Bunyan, John 1628–1688

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John Bunyan


English allegorist, autobiographer, prose writer, homilist, and poet.

The following entry presents an overview of Bunyan's career through 2000.


Though he published over sixty religious books and pamphlets during his lifetime, Bunyan is today remembered primarily for his Christian allegory The Pilgrim's Progress (1678), which has, some 325 years after its initial publication, remained one of the most widely read books in the world. The Pilgrim's Progress uniquely integrates elements of the medieval knightly romance tale into a Christian allegory replete with numerous biblical references. Though written as a Calvinist religious tract, Bunyan's masterpiece has captured the imaginations of generations of children and adults for its qualities as a fantasy adventure story featuring giants, dragons, monsters, knights, and castles. Bunyan's prose style skillfully combines a mixture of Biblical rhetoric and everyday speech of the common man, accordingly making use of numerous biblical proverbs as well as colloquial homilies. With allegorical characters such as Christian, Hope, Faith, Mercy, and so on, the moral and religious message of The Pilgrim's Progress has been interpreted from a wide variety of perspectives.


What is known of Bunyan's early life is fragmentary and is primarily derived from his autobiographical Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners (1666), which focuses on his spiritual development rather than his physical circumstances. He was born in Elstow, a town in rural Bedfordshire, England, in 1628. He was baptized in the Anglican Church, was taught to read and write at a local parish school, and was apprenticed to the tinker's trade practiced in his family. According to Grace Abounding, as a child, Bunyan suffered dreams and visions of hell. At the age of sixteen he was conscripted into the Parliamentary army, from which he was discharged after three years. In 1648 he married a woman whose piety reawakened his lapsed religious conscience. While playing games one Sunday—an activity considered Sabbath-breaking by some faiths—Bunyan had a religious experience in which he heard a voice "from Heaven" accusing him of sinfulness. This incident has been viewed by many, including Bunyan himself, as instrumental in his religious conversion. In 1653 he joined the Bedford Baptists, a moderate Puritan sect. He committed himself to serving the Baptist community of Bedford, becoming actively involved in the religious life of the community, speaking at meetings, and publishing his first work, Some Gospel-Truths Opened according to the Scriptures, in 1656. He later began preaching, adopting the fiery speaking style which he reproduced in A Few Sighs from Hell, published in 1658. After Charles II assumed the throne in 1660, members of religious sects without official sanction were in danger of arrest. Bunyan refused to compromise his faith and was imprisoned, remaining in jail for twelve years. The conditions of his incarceration were variable, however, and he was at times allowed to travel and to preach. In 1872 he was appointed pastor of the Bedford congregation and, later that year, he was officially pardoned. During the period of his imprisonment, Bunyan produced Grace Abounding and began writing The Pilgrim's Progress. The immediate acclaim the latter work received when it was published in 1678 precipitated a second edition and encouraged Bunyan to write The Life and Death of Mr. Badman (1680). He continued his literary pursuits, publishing several works, including the second part of The Pilgrim's Progress (1684), and, after the death of Charles II in 1685, openly resumed his preaching duties. In the last year of his life, he was appointed chaplain to the Lord Mayor of London. Bunyan died of an illness resulting from exposure to inclement weather while performing his pastoral duties in 1688.


The Pilgrim's Progress describes an allegorical journey from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City. The story is framed as a dream of the narrator, in which a man—first called Pilgrim and then renamed Christian—abandons his home and family to embark on a Christian pilgrimage. With a large burden on his back, Christian is instructed by Evangelist to head for the Wicket-Gate. After passing through the treacherous Slew of Despond, Christian enters the Interpreter's House, passes by the Wall of Salvation, and comes upon the Cross. There, the burden, representing his sins, falls from his back, and he is instructed to head for the Celestial Gate. Thus, the pilgrim must accept Jesus Christ in order to continue on his journey toward salvation. After encountering Simple, Sloth, Presumption, Hypocrisy, Mistrust, and Timorous, Christian arrives at the House Beautiful. There, he meets Discretion, Piety, Charity, and Prudence, who offer further instruction, as well as providing him with armor, sword, and shield. In the Valley of Humiliation, Christian meets one of his greatest spiritual challenges in the form of Apollyon, a dragon with whom he engages in fierce battle. Having defeated Apollyon, Christian enters the Valley of the Shadow of Death, where he is faced with further challenges in the form of various temptations. He then meets Faithful, another pilgrim who becomes his companion in continuing the journey. The pair next come upon the town of Vanity Fair, which represents the temptation of worldly goods and pleasures. There, Christian and Faithful are imprisoned for their religious convictions, and Faithful is sentenced to death. After escaping from prison, Christian befriends Hopeful, another pilgrim. Together they encounter the Giant Despair, who imprisons them in his Doubting Castle, beats them, and tempts them to commit suicide. The prisoners are able to escape only after extensive prayer. Continuing on their journey, the two pilgrims pass through the Delectable Mountains and the Enchanted Ground, encountering such characters as Ignorance, Conceit, Little-Faith, and Atheist. Finally reaching the end of their journey, Christian and Hopeful must step into the River of Death, whence they are carried by angels to the gates of the Celestial City. In The Pilgrim's Progress, part two, Christian's journey is essentially retraced by his wife Christiana, their four sons, and her companion Mercy. Passing through most of the settings and meeting most of the allegorical characters encountered by Christian, Christiana and her fellow travelers are joined by Greatheart, who protects them from various dangers. After many adventures, the group of faithful pilgrims arrives at the River of Death, which they, like Christian, must cross in order to ascend to the Celestial City. Specific incidents in The Pilgrim's Progress were borrowed from both the Scriptures and numerous secular works. They are presented in no particular sequence but represent an array of challenges and obstacles to be met and overcome in order to achieve salvation. Of Bunyan's many published works, only The Pilgrim's Progress is still widely read today. His other major works, such as Grace Abounding, Mr. Badman, The Holy War (1682), and A Book for Boys and Girls (1686), are of ongoing interest primarily to literary, historical, and theological scholars.


For over three centuries since its initial publication, The Pilgrim's Progress has remained enormously influential throughout the world and maintained the status of a literary classic. Many of the world's greatest writers and thinkers—such as Benjamin Franklin, Mark Twain, George Eliot, Theodore Roosevelt, and C. S. Lewis—have lauded Bunyan's achievement in The Pilgrim's Progress. Critics have attributed the ongoing relevance of Bunyan's masterpiece to the author's treatment of such universal themes as good versus evil, man's relationship to his faith, and inner spiritual struggles. As an enduring work of classic children's literature, The Pilgrim's Progress has been noted for its qualities as a fantastic fairy tale adventure. Recent commentary on The Pilgrim's Progress has included comparisons with other works of allegorical prose, gender studies that explore Bunyan's attitudes toward women, and linguistic analyses that attempt to illustrate the writer's use of metaphorical and symbolic language. While critical interest in The Pilgrim's Progress has remained undiminished, scholars have increasingly begun studying Bunyan's other works, particularly Grace Abounding and The Holy War. His prose has been praised by literary scholars as vigorous and energetic, who have noted the author's use of plain, straightforward Anglo-Saxon diction. Bunyan has been criticized, however, for being at times overly didactic, particularly in his lesser works.


Some Gospel-Truths Opened according to the Scriptures (prose) 1656
A Few Sighs from Hell; or, The Groans of a Damned Soul (sermon) 1658
Christian Behavior; or, The Fruits of True Christianity (prose) 1658
The Holy City; or, The New Jerusalem (prose) 1665
Prison Meditations (prose) 1665
Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners; or, A Brief and Faithful Relation of the Exceeding Mercy of God in Christ to His Poor Servant John Bunyan (autobiography) 1666
A Christian Dialogue (dialogue) 1672
The Pilgrim's Progress from This World to That Which Is to Come, Delivered under the Similitude of a Dream Wherein Is Discovered, the Manner of His Setting out, His Dangerous Journey, and Safe Arrival at the Desired Country. (allegory) 1678
The Life and Death of Mr. Badman Presented to the World in a Familiar Dialogue between Mr. Wiseman, and Mr. Attentive (dialogue) 1680
The Holy War Made by Shaddai upon Diabous for the Regaining of the Metropolis of the World; or, The Losing and Taking Again of the Town of Mansoul (allegory) 1682
The Pilgrim's Progress from This World to That Which Is to Come: The Second Part, Delivered under the Similitude of a Dream Wherein Is Set Forth the Manner of the Setting out of Christian's Wife and Children, Their Dangerous Journey, and Safe Arrival at the Desired Country. (allegory) 1684
Seasonable Counsel; or, Advice to Sufferers (prose) 1684
The Advocateship of Jesus Christ Clearly Explained and Largely Improved (sermon) 1688; also published as The Work of Jesus Christ as an Advocate, 1688
The Heavenly Footman (prose) 1698
The Entire Works of John Bunyan. 4 vols. (allegories, meditations, tracts, sermons, dialogues, autobiography, and poetry) 1859–1860


Richard L. Greaves (essay date April 1983)

SOURCE: Greaves, Richard L. "Bunyan through the Centuries: Some Reflections." English Studies 64, no. 2 (April 1983): 113-21.

[In the following essay, Greaves provides an overview of critical responses to Bunyan's major works from the seventeenth through the twentieth centuries.]

The historiography of John Bunyan provides a fascinating case study of cultural assimilation. Writers as disparate as evangelicals and atheists, revolutionaries and imperialists, have found support for their views in the pages of Bunyan's works. In this paper I would like to trace the general ebb and flow of interest in Bunyan, with particular attention to the adaptation of Bunyan by those with causes to espouse as well as to some recent areas of scholarly interest.

Despite the almost instant popularity of The Pilgrim's Progress, Bunyan was repudiated in 1681 by an Anglican author as one who believed that saints were empowered to bind sovereigns and nobles as well as to degrade ministers and ecclesiastical officials. Yet four years later an anonymous French author praised the saintly qualities of Bunyan's life and his knowledge of practical religion. Following Bunyan's death, Charles Doe, with the assistance of Ebenezer Chandler and John Wilson, thought there was enough interest in Bunyan to publish a collection of his works, and the same year—1692—an anonymous biography appeared. Even the conservative Anthony Wood acknowledged that Bunyan had written 'several useful and practical books'. The growing popularity of The Pilgrim's Progress —the most popular work of prose fiction in the seventeenth century—was reflected not only in the spurious imitations designed to capitalize on the market but also in Francis Bugg's appropriation of the title for the account of his conversion from the Quakers to the Anglicans.1

In 1708 the continental mystic Pierre Poiret praised Bunyan's writings, while in England copies of Bunyan's sermons were being distributed gratis in the streets. By 1710 Joseph Addison observed that Bunyan was as popular as Dryden and Tillotson, and five years later the American colonists, already printing their own editions of Bunyan, saw his influence reflected in Joseph Morgan's The History of the Kingdom of Basaruah.2 In the ensuing years Alexander Pope, Jonathan Swift, John Wesley, and George Whitefield had kind things to say of Bunyan, and the entry on Bunyan in the 1748 edition of the Biographia Britannica regarded him as a celebrated author. Yet in 1741, the year The Pilgrim's Progress was parodied to satirize Sir Robert Walpole, there was a suspicion that 'the Wits' were looking on Bunyan with distaste. Bunyan's decline in intellectual circles, which was part of the general rejection of popular culture by the upper classes, was confirmed in 1757 when Edmund Burke contrasted the inferiority of Bunyan's style with the Aeneid's refined language, and David Hume sarcastically remarked that there was no more equality between Addison and Bunyan than an ocean and a pond.3 In 1775 James Granger attempted to rescue Bunyan from his dubious distinction of being—in some eyes—one of the most unlettered En-glish authors and a writer of drivel, but even Granger described Bunyan's language as coarse and vulgar. Although an admirer of Bunyan, William Cowper thought it best not to mention his name in 1784 lest it provoke sneers, and at the turn of the century one writer observed that 'the refinements of modern education' had removed Bunyan as recommended reading for children.4The Pilgrim's Progress was revised in 1811 to refine its language and delete its redundancies in order to overcome the hostility of the more 'polished' in society.5

