the road they are taking Christian and Pliable fall into a treacherous mire the Slough of Despond.  Weighed down by the great burden of sins on his back Christian is in danger of sinking into the mud waiting to bury him, but Help soon comes and rescues him.  When Pliable as the result of a great effort emerges from the Slough, he leaves Christian in dismay at the difficulty of the journey and makes his way home.

Resuming his pilgrimage, Christian next encounters Mr. Worldly Wiseman, a suave sophisticated man who tries to convince the pilgrim that his journey is folly.  He tells Christian that Christian would be happy if only he allowed Mr. Legality and Mr. Civility, the two dwellers in the village of Morality, to remove his burden from him.  Christian nearly falls into Mr. Worldly Wiseman’s persuasive trap, but Evangelist intervenes and sets Christian on the right path again. 

Christian finally arrives at the wicket gate on which is written “Knock, and it shall be opened unto you”, and he meets Good-Will.  An interpreter invites him into the gatekeeper’s house and explains the Christian mysteries to him.  Being shown a Vision of the Day of Judgement, Christian is filled with fear of Hell and hope of Heaven.

Continuing on his journey, he comes to the Holy Cross and the Sepulchre of Christ, where miraculously his burden of sins falls from his back.  He is beside himself with joy.  Passing Sloth, Presumption, Simple, Formalism, and Hypocrisy, and escaping two terrifying lions who block his path, Christian makes his way to the House beautiful where he is given hospitality and a good sword by four fair maidens; Charity, Discretion, Prudence and Piety. 

Armed with the sword and shield of Christian faith, the pilgrim next finds himself in the Valley of Humiliation, where the foul fiend Apollyon, who takes pride in his shiny scales, blocks Christian’s way and warns him, “Prepare to die”.  Christian joins battle with Apollyon and family, after a desperate struggle in which he is wounded by flaming darts, drives the beast away.  Christian heals his wounds with leaves from nearby Tree of Life and is able to resume his journey. 
Even more terrifying the Valley of Humiliation is the next place Christian comes upon: the Valley of Shadow of Death.  There, on one side of a narrow path, he sees a deep ditch into which the blind have led the blind to eternal death.  On the other side is a bottomless quagmire. Christian must travel the straight and narrow path between these two dangers, past one of the mouths of Hell from which devils taunt him.  Christian drives them of by declaring. “I will walk in the strength of the Lord God!”  When day breaks, Christian resumes his journey past the caves of the giants Pope and Pagan, and is joined by Faithful, a neighbour from the city of Destruction. 

Warned by Evangelist of its dangerous lures, Christian and Faithful come to the town of Vanity.  The town holds a year-long Fair created by Beelzebub and the fiends of Hell where all the people are consumed with the vanity that entices men away from the true road to salvation.  The cruel townspeople taunt Christian and Faithful, arrest them on false charges of disturbing the peace, and beat them.  The Pilgrims’ crime is their refusal to buy the town’s goods.  Christian is thrown into prison and Faithful is burned alive.  As Faithful gives up his ghost at the stake a great chariot descends from Heaven and carries him off to the Celestial City, Christian is rescued from jail by a young man named Hopeful who has been impressed by Faithful’s heavenly reward. 

Christian and Hopeful come upon a lovely plain named Ease which has in it a silver mine called Lucre.  The mine is open to all but those who dig in it are smothered.  Christian and hopeful leave the plain and come upon Lot’s wife, who was turned into a pillar of salt when she disobeyed God’s command and looked back upon Sodom and Gomorrah.  They come to the River of Life where they refresh themselves. 

The road now becomes stony and hard.  It leads to Doubting Castle, which Christian and Hopeful reach in dark, stormy weather.  There Giant Despair captures them and throws them into a dreadful dungeon where he flogs them.  They survive the floggings but the giant tries to persuade them to commit suicide.  Christian and Hopeful pray fervently and retain their faith, and they don’t think of suicide.  Christian remembers that he has a key called Promise with him, and they use this to escape from the prison.  Giant Despair pursues them but is blinded by radiant sunlight. 

Continuing on the stony path around Doubting Castle, Christian and Hopeful meet four shepherds named Knowledge, Experience, Watchful and Sincere who lead them to the peak of the Delectable Mountains, from where they can see, in the distance, the Celestial City.   But the shepherds warn them that they can still mistake the road and take the path to Hell.  On the narrow path down the mountain they meet Flatterer, a dark man in shining costume who says he will guide them.  Instead he entangles them in a net from which they finally extricate themselves with great difficulty. 


Eventually the pilgrims pass through the Enchanted Land into the lovely land of Beulah, where the air is so clear that they can see the Celestial City before them, glistening with pearls and precious stones and paved with gold.  Although their strength is now failing, Christian and Hopeful are determined to go on.  Before the gates of the city there is the River of Death; deep and treacherous with no bridge spanning it.  The pilgrims plunge into the river.  As the billows swirl around him, Christian fears the river is bottomless, but Hopeful shouts to him to be of good cheer.  Christian touches bottom.  A great darkness comes over him, but he recovers and finds he had made it to the opposite shore where Hopeful gives him a hand.  Having left their mortal garments behind, the two pilgrims ascend the steep hill to the Celestial City where the gate is opened wide for them.  They are greeted joyously by a company of the Heavenly Host.  They are given shining raiment and harps, and they join the angelic choir in praise of God.  With this glorious vision John Bunyan awakens from his dream. 

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