Yet the decline of Bunyan's reputation from about 1740 to 1830 was not as pronounced as is often thought. The popularity of The Pilgrim's Progress remained sufficiently strong to prompt a Catholic version in 1772, which went through several editions.6 The list of prominent figures who referred favorably to Bunyan during these decades includes Laurence Sterne, Benjamin Franklin, James Boswell, and Horace Walpole. Moreover the characteristic Victorian emphasis on Bunyan's genius actually originated in the Enlightenment era, in an anonymous article in The Gentleman's Magazine in 1765; this theme was buttressed in Robert Philip's 1818–19 essays, which became the inspiration for his influential 1839 biography.7

Romanticism, with its renewed interest in traditional religion, the evangelical revival, and the upper classes' 'rediscovery' of popular culture intensified an already strong interest in Bunyan. The popularity of The Pilgrim's Progress had remained high, but the nature of the audience was reflected in the often sloppy and poorly printed editions. Evangelicals such as William Mason, George Burder, Thomas Scott, and David M'Nicoll tried to keep readers' minds on pious principles in their commentary, but fear was expressed that many read the allegory as a mere novel. In contrast to these evangelical versions, in 1830 Robert Southey brought out a major scholarly edition with a substantive biography; in it he provocatively argued that Bunyan's religious enthusiasm was based on false notions of human corruption and a grossly exaggerated sense of his own depravity, that his attitude toward the Book of Common Prayer was intolerant, and that one of the principal sources of influence on The Pilgrim's Progress was Richard Bernard's Isle of Man. In one of the many reviews which followed, Thomas Macaulay further enhanced Bunyan's scholarly standing by depicting him and Milton as the only two great creative minds of the later seventeenth century in England. Sir Walter Scott's review not only favorably compared Bunyan with Spenser, but also included the controversial suggestion that Bunyan was of gypsy origin, an idea hotly debated especially between 1858 and 1891.8

The evangelical commitment to Bunyan coupled with the scholarly stamp of approval from Southey and Macaulay (who also wrote the Bunyan entry in the Encyclopaedia Britannica) propelled Bunyan into the Victorian Age as a writer of genius whose great allegory ranked second only to the Bible as a popular religious work.9 Luminaries as diverse as George Eliot, Robert Browning, John Ruskin, Robert Louis Stevenson, and George Bernard Shaw in Britain, and the Alcotts, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Teddy Roosevelt in America, paid homage to his name.

An apt indication of Bunyan's influence was the use to which he was put to espouse favorite causes. William Weeks, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and George Cheever predictably but tellingly used Bunyan to castigate contemporary liberalism, but in 1838 even a Universalist adapted The Pilgrim's Progress to popularize his tenets.10 A furor was touched off in 1853 when J. M. Neale prepared an Anglican revision of the allegory that provided a place for the sacraments and confirmation, and 'corrected' Bunyan's theology (e.g. by increasing the significance of good works).11 Nationalists proudly boasted of Bunyan's use of 'old unpolluted' or Saxon English.12 Advocates of the doctrine of progress and religious liberty claimed Bunyan as a prophet of their ideals.13 And in 1877 the temperance forces interpreted The Pilgrim's Progress to attack alcohol: Simple, Sloth, and Presumption allegedly owed their downfall to imbibing.14

Nineteenth-century authors manifested increased interest in Bunyan's religious experience, moving beyond the discussion touched off by Southey over whether Bunyan was as depraved as he claimed. One of the earliest substantive analyses explained Bunyan's claim to supernatural illumination in his conversion as the manifestation of an 'extremely nervous and morbidly excitable temperament'.15 A more conservative critic found much of Grace Abounding morbid, but attributed this to satanic influence.16 John Ruskin was plainly horrified by Bunyan's spiritual autobiography, which he could explain only as the product of a diseased mind; the book, he claimed, not only discredits religion but fosters insanity.17 Yet to an evangelical such as Cheever, any attempt to analyze Bunyan's conversion experience in psychological terms was invalid, for that experience was the outgrowth of the inner working of divine grace.18 But the enticement of psychological studies remained strong, prompting one biographer to defend his hero by attributing the mental trials of this usually 'congenitally cheerful' man to an overactive imagination.19 By century's end some psychologists were attributing Bunyan's dreams and visions to dyspepsia.20

Psychological interest in Bunyan reached a high point in the studies of Josiah Royce and William James. Royce was fascinated by Bunyan's morbidly insistent impulses, the secondary melancholic depression that resulted from his concern about the unforgiveable sin, and his slow recovery. In the end, Royce argued, Bunyan had to impose a mental regimen upon himself in order to withstand elementary insistent temptations and fits of deep depression. For William James, Bunyan provided a typical case of a psychopathic temperament because of his highly sensitive conscience, his subjection to sensory and motor automations, his fears and doubts, and his melancholy. Although Bunyan experienced a slow recovery, James believed he regained full mental health.21

The nineteenth century was also intrigued, largely due to Southey's suggestions, by the possible sources of influence on Bunyan, particularly for The Pilgrim's Progress. While most, including George Offor, denied any literary influence, others suggested he was indebted to Spenser, Francis Quarles, Deguileville's The Pilgrimage of Man, John Cartheny's The Voyage of the Wandering Knight, and other works.22 When John Brown published the first edition of his famous biography in 1885, he could find no evidence that Bunyan had intentionally borrowed literary material and thus concluded that the quest for literary sources had become too strained. For a decade this view prevailed, but in 1896 Richard Heath advanced the provocative thesis that the allegory was inspired by the Anabaptist tradition, with its renunciation of society in favor of a Christian community. He followed this by arguing that the sources for The Holy War were in the same tradition: the assault on Mansoul reflected the siege of Münster, and the general theme was likely borrowed from the Book of Restitution (1535–6).23 Yet the prevailing view continued to find the sources for The Pilgrim's Progress primarily in Bunyan's own religious experience.24

As the Victorian era waned, hostile critics again turned on Bunyan, reviving the old charge that the pilgrim had selfishly deserted his family and that Bunyan's theology was outdated.25 In 1897 Samuel Butler castigated The Pilgrim's Progress as 'a series of infamous libels upon life and things' as well as 'a blasphemy against certain fundamental ideas of right and wrong which our consciences most instinctively approve'.26 Robert Bridges too questioned Bunyan's theology in 1905, warning that the allegory had no sound educational value because it neglected practical morality.27 A Catholic critic in 1909 deplored Bunyan's rejection of traditional medieval theology and got in a dig at the second part of the allegory as his 'somewhat tardy apotheosis of the spiritual life of woman'. In this critic's judgment the allegory had become a mere literary curiosity, and indeed others observed that few any longer read Bunyan. Other critics found The Pilgrim's Progress lacking in vivid description, trivial in conception, artistically barren, morally pernicious, and intellectually inferior.28

World War I brought new life to Bunyan. The Holy War inspired Rudyard Kipling to adapt Bunyan's theme to the European conflagration, and his verse was accompanied by an illustration of the English pilgrim attacking the German Diabolus. During the war soldiers made numerous allusions to the Slough of Despond, the Valley of the Shadow of Death, and Christian's burden.29 The Church Army presented Bunyan to British young people as a world hero, and the League of Peace and Freedom heard a lecture on Bunyan.30 Twelve days after the armistice, the B.B.C. broadcast the first part of The Pilgrim's Progress set to music for six solo voices, chorus, and orchestra. During the war a libretto of the allegory was prepared for a symphonic drama by Sir Edward Elgar, but the drama was never completed.31 The Bunyan revival led to a demand in 1922 that all English teachers be required to read and teach the allegory, accompanied by passages from Grace Abounding. On the eve of the 1928 Tercentenary celebrations, however, there were fears that Bunyan's religious impact was waning despite his literary appeal.32

The Tercentenary brought a mammoth outpouring of books, articles, and addresses, most of which extolled Bunyan.33 A celebration at the Mansion House in London was held at the suggestion of the Archbishop of Dublin, while the Archbishop-designate of Canterbury praised Bunyan in the Queen's Hall.34 For Bunyan lovers, however, the litany of praise was disrupted by the harsh criticism of Alfred Noyes in The Bookman: Bunyan was castigated for a Calvinistic theology motivated by fear, a sterile style excessively reliant on scriptural borrowings, personal vanity, and a failure to appreciate differing religious views. Attacked from all sides, Noyes refused to retreat, calling The Pilgrim's Progress the product of 'a piteously crude mind, warped throughout his life by congenital defects'.35 Yet the allegory remained popu-lar, and by 1938 more than 1300 editions had been printed. Interest in it increased and abated, it was suggested in 1942, in tempo with Bible Reading in society.36

Inevitably, those with causes to espouse continued to find in Bunyan grist for their mills. The heady optimism of imperialists in the Indian summer of the British Empire is reflected in Augustine Birrell's 1928 depiction of The Pilgrim's Progress as a 'link of empire' because of its presence in the libraries of emigrants, and Bunyan himself as 'a plain Englishman to the core, and as good an Imperialist as it is possible for any Christian man to be'.37 Advocates of ecumenicity found in Bunyan 'an apostle of Christian unity for the divided denominations of this century', while liberals with their social gospel saw Bunyan as a social seer who shared their concerns with social issues in such works as Mr. Badman and Christian Behavior. 38 The Marxists found Bunyan in 1937, when Jack Lindsay saw him as an advocate of proletarian unity, and interpreted his imprisonment as the result of the bourgeoisie's endeavor to crush all manifestations of democracy.39 As the specter of totalitarianism loomed large, a writer in The Christian Century in 1938 cited Bunyan to justify his argument that Christians must passively accept punishment rather than revolt against a totalitarian regime. The following year the pacifist William Inge asked Christians to emulate Bunyan in standing by their principles rather than yielding to the demands for war. But by 1940 it was Bunyan's vision of a holy war and the heroic life that once again, as in World War I, seemed relevant.40 In the aftermath of the war, Bunyan was used in an attempt to beat back the appeal of Karl Barth's Neo-orthodoxy. Perry Miller sought to increase Bunyan's appeal to the postwar scientific age by comparing Bunyan's analysis of the moral universe in The Pilgrim's Progress to the work of biologists and physicists. More recently Bunyan's Christian has even been viewed as an analogue of James Bond's Agent 007 and the latter's quest to destroy the evil forces in modern society.41

Academically, Bunyan has fared well in the last half-century. The long-standing proclivity to exalt him as an isolated genius received a necessary corrective in William Tindall's 1934 biography, which emphasizes Bunyan's identity with other religious enthusiasts and mechanic preachers. Grace Abounding was placed in the context of similar autobiographies, Bunyan's polemics were analyzed, and his place in the millenarian tradition noted.42 The thrust of much subsequent scholarship has been to examine Bunyan's relations with his contemporaries—especially Baptists and Quakers, his thought, and the nature and significance of his religious experience.

The endeavor to treat Bunyan as a mystic, which peaked in the 1920s and 1930s, has receded in the face of analyses which concentrate on his debt to Luther and to Calvinism, and on his espousal of millenarian views. Christopher Hill has underscored the extent to which Bunyan reflected the radical social and political ideas of the 1650s, treating The Holy War as an attack on the wealthy aristocracy and The Pilgrim's Progress as 'the epic of the itinerant'.43 In a comparable vein E. P. Thompson has argued that The Pilgrim's Progress was the 'foundation text' of the working-class movement in England, in part because of its offer of rewards in the life to come for the poor who toil in the present.44 Bunyan's social views began receiving substantive attention in the works of Levin Schücking, Siegfried Sachs, and Richard Schlatter.45 This in turn coincided with a marked growth of interest in Mr. Badman, extending beyond the long-standing question of the influence of this work on the development of the novel. Mr. Badman 's depiction of bourgeois life, its handling of social themes, and its debt to Arthur Dent and Samuel Clarke are subjects of recent investigation, though Maurice Hussey has denounced scholars who treat this work as a social document.

The Holy War has consistently received more attention than Mr. Badman, and though it has provoked considerably less excitement than The Pilgrim's Progress, it has been praised as an allegory. As early as 1919 the great Bunyan scholar James Wharey linked the struggle between good and evil in The Holy War to the morality-play tradition, and more recent scholars have explored the trial scenes with a view to their sources (John Foxe and Richard Bernard) and to their reflection of the Puritan condemnation of vices.46 Four levels of allegory have been found in The Holy War : the individual (the Christian's personal religious experience), the biblical, the historical, and the millennial.47 One modern critic sees the work as a reflection of Bunyan's personal experience, while another finds in it echoes of the struggle of Nonconformist leaders in London against a repressive government. Jack Lindsay and Alick West have interpreted The Holy War in a Marxist sense as an allegory of the war of the people against the crown.48 Still, Henri Talon reiterates the rather common judgment that The Holy War is a ponderous, manufactured allegory, replete with what Monica Furlong calls a lack of character and humanity, due at least in part to 'the woodenness of the military mind'. Roger Sharrock reflects the prevailing modern view that the work 'is indeed a magnificent failure'.49

Interest in Bunyan's lesser works, never strong, has grown in recent years. In particular A Book for Boys and Girls has been studied for its place in the history of emblem literature and for its relationship to The Pilgrim's Progress, 'the last link', said Rosemary Freeman, 'of the emblem convention with greatness'.50 One of the most interesting results of the on-going Oxford edition of Bunyan's works is the considerable extent to which the great themes of The Pilgrim's Progress and Grace Abounding in particular are developed in his lesser writings.

Certainly Bunyan's major works can no longer be divorced from his minor writings, nor can Bunyan himself be isolated from his contemporaries. Yet if Bunyan the solitary genius and hero is no longer tenable, neither is the Bunyan undistinguished from his fellow sectaries. Instead recognition must be given, as Roger Sharrock argued in 1957, to Bunyan as both the product of the Puritan tradition and a man of personal vision.51 His autobiography is now properly perceived as a work which reflects not only the pattern of conversion expected of those in the Puritan tradition but a book noted for its candor, dramatic language, and artistic merit. Yet its continuing appeal to students of psychology must now be shared with The Pilgrim's Progress, due especially to Mary Harding's Journal into Self, in which Bunyan's allegory is interpreted as an archetype of man's quest for wholeness.52 Bunyan's great allegory continues to fascinate scholars, whose concerns range from Bunyan's use of Scripture, emblems, and religious symbolism to the meaning of the enigmatical Mr. Ignorance.

Modern scholarship has been able to return Bunyan to his historical milieu without detracting from the literary originality achieved in The Pilgrim's Progress and to a lesser degree in Grace Abounding and Mr. Badman. That Bunyan excelled in rising above his environment was surely due in large measure to his decision—itself the outcome of a conflict—to give scope to his talented imagination in the espousal of his cause: 'I dreamed, and behold …'53


1. [C. Underhill], Vox Lachrymae: A Sermon (Frankfurt, 1681), pp. 6-7; 'Lecteur Amy', in Voyage d'un Chrestien vers l'Eternite (Amsterdam, 1685), sigs. π6r−π12v; The Works of That Eminent Servant of Christ. Mr. John Bunyan (London, 1692); anon., An Account of the Life and Actions of Mr. John Bunyan (London, 1692); A. Wood, Athenae Oxonienses, ed. P. Bliss, 4 (London, 1820): 613; F. Bugg, The Pilgrim's Progress, from Quakerism, to Christianity (1698); C. C. Mish, 'Best Sellers in Seventeenth-Century Fiction', The Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, 47 (1953): 356-73.

2. P. Poiret, Bibliotheca Mysticorum Selecta (Amsterdam, 1708), p. 328; A. Pope, in English Letters and Letter-Writers of the Eighteenth Century, ed. H. Williams (London, 1886), p. 357; The Works of the Right Honourable Joseph Addison, ed. R. Hurd, 6 vols. (London, 1854–6), 4: 375; J. Morgan, The History of the Kingdom of Basaruah (New York, 1715). The first American edition of The Pilgrim's Progress appeared in 1681.

3. Anon., The Statesman's Progress (London, 1741); M. B., 'Of Originals and Writing', The Gentleman's Magazine, 11 (September 1741): 487-9; E. Burke, A Philosophical Inquiry, ed. A. Mills (New York, 1846), p. 31; D. Hume, Of the Standard of Taste and Other Essays, ed. J. W. Lenz (Indianapolis and New York, 1965), p. 7; P. Burke, Popular Culture in Early Modern Europe (New York, 1978), pp. 270-86.

4. J. Granger, A Biographical History of England, 2nd ed. (London, 1824), 3: 347-48; W. Cowper, 'Tirocinium: or, a Review of Schools', in Poems, ed. J. Johnson (Boston, 1849), 2: 158-9; M. A. Burges, The Progress of the Pilgrim Good-Intent, in Jacobinical Times (London, 1800), p. viii.

5. J. Gilpin, ed., The Pilgrim's Progress (Wellington, 1811).

6. Le Pélerinage d'un Homme Chrétien (Paris, 1772).

7. Anon., 'Some Account of the Imprisonment of John Bunyan, Minister of the Gospel at Bedford, in November 1660', The Gentleman's Magazine, 35 (April 1765): 168-71; [R. Philip], 'Critical Essays on the Genius and Writings of Bunyan', The London Christian Instructor, or Congregational Magazine, 1 (December 1818): 632-5, and 2 (February 1819): 96-6; R. Philip, The Life, Times, and Characteristics of John Bunyan, Author of The Pilgrim's Progress (New York, 1839).

8. R. Southey, ed., The Pilgrim's Progress (London, 1830); T. B. Macaulay, review of Southey's edition, in the Edinburgh Review, 108 (December 1830): 450-61; [Sir W. Scott], review of Southey's edition, in the Quarterly Review, 43 (October 1830): 469-94. For the debate over Bunyan's alleged gypsy origins, see J. Forrest and R. L. Greaves, John Bunyan: A Reference Guide (Boston, 1982).

9. The genius of Bunyan was asserted, e.g., by T. Arnold, Life and Correspondence of Thomas Arnold, D. D., ed. A. P. Stanley (London, 1836), p. 295; and G. B. Cheever, Lectures on the Pilgrim's Progress, and on the Life and Times of John Bunyan (New York, 1844).

10. [W. R. Weeks], The Pilgrim's Progress in the Nineteenth Century, 2 vols. (New York, 1824); N. Hawthorne, The Celestial Railroad (Boston, 1843); G. B. Cheever, A Reel in a Bottle (New York, 1852); D. J. Mendell, The Adventures of Search for Life: A Bunyanic Narrative (Portland, Maine, 1838).

11. J. M. Neale, ed., The Pilgrim's Progress (Oxford, 1853). Cf. anon., The Pilgrim: or, John Bunyan's Apparation, in the Bed-Room of the Rev. J. M. Neale (London, 1854); G. Gilfillan, 'Neale and Bunyan', in A Third Gallery of Portraits (Edinburgh and London, 1854), pp. 336-48; W. Bates, 'Leonine Verses on Portuguese Travelling: Rev. J. M. Neale', Notes and Queries, 6th ser., 2 (7 August 1880): 102-104.

12. Cf., e.g., W. Minto, A Manual of English Prose Literature (Boston, 1872), pp. 301-304; N. S. Dodge, 'John Bunyan and Vernacular English', The Lakeside Monthly, 10 (August 1873): 103-11.

13. Anon., 'John Bunyan—Tinker and Poet', The Echo (11 June 1874), p. 1; W. Brock, 'Bunyan and Religious Liberty', in The Book of the Bunyan Festival, ed. W. H. Wylie (London and Bedford, 1874), pp. 59-64.

14. J. Miller, Communion Wine and Intemperance: Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress and Intoxicating Liquors (Boston, 1877).

15. J. Brazer, 'Essay on the Doctrine of Divine Influence', The Christian Examiner, 18 (March 1835): 50-84.

16. Anon., review of Philip's biography, in the Eclectic Review, 6 (October 1839): 468-80.

17. The Works of John Ruskin, ed. E. T. Cook and A. Wedderburn, 4 (London and New York, 1845): 348-9.

18. G. B. Cheever, ed., The Pilgrim's Progress (London, 1850).

19. J. Copner, The Hero of Elstow (London, 1874).

20. The dyspepsia charges are refuted by E. M. Field, 'A Book That Brings Solace and Cheer', in The Love Affairs of a Bibliomaniac (London and New York, 1896), pp. 189-99.

21. J. Royce, 'The Case of John Bunyan', The Psychological Review, 1 (January 1894): 22-3; (March): 134-51; (May): 230-40; W. James, The Varieties of Religious Experience (New York and London, 1902), pp. 157-61, 186-8.

22. For assertions of literary influence on Bunyan, see, e.g., L. A. H., 'The Poet and the Dreamer …', The Methodist Quarterly Review, 40 (April 1858): 209-27; N. Hill, The Ancient Poem of Guillaume de Guileville … Compared with the Pilgrim's Progress of John Bunyan (London, 1858); anon., 'Plagiarism and John Bunyan', Catholic World, 6 (January 1868): 535-44.

23. J. Brown, John Bunyan: His Life, Times and Work (London, 1885); R. Heath, 'The Archetype of the "Pilgrim's Progress,"' The Contemporary Review, 70 (October 1896): 541-58; Heath, 'The Archetype of "The Holy War,"' The Contemporary Review, 72 (July 1897): 105-18.

24. See, e.g., C. H. Firth, ed., The Pilgrim's Progress (London, 1898); E. E. Hale, ed., The Pilgrim's Progress (New York, 1898).

25. R. Dowling, Ignorant Essays (London, 1887); A. Lang, Essays in Little (New York, 1891), pp. 182-90; R. Bridges, 'Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress', The Speaker (1 and 8 April 1905).

26. H. F. Jones, ed., The Note-Books of Samuel Butler (London, 1897), pp. 188-9.

27. Bridges, The Speaker (1 and 8 April 1905).

28. K. Brégy, 'The Pilgrim's Progress and Some Pre-Reformation Allegories', Catholic World, 89 (April 1909): 96-102; 89 (May 1909): 166-76; C. F. Johnson, Outline History of English and American Literature (New York, 1900), p. 242; C. T. B., 'Is Bunyan Read To-day?', The Daily Graphic (6 November 1909); F. Thompson, A Renegade Poet, and Other Essays (Boston, 1910), pp. 211-25; A. Mordell, Dante and Other Waning Classics (Philadelphia, 1915), pp. 69-83.

29. R. Kipling, 'The Holy War', Public Opinion (14 December 1917), pp. 428-9; P. Fussell, The Great War and Modern Memory (New York, 1975).

30. Anon., John Bunyan, the Bedfordshire Tinker, His Life and Times (Oxford, 1917); H. Good-enough, John Bunyan (1628–1688): A Lecture (London, 1917).

31. G. Bantock, The Pilgrim's Progress … Set to Music (London, 1918); R. A. Streatfeild, 'The Pilgrim's Progress': A Mystery (typescript in the British Library, 1918).

32. S. A. Leonard, Essential Principles of Teaching Reading Literature in the Intermediate Grades and the High School (Philadelphia, 1922), pp. 52, 253; A. Law, 'Some Aspects of The Pilgrim's Progress', Empire Review, 46 (July 1927): 49-55.

33. A full listing appears in Forrest and Greaves, John Bunyan: A Reference Guide.

34. Anon., 'The Bunyan Tercentenary', The British Weekly (29 November 1928), p. 195; C., 'Bunyan Tercentenary', The Baptist Times (29 November 1928), p. 868; H. Henson, 'John Bunyan', The Christian World Pulpit, 114 (6 December 1928): 270-2.

35. A. Noyes, 'Bunyan—A Revaluation', The Bookman, 75 (October 1928): 13-17; Noyes, 'Rejoinder', The Bookman, 75 (November 1928): 104-106. Many of the attacks on Noyes are in The Bookman.

36. F. M. Harrison, ed., The Pilgrim's Progress (Bedford, 1938), pp. iii-iv; G. Tillotson, Essays in Criticism and Research (Cambridge, 1942).

37. A. Birrell, 'Links of Empire—Books (IX): "The Pilgrim's Progress,"' Empire Review, 47 (February 1928): 79-87.

38. C. B. Cockett, Broken Things (A Plea for Unity) (London, 1928), pp. 13-26; F. Fitt, 'John Bunyan: Social Seer', The Christian Century, 45 (1 November 1928): 1319-20.

39. J. Lindsay, John Bunyan: Maker of Myths (London, 1937).

40. H. Butcher, 'John Bunyan for Today', The Christian Century, 55 (31 August 1938): 1036-8; W. R. Inge. A Pacifist in Trouble (London, 1939), pp. 280-4; C. Hollis, 'The City of Mansoul', The Tablet, 175 (29 June 1940): 638; D. MacCarthy, 'Bunyan and the Heroic Life', The Listener, 24 (28 November 1940): 761-2.

41. D. Lamont, 'Bunyan's Holy War: A Study in Christian Experience', Theology Today, 3 (January 1947): 459-72; P. Miller, 'John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress', in Classics of Religious Devotion (Boston, 1950), pp. 67-86; A. S. Boyd, 'James Bond: Modern-Day Dragonslayer', The Christian Century, 82 (May 1965): 644-7.

42. W. Y. Tindall, John Bunyan: Mechanick Preacher (New York, 1934).

43. C. Hill, The World Turned Upside Down (New York, 1973), pp. 328-31; Hill, 'John Bunyan and the English Revolution', The John Bunyan Lectures 1978 (Bedford, 1978).

44. E. P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class (1963), pp. 31-5, 40, 50, 52, 108, 184, 194, 392, 408, 471.

45. L. L. Schücking, Die Puritanische Familie (Leipzig, 1929); S. W. Sachs, Der Typisch Puritanische Ideengehalt in Bunyan's 'Life and Death of Mr. Badman' (Zwönitz, 1936); R. B. Schlatter, The Social Ideas of Religious Leaders, 1660–1688 (London, 1940).

46. J. B. Wharey, 'Bunyan's Holy War and the Conflict-Type of Morality Play', Modern Language Notes, 34 (February 1919): 65-73.

47. C. W. Sizemore, 'Puritan Allegory and the Four Levels of Bunyan's Holy War', Christianity and Literature, 24 (Spring 1973): 20-35.

48. Lamont, Theology Today, 3: 459-72; R. L. Greaves, 'John Bunyan's "Holy War" and London Nonconformity', The Baptist Quarterly, 26 (October 1975): 158-68; Lindsay, John Bunyan; A. West, '"The Holy War" and "The Pilgrim's Progress,"' Modern Quarterly, 8 (Summer 1953): 169-82.

49. H. Talon, John Bunyan—l'Homme et l'Oeuvre (Paris and Moulins, 1948); M. Furlong, Puritan's Progress (London, 1975), p. 138; R. Sharrock, John Bunyan (London, 1968), p. 136.

50. R. Freeman, English Emblem Books (London and Toronto, 1948), pp. 2, 7, 36, 93, 99, 101, 110-11, 204-28.

51. R. Sharrock, 'Personal Vision and Puritan Tradition in Bunyan', The Hibbert Journal, 56 (1957): 47-60.

52. M. E. Harding, Journey into Self (New York, 1956).

53. The Pilgrim's Progress, ed. J. B. Wharey; rev. by R. Sharrock (Oxford, 1960), p. 8.

John R. Knott (essay date 2000)

SOURCE: Knott, John R. "Bunyan and the Cry of Blood." In Awakening Words: John Bunyan and the Language of Community, edited by David Gay, James G. Randall, and Arlette Zinck, pp. 51-67. Newark, Del.: University of Delaware, 2000.

[In the following essay, Knott discusses representations of violence in Bunyan's major works, arguing that, "I do not mean to suggest that [Bunyan] was bloodthirsty, or hypocritical in advocating patient suffering and quiet obedience, rather that one should recognize the aspects of his temperament and his religion that give rise to them."]

My point of departure is an episode from the second part of The Pilgrim's Progress that I have always found disconcerting: Mercy's encounter with three men that she sees "hanged up in irons" by the side of the way. Great-heart responds to her questions by summarizing the case against the three (Simple, Sloth, and Presumption), explaining that they formerly turned pilgrims out of the way by mocking their enterprise and giving "an evil report of the Good Land" that is the object of their pilgrimage. We see none of these activities in the first part, where Simple, Sloth, and Presumption are memorable chiefly for the sleepy complacency with which they respond to Christian's efforts to rouse them. Christiana, accepting Great-heart's indictment, regards them as bad men justly punished ("they have but what they deserve") and expresses approval of the display. When Great-heart invites the two to "go a little to the Wall" and inspect the engraved plate describing their crimes, Mercy responds with vehemence, "No no, let them hang and their Names Rot, and their Crimes live for ever against them." Mercy recoils at the thought of moving closer, but she is quick to approve the punishment. Her response mingles repulsion, fear (she has just said it is fortunate that they were hanged, since "who knows else what they might a done to such poor Women as we are"), and vigorous moral judgment. Her subsequent song, directed to the three victims, affirms her moral superiority and transforms their bodies into a warning for pilgrims:

    Now then, you three, hang there and be a Sign
    To all that shall against the Truth combine:
    And let him that comes after, fear this end,
    If unto Pilgrims he is not a Friend.
                  (PP [The Pilgrim's Progress], 214)

Mercy begins her journey as a shy, uncertain young woman and develops into the embodiment of mercy, busying herself with making clothes for the poor. When Mr. Cruelty says of Faithful at the conclusion of his trial in Vanity Fair, "Hanging is too good for him" (97), the comment at least seems in character. But Mercy's harshness ("let them hang and their Names Rot") seems startlingly out of character, here and a little later when she endorses the punishment of Mistrust and Timorous ("burned thorough the Tongue with an hot Iron, for endeavouring to hinder Christian in his Journey" [218]) by quoting Psalm 120: "what shall be done unto thee thou false Tongue? sharp Arrows of the mighty, with Coals of Juniper." In the second instance, Bunyan authorizes the punishment and Mercy's acceptance of it by the fierceness of the biblical metaphor, but the shift from the metaphoric to the literal (a hot iron burning through the tongues of malefactors) jars, as does the image of rotting bodies in irons. Mercy may avoid speaking of bodies—she would have their names (reputations) rot and would fix their significance as a sign—but readers cannot avoid the presence of these bodies at the center of the scene.

Mercy's uncharitable sentiments seem surprising, even unintentionally ironic, to a modern reader, but they reflect an uncompromising attitude toward unregenerate sinners and temptations to sin that runs through The Pilgrim's Progress. Bunyan frequently shows the presumptuous and the unwary meeting violent ends, as exemplary in their way as the criminal justice administered by some mysterious agency to a Sloth or a Timorous. In the first part, for example, Formalist and Hypocrisy quickly find themselves on dangerous ground, with one taking the way to Destruction where he meets his death in the surreal "wide field full of dark Mountains" (PP, 42); Christian and Hopeful see the bodies of those who have fallen from the Hill of Error "dashed all to pieces" (120) at the bottom; Ignorance is snatched from the gate of Heaven and thrust into Hell, prompting critics to seek explanations for what has seemed to some a gratuitous severity. Bunyan enacts a form of judgment in such cases, offering a fictional analogue to the supposed judgments of actual sinners he reports in The Life and Death of Mr. Badman. 1 The "judgments" of sinners in The Pilgrim's Progress, like the conventional ones Bunyan invokes in Mr. Badman, reflect a need to see events as providentially ordered. They offer confirmation of a divine power to punish the erring, although without removing the sense of danger and uncertainty that hangs over the way. One can easily fall into a pit and be dashed to pieces, the unhappy fate of Vain-confidence.

One can find an explanation for the violence of such judgments, whether in the form of deliberate punishments or of unexpected deaths, in the severity of the Calvinist thought Bunyan absorbed, which allows no room for mercy for the reprobate and a considerable amount for the wrath of God. Thomas Luxon has argued recently that false pilgrims are personifications of the attachment of true pilgrims such as Christian and Faithful to "worldly things and worldly thinking"; he explains the violence, interestingly, by claiming that Christian and Faithful "violently 'out' their own carnal nature and attach it to others, who must be destroyed."2 The Calvinist emphasis on relentless mortification of the flesh would support such a view, although some false pilgrims may seem more nearly projections of the weaknesses of Christian and friends than others. A problem with this view of the allegory is that it risks dissolving the social ground of Bunyan's frequently satiric vision. That is, it slights the sense in which these characters embody social types as well as tendencies to which would-be pilgrims may be subject. Bunyan's "judgments" should be seen, I think, as reflecting attitudes toward these types as well as recognition of tendencies to particular forms of sin. I would agree with Luxon in finding brutality in the treatment of Sloth, Simple, and Presumption and Mercy's reaction to it. He locates this ultimately in Bunyan's religion and suggests that "Allegorizing the world helps to make such brutality thinkable."3 The question of why one finds this kind of brutality in Bunyan's imaginative writing, if brutality is indeed the right word, deserves further exploration.

Cultural violence offers another kind of explanation. Bunyan's writings reflect a culture in which the Quaker leader James Nayler could be punished for blasphemy, by act of Parliament, by having his tongue pierced with a hot iron (he also had his forehead branded with a "B" and was whipped through London and Bristol, the site of his alleged impersonation of Christ). Heads of those convicted of treason were still displayed as a warning. In January 1661, in a notorious incident that commemorated the execution of Charles I, those of Cromwell, Bradshaw, and Ireton were exhibited on poles on top of Westminster Hall after their bodies were exhumed.4 One could find other manifestations of violence in the culture, but the interesting question, to which I will return, is why Bunyan incorporated the kinds of violence he did in his allegory. Bunyan was far from sympathetic with Nayler's views, but why would he inflict on false pilgrims (Mistrust and Timorous) a brutal punishment for blasphemy most likely to be used against Nonconformists?

I believe that the answer is to be found partly in the atmosphere of Bunyan's imaginative world, in which violence against the reprobate and the enemies of God cannot be separated readily from instances of violence that Bunyan uses to express the struggles of the soul and of the Christian community on the path to the New Jerusalem. The violent confrontations that effectively blend Bunyan's reading in chapbook romances with biblical imagery, from Christian's combat with Apollyon to Great-heart's victories over the giants of the second part, convey a sense of urgency that is fundamental to Bunyan's Christianity. All uses of the popular imagery of Christian warfare in the period suggest some degree of urgency, but Bunyan's, especially in the first part of The Pilgrim's Progress, create an atmosphere of virtually continuous crisis. Bunyan would have his readers believe that the journey is a matter of life and death, from the moment of Christian's flight from the City of Destruction, with danger and incipient violence never far away until one reaches the security and ease of Beulah, in the environs of the New Jerusalem. Even then the crossing of the river lies ahead, dangerous for those who forget the promises that sustain them, as Christian nearly does. In the world of The Pilgrim's Progress those who feel an insufficient sense of crisis, and are consequently neither anxious nor watchful, are frequently surprised by disaster. To claim a truth one does not in fact possess, or to impede others in the pursuit of truth, is to invite a violent end that suggests the damnation of the soul.

The hazards that Christian encounters reflect an anxiety about election that often takes the form of fears of destruction. I have commented elsewhere on Bunyan's habit of expressing psychic states through imagery of bodily abuse, including the spectacular physical torments inflicted upon the early Christian martyrs.5 Bunyan's fascination with the most extreme form of bodily abuse, dismemberment, suggests a dread of losing the sense of identity as a member of the elect that he continually seeks to confirm. Images of dismemberment surface when Christian's grip on this identity, and even his sanity, seems most precarious. In the Valley of the Shadow of Death Christian imagines that he will be "torn in pieces" (63) by the fiends whose noises he hears; Giant Despair's ultimate threat to Christian and Hopeful, after beating them and urging suicide, is to tell them how he tore their predecessors in pieces and how "within ten days I will do [the same] to you" (117). Such threats of annihilation suggest a paralyzing dread that would undermine the faith necessary to sustain the journey.

Bunyan's imagination was haunted by images of lions, which he could have found in popular romances but knew primarily from Scripture, where lions frequently threaten destruction and in the New Testament come to be associated with Satanic power, notably in Peter's description of the devil as a "roaring lion" walking about and "seeking whom he may destroy" (1 Peter 5:8). Bunyan uses lions to suggest the external threat of persecution, as in the case of the lions that flank the way up Hill Difficulty, but they typically suggest a threat to psychic equilibrium as well. When Timorous and Mistrust tell Christian about the lions in the path, his imagination leaps to the thought of them ranging in the night for their prey: "how should I escape being by them torn in pieces?" (45). Christian manages to control this potentially disabling dread, barely, encouraged by Watchful's assurance that the lions are chained, and thus survives what Bunyan presents as a trial of faith. Bunyan's lions take on some of the resonance they have for the psalmist, who prays for deliverance from his persecutors, "lest he tear my soul like a lion, rending it to pieces" (Ps. 7:2). The threat to the body becomes a threat to the soul, and to Christian's sense of identity as a pilgrim. Apollyon the destroyer, with his lion's mouth, suggests both the pride Christian must master if he is to get through the Valley of Humiliation and a demonic power that challenges the truth and authority of God and threatens Christian's whole being. The superior power of the Scripture he remembers in the nick of time enables him to survive this particular trial of faith, of course, and Christian can emerge from his death struggle to give thanks "to him that hath delivered me out of mouth of the Lion" (60), in words that echo Paul's upon his (temporary) escape from Nero's persecution in Rome (2 Tim. 4:17).

I dwell on this fear of being devoured, or torn to pieces, because it seems to me related to the violence Bunyan shows visited upon sinners and, especially, upon persecutors of the godly.6 In reading Bunyan's imaginative works one gets the sense of entering a world in which violent forces are in play, representing divine as well as demonic power. The violence of these forces, which Christian must somehow understand and survive, has the effect of establishing the intensity of his spiritual life and the urgency of the crises in which he finds himself. His initial flight is precipitated by a vision of collective destruction ("This our City will be burned with fire from Heaven" [8]), and he quickly finds himself personally threatened by the terrors of the law in the form of a lowering hill flashing fire. The wrath of God hovers over The Pilgrim's Progress, although once Christian has passed through the wicket gate and committed himself to the way he finds himself dealing with other kinds of forces in the threats presented by Apollyon and the Valley of the Shadow of Death and by the hostility of society toward pilgrims in Vanity Fair. Confronting and mastering the terrors such experiences arouse, by drawing strength from the sustaining power of God's Word, becomes a necessary part of the process of establishing his identity as a member of the elect. The violence or threatened violence that he must contend with in these trials of faith confirms him in his role of Christian soldier. Bunyan would have seen this process as analogous to that by which the violence directed at the early martyrs ("thrown to the wild Beasts, burned at the Stakes … and a thousand other fearful Torments" [MW (The Miscellaneous Works of John Bunyan), 5: 167]) strengthened their faith and enabled them to triumph spiritually over their persecutors. If Christian is a soldier who stumbles in the first part of The Pilgrim's Progress, he becomes more clearly heroic when seen from the distancing perspective of the second part. Greatheart tells the story of Christian and Faithful standing "undaunted" before the judge of Vanity Fair, "a couple of Lyon-like Men" who "set their Faces like Flint" (272).

To call Christian "Lyon-like" is to invest him with a boldness and power that derive from faith and from the confidence in divine support that faith engenders. Those not so bold or persevering as Christian and his godly companions are more obviously exposed to the wrath of God. One way to see the fate of such characters as Sloth and Timorous is as a manifestation of this wrath, although in these cases judgment takes the form of punishment that would have been recognizable to Bunyan's contemporary audience. It was important to establish the force of this wrath, to show it as the dominant power in the imaginative world of The Pilgrim's Progress and to see it as vindicating the perseverance of the faithful. The satisfaction that Bunyan's pilgrims often take in the judgments of those who lack their vision or who actively oppose them suggests a need to see the evidence of this power displacing that of the state in a world in which they can believe.

Bunyan gave divine wrath a more explicit and powerful role in The Holy War, written at a time of intensified pressure on Nonconformists.7 In their initial conquest of the lapsed Mansoul the captains of Shaddai display a remarkable ferocity. Judgment speaks in the language of Isaiah (66:15) in an effort to arouse terror in the besieged inhabitants: "He hath prepared his Throne for Judgment; for he will come with fire, and with his Chariots like a whirl-wind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebukes with flames of fire" (HW [The Holy War], 46). Execution, following him, invokes a homelier and more immediately threatening New Testament metaphor from Matthew (3:10): "Behold the Ax is laid to the root of the Trees, every Tree therefore that bringeth not forth good fruit, is hewen down and cast into the fire" (46). When Boanerges and Conviction take possession of Mansoul in the name of Emanuel, after a slaughter that Bunyan represents in graphic terms (Conviction splits Secure's head open with a two-handed sword), we are told that "their faces were the faces of Lions, and their words like the roaring of the Sea" (93). Bunyan draws here upon Old Testament passages representing God as a lion in his wrath8 to heighten the ferocity of the captains and to suggest that they embody a power superior to that of Diabolus, described earlier as roaring upon Mansoul "as a Lyon upon the prey" (11).

In the posture of these captains, and in the insistence of the victorious Emanuel upon complete submission by the inhabitants of Mansoul, Bunyan offers an allegorical version of the process of salvation that places heavy stress upon the wrath and threatened judgment of God and the impotence of the sinner before God. I would agree with Stuart Sim that these scenes embody a severity and intolerance that reflects Bunyan's Calvinism, and a suggestion of revenge in Emanuel's treatment of the conquered Diabolus, chained to the wheels of the chariot in which Emanuel rides in triumph through Mansoul.9 Bunyan conveys a mood of "terrour and dread," in the words of his captains, using images of violence and impending violence to suggest the scope of the wrath of God directed against the resisting sinner. Yet one should distinguish between the majority of the inhabitants of Mansoul, granted mercy when they finally do submit, and the unrepentant and unpardoned Diabolus and his followers.

Diabolus, represented as a tyrant in his governance of Mansoul, constitutes one version of a figure that assumes a large importance in Bunyan's writings, the persecutor or enemy of the godly. Persecutors in Bunyan's work, as in the tradition of Christian martyrdom that he absorbed from the Bible and from John Foxe's Acts and Monuments, typically rage against the godly out of an apparent hatred of their claims to truth and goodness and the potential for subversion of custom and established authority that these claims represent. We see an instance of this rage in the attitudes of judge and jury in the trial of Christian and Faithful in Vanity Fair and the ferocity of the punishments inflicted upon the body of Faithful. Christian escapes, we are informed, because "he that over-rules all things, having the power of their rage in his own hand, so wrought it" (PP, 97), but we get no promise or foreshadowing of God's punishment of persecutors here, only an affirmation of Faithful's spiritual triumph in his translation to heaven and in Christian's memorializing song. The thrust of the episode is to show that Christians must be prepared to suffer persecution, and to resist even "unto blood" as Evangelist warns they should be. The balance of power appears to shift in the second part, in Great-heart's decisive victories over the giants, whose prominent role reflects the renewed persecution of Nonconformists and elevated fears of Catholicism at the time Bunyan wrote. As critics have noted, Greatheart's heroism is a measure of Bunyan's increased sense of the importance and effectiveness of the Nonconformist pastor, especially in offering spiritual guidance to the weaker members of the church, but it also suggests a need to represent the vengeance of God against the enemies of the church.

Great-heart's interventions, against a series of enemies who threaten or impede pilgrims (Grim with his lions, Maul, Slay-good, the monster in the woods outside Vanity Fair), can be read allegorically as a deliverance from fear, chiefly of persecution, whether this is local persecution under the penal laws used against Nonconformists or the broader persecution represented by the history of the Catholic Church as this was understood by Protestants. These deliverances reinforce the emphasis on assurance that characterizes the second part. Yet the violence and bloodiness of the victories also suggest a delight in the prospect of vengeance for the oppression of the true church. Great-heart is a vehicle for the wrath of God, which Bunyan believed would overwhelm the rage of persecutors so prominent in the history of the true church. When Great-heart tells Slay-good that he has come "to revenge the Blood of Pilgrims" (209) and then displays his head as a "Terror" to those tempted to imitate him, he enacts a kind of decisive justice that Bunyan could not reasonably expect to see in this life. By rendering it allegorically, he could indulge in a form of prophecy, or perhaps wish fulfillment, that would have been assuring to his readers. Such readers could exult in these bloody victories over evil in God's name, as they presumably did in reading about the violent conquests of St. George and other heroes of faith in The Seven Champions of Christendom.

Most critics would agree that Bunyan preferred what he called "patient enduring" to any kind of action against the state ("Keep company with holy, and quiet, and peaceable men" [MW, 10: 78, 79]) and distanced himself from those who advocated violent resistance. In his unfinished Exposition on the Ten First Chapters of Genesis he views persecutors as the "brood of Cain" and predicts that they will be punished, but, as W. R. Owens has noted, insists that vengeance be left to God (MW, 12: xlv-xlvii). In Seasonable Counsel in particular Bunyan argues that Christians should bear suffering with patience and understand that it is sent for the trial and strengthening of their faith, developing what Richard Greaves has characterized as an ethic of suffering.10 I have argued elsewhere for the pervasiveness of Bunyan's use of the language and the attitudes associated with Protestant martyrdom as a way of dramatizing the ideal of Christian suffering. I want to argue here, however, for more attention to what could be regarded as the other side of Bunyan's advocacy of suffering: a confidence, even exultation, in a divine justice that will ensure that those who inflict the suffering will be punished.

Bunyan could urge his readers to "suffer with Abel, until your Righteous Blood be spilt," patiently enduring the violence of "wicked and blood-thirsty Men," because he was confident that "our Blood will cry from the ground against them" (MW, 12: 173, 172). He tended to associate various kinds of suffering with martyrdom, as a means of dramatizing and giving greater significance to this suffering, and would have seen the powerful cry of Abel's innocent blood as anticipating that of Christian martyrs "slain for the word of God," shown in Revelation 6:9-10 as crying with a "loud voice" from under the altar: "How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?" In his commentary on Genesis Bunyan offers repeated assurances that the cry of blood will be answered:

O the Cries of Blood are strong cries … that never cease to make a noise, untill they have procured Vengeance from the hands of the Lord of Sabbath.


The Voice of Blood is a very killing voice, and will one day speak with such Thunder and terror in the Consciences of all the brood of Cain, that their pain and burthen will be for ever unsupportable.


The notion of a "killing voice" speaking with thunder invests the persecuted with a sense of agency, as if this voice not only calls forth the vengeance but itself embodies the power of divine wrath to terrify and punish.11 At the same time that Bunyan counsels suffering patiently, and leaving acts of vengeance to God, he takes satisfaction in the prospect that the violence historically inflicted upon the followers of the true church will be redirected against persecutors. If he needed to imagine violence against himself to establish the urgency and intensity of his spiritual struggle, he also needed to believe that violence would be returned upon the heads of persecutors, in a validation of God's authority and power.

In his commentary on Genesis Bunyan displaces the violence to be suffered by persecutors to an indefinite future, "one day," and he typically expresses it by invoking the apocalyptic imagery of Scripture, notably in the posthumous Of Antichrist, and His Ruine. Like so many Protestants, he found in Old Testament prophecies of "the day of the Lord's vengeance" and in Revelation the destruction of Rome and of all persecutors of the true church, although unlike some he avoided fixing dates for the return of Christ or working out scriptural keys to historical events.12 By counseling obedience to kings and representing them as the agents of the destruction of Antichrist, Bunyan made it clear that Christians should trust to God and not seek their own means of deliverance from affliction. Yet it is significant that Bunyan could counsel political moderation, and dwell on the necessary trials of the suffering church, while enthusiastically embracing biblical language showing the wrath of God unleashed against Antichrist. Thus he can anticipate the destruction of the ordinances of Antichrist, including civil laws under which Nonconformists suffer in England, by "the Spirit of his Mouth, and the Brightness of his Coming," drawing upon the resonant language of 2 Thessalonians (7-8). Or invoke Old Testament representations of divine wrath to suggest the character of God's revenge: "I will make mine arrows drunk with blood, and my sword shall devour flesh" (Deut. 32:42; MW, 13: 43, 453). Of Antichrist, in particular, reveals Bunyan's strong attraction to this scriptural rhetoric of violence.

Bunyan was not unique, certainly, in his ability to reconcile a Pauline theology of suffering with prophecies of divine vengeance. The New Testament provided a model, and various kinds of Protestant writing, from Foxe's martyrology to commentaries on Revelation, offered more immediate examples. What seems more remarkable is the way Bunyan incorporates violence against evil in his imaginative works while embracing the ideal of patient suffering. One should recognize that such suffering does not have to be passive or wholly submissive. Faithful can accept the role of martyr and yet give aggressive testimony of God's truth before an abusive judge, defying the authority that empowers him. Even less obviously combative stances such as the one Bunyan reports adopting in A Relation of My Imprisonment embody a form of aggression. In declaring his willingness to "lie down and to suffer what they shall do unto me" (GA [Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners], 125), Bunyan chose to give his testimony by remaining in prison, thereby challenging the civil authority under which he was held and providing an example of resistance to those who might be tempted to conform. By adopting a posture of readiness to suffer for a superior truth, that the Pauline injunction to go forth and preach the gospel should take precedence over a law restricting preaching, he was boldly claiming the spiritual high ground. One can see a more subtle kind of defiance in William Penn's parting remarks to the court after being sentenced to Newgate for speaking at an illegal gathering: "I scorn that Religion that is not worth Suffering for…. Thy Religion persecutes, and mine forgives: and I desire my God to forgive all you that are concerned with my commitment, and I leave you all in perfect Charity, wishing your everlasting salvation."13 One could call this aggressive forgiveness. Penn opposes the stance of Christ, which he imitates here, to that of a judge determined to stamp out conventicles, as a way of asserting that God's truth cannot be defeated by secular power. Faithful, the Bunyan of A Relation, and Penn all practice a kind of bold speaking, authorized by the example of the apostles before their accusers, that has the effect of opposing one kind of power to another, an assumed spiritual power to the visible authority of law and the courts.

Such examples illustrate the inherent tension between an ideal of testifying to the truth before a hostile audience and an ethic of suffering that enjoins one to "take thy affliction with meekness and patience," as Bunyan urges in Seasonable Counsel (MW, 10: 97). This tension is particularly apparent in the case of Faithful, whose last reported words are a denunciation of the ruling class of Vanity Fair as "more fit for a being in Hell, then in this Town and Countrey" (95). It is much less apparent in a work of practical divinity such as Seasonable Counsel, in which Bunyan was concerned to advise his readers how to suffer in a period of intensified persecution and to assure them that they could endure. The "holy boldness" he advocates there is a boldness in facing suffering and trusting God. The way "to imbolden thy face against the faces of thine enemies," he advises, is to be willing to accept any amount of suffering; one can thus assure a "quiet conscience" and provoke God to "appear for thy rescue, or to revenge thy blood when thou art gone" (MW, 10: 98). One of Bunyan's emphases in Seasonable Counsel is on the need to avoid a desire for revenge. Revenge is "of the flesh"; it proceeds from the "gross motions of an angry mind" (MW, 10: 100, 101). The implication here, as in Bunyan's commentary on Genesis, is that vengeance should be left to God.

Yet in the imaginative works Bunyan often seems to appropriate vengeance to himself, as narrator, acting on behalf of a justice we are encouraged to read as divine. In the cases of Sloth and Timorous, to which Mercy reacts so vigorously, we see the punishments but not the agency by which they are administered. And, interestingly, such justice as Sloth and Timorous and their companions receive takes the form of punishments that mimic those of a judicial system whose victims were frequently Nonconformists in the period in which Bunyan wrote. It is as though Bunyan appropriated the machinery of a system he would have seen as repressive in many of its workings to show, not without irony, how it would be replaced by the superior justice of God. I want to conclude by examining another episode that resembles the one with which I began, in the sense that it offers an instance of violence being turned against the wicked, in this case against those who could be considered persecutors or enemies of God on one allegorical level. This is the trial, actually two trials, of the Diabolonians in The Holy War.

In the trial scenes of The Holy War, as in the trial of Christian and Faithful in Vanity Fair, Bunyan showed himself a master of the kind of allegorical trial popularized by such writers as Richard Bernard (in The Isle of Man) and Richard Overton (in The Araignement of Mr. Persecution).14 Something interesting happens, however, when we move from the trial in Vanity Fair, in which Bunyan exposes the ruthless-ness with which the machinery of justice was used against Restoration Nonconformists and associates this with the callousness of the ruling class (Lord Hategood the judge, and such jurors as Lord Lechery and Sir Having-Greedy), to the trials of the ungodly in The Holy War. While there are crucial differences (False-peace tries to deny his identity while Faithful frankly declares his and defies the court), the judge and jury in Mansoul are similarly relentless, now in the name of truth and righteousness. The outcome, execution, is similarly foreordained and in The Holy War takes the shocking form of crucifixion. The editors of the excellent Oxford edition of The Holy War, James Forrest and Roger Sharrock, call this a flaw and see Bunyan as betrayed by his trust in the language of the Bible, in this case the Pauline metaphor of crucifying the flesh.15 Perhaps Bunyan did miscalculate the effect of literalizing the biblical metaphor, yet the mood of The Holy War, not only in the trial scenes but in others in which the Diabolonians suffer violence, suggests that this effect is not wholly accidental. Bunyan shows an unmistakable gusto, even rough humor, in rendering the punishments and setbacks of the Diabolonians. When he describes the mutiny against the rule of Diabolus led by Understanding and Conscience, which leads to what amounts to a street brawl, he relishes the damage inflicted by the rebels: "Nor did the other side wholly escape, for there was one Mr. Rashhead, a Diabolonian, that had his brains beat out by Mr. Mind, the Lord Willbewills servant; and it made me laugh to see how old Mr. Prejudice was kickt and tumbled about in the dirt" (HW, 61). Mr. Prejudice escapes this time with "his crown soundly crackt," but later we see him "cut down to the ground" by Captain Execution in what Bunyan describes as the "very great slaughter" that accompanies the conquest of Mansoul by Diabolus (89).

The most furious and malignant of the Diabolonians are the Bloodmen ("They must have blood, the blood of Mansoul, else they die" [230]), led by captains whose names suggest the history of persecution (they include Cain, Nimrod, and Pope). By showing captains Credence and Patience put in charge of the defense against the Bloodmen, Bunyan suggests that the best resistance to persecution is to practice the faith and patient endurance associated with martyrdom. One might expect that Bunyan would show the destroyers destroyed, in the spirit of representing divine vengeance, but Emanuel stops the killing by commanding that they be taken alive and the worst of them bound over for the day of Judgment, "the great and general Assizes" (234). The implication is that the only sufficient punishment is the ultimate one, eternal torment in hell. Overton had reserved a similar punishment for Mr. Persecution and his defenders, sentenced to be held in dungeons for the "great Assises" where they will be arraigned before the King of Kings. The spirit of vengeance that informs Overton's allegorical trial, in his case directed against the Presbyterians, resembles what one finds in The Holy War. In Overton's tract Persecution is charged with guilt for almost "all the blood of the whole earth from the blood of righteous Abell unto the blood of these present times." The judge tells his advocate, Sir Symon Synod, that "here's no place of mercy for thee, the Vengeance of God cannot be dispensed with, thou art not in the High Commission, nor before the Assembly."16 Foxe's Marian martyrs had responded to condemnation by predicting that their examiners would someday stand before a greater judge. Overton, and Bunyan four decades later, claimed the writer's privilege of trying their enemies in print, with an obvious delight in showing them stripped of power and subjected to an inexorable process of judgment.

In The Holy War the jurors of the liberated Mansoul recall those of Vanity Fair in their vehemence, although these pronounce their verdicts in the name of truth. At the end of the first trial Zeal for God declares "Cut them off, they have been the plague, and have sought the destruction of Mansoul" (132). The same jurors condemn the Doubters (Election-doubter, Vocation-doubter, and the rest) in the second trial, like the first presented as a trial for treason that culminates in crucifixion for the accused. The vindictive spirit of the trials extends to the hunting down and hanging of Diabolonians still lurking in the town. Clip-promise, "a notorious villain," is made a public example by being "arraigned and judged to be first set in the Pillory, then to be whipt by all the children and servants in Mansoul, and then to be hanged till he was dead" (243). The narrative voice interrupts, in an unusual intrusion, to acknowledge that "Some may wonder at the severity of this mans punishment" and then to insist that because of the great abuse Clippromise is capable of "all those of his name and life should be served even as he" (243). The felt need to justify such harshness suggests that Bunyan was aware of its apparent excess. He makes a similar gesture of recognizing and dismissing potential criticism in a scene that follows, in which Self-love is taken from custody and "brained" by soldiers of Self-denial. Bunyan tells us that there was some muttering over this action, which amounts to what we would call a lynching, but that Emanuel makes Self-denial "a Lord in Mansoul" for his brave act (HW, 244). Bunyan seems to defy norms of conventional justice here, as though to demonstrate that God's justice overrides them.

One early critic defended Bunyan by insisting that he was "portraying only the struggles of an elect soul against religious errors and fleshly lusts" in the trial scenes of The Holy War, 17 but if this is the most obvious dimension of the allegory it is not the only one. The accused function in the narrative as enemies of God and of the godly community of the elect (in Bunyan's England and in the history of the true church) as well as participants in a psychodrama. The links that Bunyan established between these trials and that of Christian and Faithful reinforce their status as social drama. In The Holy War he delighted in showing the tables turned, with persecutors forced to experience a version of their own justice.18 Now the Diabolonians are described as "outlandish men," as Christian and Faithful were in Vanity Fair. The aristocracy and gentry become the accused rather than the accusers. The hapless attempt of Mr. Lustings to pull rank in the dock, "I am a man of high birth, and have been used to pleasures and pastimes of greatness" (121), suggests the irony of the reversal. By introducing an informer (Diligence) telling how he spied upon a "Diabolonian Conventicle," Bunyan uses his satiric gifts to turn a favorite tactic against the oppressors.19 Election-doubter's surprising declaration, "If I must die for my Religion … I shall die a Martyr" (240), shows him attempting to claim a spiritual victory in the manner of Faithful, but Bunyan presents his stand as a travesty of Faithful's. Election-doubter is a false martyr, condemned by the judge for overthrowing "a great Doctrine of the Gospel" and thus belying the Word.

Christopher Hill, clearly troubled by the violence unleashed in the name of God in The Holy War (he observes that Emanuel and Diabolus adopt the same policies, including purges and terror), wonders whether the trial scenes imply that Bunyan endorsed the use of espionage and death sentences against unbelievers in the godly society.20 I think it more likely that he was indulging a fantasy of a world turned upside down, in which Nonconformists would no longer seem "outlandish" and in which the godly would sit in the place of a Judge Jeffreys or a Justice Kelyng and enact a justice consistent with their understanding of the Word. The trial scenes, along with others representing the punishment of the Diabolonians, show Bunyan's knack for exploiting the ironies of such a reversal. Yet his willingness to invoke violence in the name of God, in scenes that because of their lively realism have a capacity to shock that Bernard's woodenly allegorical ones do not, suggests a desire for a more immediate kind of vengeance than that promised Christian and Hopeful by the Shining Ones: "when he shall sit upon the Throne of Judgment…. you shall also have a voice in that Judgment, because they were his and your enemies" (160). Perhaps Bunyan could embody a desire for vengeance in The Holy War because he knew there was no chance of seeing it realized.

In focusing on some of Bunyan's more violent imaginings I do not mean to suggest that he was bloodthirsty, or hypocritical in advocating patient suffering and quiet obedience, rather that one should recognize the aspects of his temperament and his religion that give rise to them. Violent assaults of anxiety, or doubt, or temptation prompt violent reactions, expressed allegorically in "judgments" of characters associated with particular threats to spiritual equilibrium. The very violence of the reactions suggests the difficulty of mastering doubt and a tendency to sin. Yet Bunyan was also preoccupied with violence directed against those who suffer for truth's sake, violence seen as the external expression of demonic power, and he often blurs the line between psychological and social orders of being. Whether represented by a heresy trial (as in Vanity Fair) or by giants or by the armies of Diabolus, such external violence calls forth representations of divine vengeance against the enemies of the godly and the demonic force they are seen as embodying. While Bunyan was not as fierce in his expectations of vengeance as some (George Fox, for example, and early Quaker writers who saw themselves as caught up in the Lamb's War which they expected would transform England), he could look back with genuine yearning to the heroic period of the Marian persecution as a time when, as he put it, "Coals of burning Fire still dropped here and there upon the Heads of those that hated God" (MW, 13: 427). In his imaginative works he found a variety of ways of anticipating God's response to the "Voice of Blood," which I believe he would have understood as the voice of suffering Christians generally and not just that of those who literally died for their faith. Perhaps his symbolic punishments of those he saw as hating God and persecuting true Christians (Lord Hategood, Giant Grim, Mr. Pityless, and the rest) should be seen as an effort to take divine justice out of the realm of apocalyptic prophecy and make it seem more immediate and credible to an audience unusually vulnerable to a sense of powerlessness; at the same time, he addresses the uncertainties that gnawed at faith by creating an imaginative world where coals of fire still fell from heaven.


1. A Mirrour or Looking Glass for Both Saints and Sinners (1671). See Badman, xix-xxvi, for a discussion of the popular tradition of judgment stories.

2. Thomas H. Luxon, Literal Figures: Puritan Allegory and the Reformation Crisis in Representation (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995), 171, 181, 176-78.

3. Luxon, Literal Figures, 200.

4. Michael Lieb discusses this episode and also the mutilation and execution of the regicides. See Milton and the Culture of Violence (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1994), 76-79.

5. See John R. Knott, Discourses of Martyrdom in English Literature, 1563–1694 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), chap. 6. An article by Sid Sondergard that appeared at about the same time focuses on Bunyan's use of imagery of violence to express suffering, particularly that of prison experience, and to authenticate his own spiritual authority as well as demonstrate the need for Christian fortitude. See "'This Giant Has Wounded Me as Well as Thee': Reading Bunyan's Violence and/as Authority," in The Witness of Time, ed. Katherine Z. Keller and Gerald J. Schiffhorst (Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 1993), 218-37.

6. I am indebted to Michael Lieb's discussion of Milton's images of sparagmos (e.g., the dismemberment of Orpheus), which he reads as embodying Milton's fears about his poetic identity. See Milton and the Culture of Violence, passim. Bunyan's fears have to do primarily with his identity as one of the elect.

7. James Forrest and Roger Sharrock discuss the government campaign to impose new charters upon towns, which generated a sense of crisis, in the introduction to their edition. See HW, xx-xxv.

8. See, for example, Lam. 3:10; Hos. 5:14, 13:7-8; Amos 3:8.

9. See Stuart Sim, Negotiations with Paradox: Narrative Practice and Narrative Form in Bunyan and Defoe (London: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1990), 100-101. Sim's general emphasis is on the consequences of predestination and, in his reading of The Holy War, on the way Bunyan avoids resolution by leaving Diabolus and some of his followers at large.

10. Richard Greaves, John Bunyan and English Nonconformity (London: Hambledon Press, 1993), chap. 10.

11. Cf. Bunyan on the victims of persecution in "Prison Meditations": "They conquer when they thus do fall, / They kill when they do dye" (MW, 6: 50).

12. See W. R. Owens, introduction to MW, 13: xxvi-xxvii. See also Aileen M. Ross, "Paradise Regained: The Development of John Bunyan's Millenarianism," Bunyan in England and Abroad: Papers Delivered at the John Bunyan Tercentenary Symposium (Amsterdam, 1988), ed. M. van Os and G. J. Schutte (Amsterdam: Vrije University Press, 1990), 73-89.

13. A Collection of the Sufferings of the People Called Quakers, ed. Joseph Besse, 2 vols. (London, 1753), 1: 435.

14. Roger Sharrock relates Bunyan's trial scenes to the personification of virtues and vices in sermons and moralities and compares his use of false naming to instances in Bernard and Overton. See "The Trial of Vices in Puritan Fiction," Baptist Quarterly 14 (1951): 3-12.

15. HW, xxxvii. The editors cite Gal. 5:24: "And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts." See also Rom. 6:6, Gal. 6:14. Bunyan had a precedent of sorts in the sentence of Old-man in Bernard's The Isle of Man, condemned to be taken to the place of execution and there "be cast off with all thy deeds, and all thy members daily mortified and crucified with all thy lusts," although Bernard's allegory is so insistent that it is difficult to imagine a literal crucifixion. The Isle of Man, 14th ed. (London, 1668), 95.

16. Richard Overton, The Araignement of Mr. Persecution (London, 1645), 6, 40.

17. Clarence Eugene Dugdale, "Bunyan's Court Scenes," [Texas] Studies in English 5 (1941): 64-78.

18. Dugdale claims that only the Bloodmen, associated with the history of persecution, can be identified with human enemies (the Doubters are for him "abstract enemies of the soul") and notes that Emanuel's captains are charged to capture and not kill them. "Bunyan's Court Scenes," 77.

19. Christopher Hill sees the speech of Diligence as a witty parody of the manner of informers in testifying against Nonconformists. See A Tinker and a Poor Man: John Bunyan and His Church, 1628–1688 (New York: Knopf, 1989), 248.

20. Hill, A Tinker and a Poor Man, 249.



Frank Mott Harrison (essay date 1942)

SOURCE: Harrison, Frank Mott. "Editions of The Pilgrim's Progress." Library 22 (1942): 73-81.

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David E. Smith (essay date 1966)

SOURCE: Smith, David E. "Chapter Two." In John Bunyan in America, pp. 19-44. Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University, 1966.

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Margaret Olofson Thickstun (essay date summer 1986)

SOURCE: Thickstun, Margaret Olofson. "From Christiana to Stand-fast: Subsuming the Feminine in The Pilgrim's Progress." Studies in English Literature, 1500–1900 26, no. 3 (summer 1986): 439-53.

[In the following essay, Thickstun examines gender roles and issues of male/female identity in The Pilgrim's Progress.]

By night on my bed I sought him whom my soul loveth; I sought him, but I found him not.

I will rise now, and go about the city, and in the broad ways I will seek him whom my soul loveth.

                        Song of Solomon 3:1-2 (KJV)

John Bunyan published the story of Christiana's pilgrimage, the second part of The Pilgrim's Progress, in 1684, six years after his account of her husband Christian's journey toward salvation. Within the framing device of the dream-vision, which presents the dream as a text to be interpreted, both parts describe that journey literally: each pilgrim leaves the City of Destruction and proceeds on foot toward the Celestial City, but while Christiana also enters at the wicket gate, following the way that Christian travelled before her, her experience of the journey differs radically from his. Christian fled the City of Destruction suddenly and alone; Christiana finds time to pack before she sets out with her four sons and her neighbor Mercy. Her pace is far more relaxed: the course that Christian felt compelled to run in a few brutal days takes Christiana and her family many years. Unlike Christian, who travels through a lonely, confusing, and hostile landscape, Christiana and her family secure Mr. Greatheart to guide and instruct them, are welcomed into several Christian communities with which Christian has no contact, and find themselves in an ever-increasing company of fellow-believers. In the second part of The Pilgrim's Progress, Bunyan's interest shifts from the desperate flight of the sinner to the more leisurely progress of the church-fellowship,1 from the individual to the family, from the male to the female.

Recent discussion of The Pilgrim's Progress, beginning with U. Milo Kaufmann's "The Pilgrim's Progress" and Traditions in Puritan Meditation, has focused on the rhetoric of progress. Kaufmann exposes a critical tension between the sudden completeness of a Christian's divinely-accomplished salvation and the narrative unfolding of his "progress" toward it.2 Stanley Fish suggests that the spiritual content of the allegory purposefully undercuts the "illusion of a progress" created by the narrative.3 Fish discovers in the narrative itself a cyclic repetition of the Christian's static spiritual inadequacy that repeatedly invalidates the individual's sinful confidence in "the metaphor of the journey,"4 in the efficacy of his own efforts. Countering Fish, John Knott identifies "a progression through stages of spiritual life" in which the Christian, growing in grace and faith, learns that "the claims of the way and those of the world are mutually exclusive."5 Knott places Part 2 of The Pilgrim's Progress within the context of this discussion, arguing that "Christiana follows the same way that Christian does, though her temptations differ in degree from his, because Bunyan believed that patterns could be found in Puritan spiritual life."6 But while Christiana's journey conforms to the pattern of spiritual progress established in Part 1, her experience of the Way differs in kind as well as in degree from Christian's because Christiana is not, like her husband, a representative believer, but a representative female believer.

Christiana's sex determines both the nature of her journey toward salvation and the quality of her response to her call, her struggles, and her later effacement in her role as "a mother in Israel." In Part 1, Bunyan expresses Christian's relationship to God as that of subject to King, his virtue as loyalty, and his sin as treason: Christian challenges the fiend Apollyon, saying, "I have given him [God] my faith, and sworn my allegiance to him; how then can I go back from this, and not be hanged as a traitor?"7 Bunyan reconceives this metaphor before applying it to Christiana, displacing it from the political to the domestic sphere. He presents Christiana's relationship to God as that of Bride to Bridegroom, modelling her journey on the searchings of the Bride in The Song of Solomon. In developing this relationship, he represents female virtue as chastity, a chastity within marriage,8 and female sin as sexual misconduct, taking the forms of adultery, promiscuity, prostitution, and even being raped. But unlike the Bride, who remains admirable despite her wanderings and "undefiled" even though she has been attacked by watchmen who "took away my veil from me" (Song of Sol. 5:7), Christiana's encounter with "two very ill-favoured ones" radically alters her experience of the way and prevents her from retaining her role as ecclesia and Bride. She becomes simply "a Mother in Israel," a female believer within the church, because Bunyan's belief in the spiritual inferiority of women makes it impossible for him to assign to a female character positive allegorical significance.

Bunyan's understanding of female insufficiency derives from Puritan doctrine, which in turn derives from the Pauline declaration that "the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church" (Eph. 5:23). William Gouge, in his treatise Of Domesticall Duties (1622), explains that "a familie is a little Church" and identifies "the end why an husband is appointed to be the head of his wife, namely that by his provident care he may be as a saviour to her."9 In Of Christian Behaviour, Bunyan clarifies this point, writing that "when husbands behave themselves like husbands indeed, then will they be not only husbands, but such an ordinance of God to the wife, as will preach to her the carriage of Christ to his spouse."10 Christiana's spiritual security can only be assured within the context of her marriage to Christian or, now that he is dead, within a congregation supervised by men. As a second-class believer, she cannot adequately represent universal Christian experience.

From the beginning of her pilgrimage, Christiana's wifehood mediates and defines her relationship to God. The first workings of Grace in her soul manifest themselves as loneliness and guilt over the loss of her husband, whereas Christian discovers his sinfulness while reading a book that warns him to "Fly from the wrath to come" (p. 41): he abandons his wife and children, stopping his ears against their cries. Christiana blames her spiritual crisis on "all her unkind, unnatural, and ungodly carriages to her dear friend," crying to her children, "Sons, we are all undone. I have sinned away your father" (p. 223). Christiana's response conforms to Puritan conflations of a woman's marital and spiritual responsibilities. As Bunyan's contemporary Benjamin Wadsworth writes, a wife who behaves badly toward her husband "not only affronts her husband, but also God her Maker, Lawgiver and Judge, by this her wicked behaviour. The indissoluable Authority, the plain Command of the Great God, requires Husbands and Wives, to have and manifest very great affection, love and kindness to one another."11 John Milton defines "fornication," or the violation of the marriage bond, as "not so much adultery, as the constant enmity, faithlessness, and disobedience of the wife, arising from the manifest and palpable alienation of the mind, rather than of the body."12 Just as Milton's Eve confesses after her fall that "both have sinn'd, but thou / Against God only, I against God and thee,"13 Christiana recognizes that her domestic failings jeopardize her salvation.

Bunyan presents Christiana's conviction of sin in terms of her role as estranged wife. It begins when she dreams a dream in which "the times, as she thought, looked very black upon her" (p. 224); two "very ill-favoured" men discuss preventing her pilgrimage; and her husband appears in "a place of bliss among many immortals" (p. 224), a place which seems inaccessible to her. The next morning, Christiana receives a messenger to whom she responds as a woman would to a messenger from her lover; she "blushed and trembled, also her heart began to wax warm with desires to know whence he came, and what was his errand to her" (p. 225). The messenger does come from Christiana's lover, or, more correctly, from her lovers. He brings a perfumed letter from her husband's king, who asks her to "do as did Christian her husband; for that was the way to come to his City, and to dwell in his presence with joy forever" (p. 225). Just as Bunyan defines Christiana's sin in terms of her duty to her husband, blaming her for "the evil thou hast formerly done to thy husband in hardening of thy heart against his [her husband's] way" (p. 225), he presents her future happiness as a reunion with Christian. Christiana encourages her children to "pack up, and be gone to the Gate that leads to the Celestial Country, that we may see your father and be with him and his companions in peace" (p. 226). For Christian, as Stanley Fish notes, "the claims of 'Eternal Life' are made at the expense of this life—its pleasures, its values, its loyalties."14 But Christiana's spiritual crisis initiates a journey toward completion in fellowship. She conflates her union with God with her reunion with Christian, for her husband, as the head of their spiritual body, acts as God's representative to her.

Mercy's relationship to God mirrors Christiana's as an engagement mirrors a marriage. Mercy is both New Testament virgin and Old Testament handmaiden. She identifies her fears at being left outside the gate in the terms of the parables of election: "Now thought I, 'tis fulfilled which is written, Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left" (p. 238). The Interpreter compares her to Ruth, "who did for the love that she bore to Naomi, and to the Lord her God, leave father and mother, and the land of her nativity to come out and go with a people that she knew not heretofore" (p. 255). Bunyan does not explicitly press the typological possibilities of the Ruth/Boaz story, but he works into his portrait of Mercy a remarkable number of parallels to it, details which reveal the inevitability of his categorizing spiritual experience by gender. Like Ruth, Mercy follows a widowed older woman on her journey to her homeland out of love for her. Like Ruth, who asks "Why have I found grace in thine eyes, that thou shouldest take knowledge of me, seeing I am a stranger?" (Ruth 2:10), Mercy fears Christ's rejection because "I am come, for that unto which I was never invited" (p. 236). Like Ruth, who asks Boaz for permission to glean in his fields and later for his protection in marriage, Mercy desires that "if there is any grace and forgiveness of sins to spare, I beseech that I thy poor handmaid may be partaker thereof" (p. 237). Both young women are accepted for their virtuous devotion; their marriages, arranged by their mothers-in-law, insure the continuance of God's chosen people (see p. 315, Ruth 4:10).

As they journey toward salvation, the women encounter obstacles and receive instruction appropriate to their sex. Mrs. Timorous attempts to dissuade Christiana from the journey by accusing her of "unwomanly" behavior. She appeals to Christiana's duty to her children—"pray for your poor children's sake, do not so unwomanly cast away yourself" (p. 227)—and to her vulnerability—"for if he, though a man, was so hard put to it, what canst thou being but a poor woman do?" (p. 228).15 A barking dog frightens the women when they approach the wicket gate. This domestic threat of violence replaces the archers on the ramparts of the adjacent castle, who attempt to keep Christian from entering the Way alive.16 Christian transgresses actively before he reaches the gate, turning out of the Way at the advice of Mr. Wordly Wiseman (pp. 50-51). This action represents Christian's breach of allegiance to God: in mute rebellion, he decides to go to live in the village of Morality, rather than to continue on to the Celestial City. But the transgression is also appropriate to the nature of Christian's sinfulness: his burden wearies him, so he goes to have it removed. Noting the differences between Christian's and Faithful's trials, Fish remarks that "the perils of the way are generated by a pilgrim's weakness, and they persist as long as it persists."17 A man's "burden," or particular human weakness, creates the occasion for and determines the kind of sin that he will commit.

Christiana passively suffers her first transgression, a transgression that appropriately threatens her relationship to God as it conforms to the nature of her own sinfulness. Christiana, as a woman, carries her sin, the "burden" of her sexuality, within her; therefore, Bunyan represents her first, and only, transgression as an attempted rape by "two ill-favoured ones." Although the men at first try to seduce Christiana and Mercy, their persistence even as the women kick and cry out "murder" indicates that they do not require compliance to accomplish their ends. Bunyan's injustice in equating rape with sexual temptation and spiritual pollution is so commonplace as to be quite unperceived by him: he simply causes Christiana, who has been well socialized, to make that identification herself. Neither Bunyan nor his seventeenth-century audience could find her admirable should she not interpret her experience in this way. As she resists the would-be rapists, she argues that "we will rather die upon the spot than suffer ourselves to be brought into such snares as shall hazard our well being hereafter" (p. 242, emphasis mine). She radically identifies physical with spiritual weakness and believes, as will Richardson's Clarissa, that a violation of her physical integrity, no matter what the circumstances, corrupts her soul.

Bunyan insists throughout The Pilgrim's Progress on the dangers for women of social and spiritual independence. The man who rescues Christiana and Mercy marvels, "being ye knew ye were but weak women, that you petitioned not the Lord there for a conductor" (p. 243). Christiana attempts to assign the blame for her predicament to God's negligence, arguing that "since our Lord knew 'twould be for our profit, I wonder he sent not one along with us" (p. 243). Her rescuer retorts that "it is not always necessary to grant things not asked for lest by so doing they become of little esteem" (p. 243). He explains that the incident is a kind of lesson, for "had my Lord granted you a conductor, you would not neither so have bewailed that oversight of yours in not asking for one as now you have occasion to do" (p. 243). But at the beginning of her journey, Christiana did request that the messenger Secret accompany her to the Celestial City and was refused with an admonition which contradicts the Reliever's claim that the Lord would have granted them a guide: "Christiana! The bitter is before the sweet! Thou must through troubles as did he that went before thee enter this Celestial City" (p. 226). Neither Bunyan nor Christiana now mentions the initial request or acknowledges the inherent contradiction between the two incidents. Christiana simply confesses her "folly" in travelling without a man.

This contradiction in the text reveals the conflicting nature of the two points Bunyan wishes to make: each individual believer must traverse the spiritual road alone, but female believers cannot be allowed spiritual independence. Bunyan must have Christiana ask for and be refused a guide to correct his readers' misapprehensions about the difficulty of the Way, but he must have her unsupervised journey end in near-disaster in order to reinforce for his female readers the danger of independence. Christiana's confession of error works on the allegorical level within the interpretive context of the dream, as well as on the literal, narrative level: in spiritual as in worldly matters, a woman must turn to men for guidance and protection. In A Case of Conscience Resolved (1683), Bunyan advises against segregated worship for women, claiming that "worship was ordained before woman was made, wherefore the word of God did not immediately come to her, but to him that was first formed, and made the head in worship."18 Milton's Eve expresses her own spiritual incompleteness, when she addresses Adam as

                                thou for whom
    And from whom I was form'd flesh of thy flesh,
    And without whom am to no end, my Guide
    And Head.

She then enacts the "truth" of her self-evaluation in her unsupervised excursion and fall. Gouge charges husbands to care for their wives "as Christ nourisheth and cherisheth his Church, not only with things temporall, but also with things spirituall and eternall," encouraging mutual prayer as a duty which "doth especially concern the husband, who is as a Priest unto his wife, and ought to be her mouth to God when they two are together." He warns darkly that "she who first drew man into sin, should be now subject to him, lest by like womanish weaknesse she fall again."20 Where Christian must learn to rely on God's intervention for his success, Christiana must learn to rely on male protectors.

In the context of this belief in a woman's spiritual weakness, Christiana expresses her embarrassment and sense of guilt over having allowed herself to be sexually attacked. She immediately connects this incident with her earlier dream about "the two very ill-favoured ones," telling Mercy that "before I set foot out of doors, one night as I lay in my bed, I had a dream about this," and lamenting, "this you know might have made me take heed, and have provided when provision might a been had" (p. 244). Mercy confirms Christiana's guilt over "this neglect" and encourages them to take the occasion to "behold our own imperfections" (p. 244). Mercy has discovered her own vulnerability; her response to the sight of the three hanged rogues expresses the violent indignation of a potential victim: "let them hang and their names rot … who knows else what they might a done to such poor women as we are" (p. 263). Neither does Christiana forget the "lesson" of her sexual assault. As she confesses to the Interpreter, the dream of the two ugly men

hath troubled me much: yea, it still runs in my mind and makes me afraid of everyone that I meet, lest they should meet me to do me a mischief, and to turn me out of the way. Yea, I may tell my Lord, tho' I would not have everybody know it, that between this and the Gate by which we got into the way, we were both so sorely assaulted, that we were made to cry out murder, and the two that made this assault upon us, were like the two that I saw in my dream.

                                                (pp. 253-54)

On the surface, Christiana expresses the understandable paranoia of a victim of violent attack; her reluctance to speak of her sexual assault reveals the extent of her socialization: she is ashamed to have been sexually attacked and would keep her experience a secret. She accepts society's assignment to the victim of the guilt for rape. Although she covered herself with her veil, she believes that she tempted the two men. Such a response in an attacked woman would have been reinforced in Puritan circles by sermons which, locating temptation and desire within women, rigorously defined behavior appropriate to a Christian woman: "careful She likewise is, lest hereby She deceive Unwary men, into those Amours which bewitching looks and smiles do often betray the Children of men, especially those that are but Children of men, into."21 But on a deeper level, Christiana interprets the fear that these two men symbolized in her dream as an expression of suppressed desire. She, after all, had learned of this danger before she left home; reading retrospectively, she assumes that the men's presence in her dream must have been a warning which she willfully ignored. The spiritual and physical aspects of the rape experience coalesce: Christiana worries that she wants to be kept from salvation, that she wants to be raped.

Christiana stays longer at the House of the Interpreter than Christian did, depending on the Interpreter to provide the spiritual instruction which she cannot receive from her estranged husband. Although he shows her the significant rooms that Christian saw, the Interpreter tailors the bulk of his instruction to Christiana's sex. He shows the women and children scenes from nature and domestic life "because you are women, and they are easy for you" (p. 249). After his short visit with the Interpreter, Christian loses his burden before the Cross. Christiana and Mercy do not have this experience, however, because their sin, being their sexuality and not a simple "burden," is within. They must be purified; so at this point in the journey, the women are given a ritual bath—what Bunyan glosses in the margin as "The Bath Sanctifi-cation" (p. 255). Innocent, a damsel in the Interpreter's household, tells them that "they must wash and be clean, for so her Master would have the women to do that called at His House as they were going on pilgrimage" (p. 256, emphasis mine). The women, with Christiana's children who, according to the practice of covenanted churches, are grouped with their mother until they are spiritually independent, wash in the Bath. They emerge "sweet," "clean," "enlivened," and "strengthened." They also look "fairer a deal than when they went out to the washing" (p. 256).

Clearly Bunyan intends more by the Bath than a concession to the demands of his Baptist readers.22 As recent critics agree, this incident cannot be precisely defined as either allegory or actual church practice.23 Christiana and Mercy participate in a custom similar to the Jewish mikvah, the bath of purification required for women before marriage and after each menstrual period or pregnancy so that they may be "clean" for their husbands. That the children must also bathe connects Bunyan to the Augustinian tradition of understanding Original Sin as sexually transmitted.24 They must be purified from the contamination of the birthing process. Mikvah survived in Christian tradition as "the churching of women," a practice denounced in The Admonition to Parliament (1572) as legalistic and superstitious: "churching of women after childbirthe, smelleth of Jewishe purification: theyr other rytes and customes in their lying in, & comming to church, is foolishe and superstitious, as it is used."25 But not all Puritans rejected the ceremony or its significance. The Puritan redactors of the prayer-book omitted the churching of women in their 1578 edition, but restored it again in 1589.26

Bunyan is not the only Puritan to have endowed this ritual of physical cleansing with spiritual significance. Milton refers to the custom in his sonnet "Methought I Saw My Late Espoused Saint," where he imagines his wife to have been both physically and spiritually cleansed of "child-bed taint" in death. (Milton uses Mikvah as the type of Old Law purification for which he understands Resurrection to be the antitype under the New Law.) In The Pilgrim's Progress, this Bath of Sanctification, specifically designed for women, cleanses them of their fallen nature, of their impure sexuality, and prepares them to be Brides of Christ. Significantly, Christian's experience of sanctification does not involve immersion, and Bunyan argues strenuously in his religious tracts against the necessity of water baptism and against its status as a mystery or church ordinance.27

The ceremony following the bath closely parallels the events following Christian's loss of his burden. In Part I, three Shining Ones approach Christian as he stands weeping for wonder and joy before the Cross: "The first said to him, 'Thy sins be forgiven.' The second stripped him of his rags, and clothed him with a change of raiment. The third also set a mark on his forehead" (p. 70). The Interpreter sets a similar mark upon Christiana and Mercy and commands that raiment of fine white linen be given to them. But this adornment more powerfully affects the women than it did Christian. Bunyan writes that "this seal greatly added to their beauty … and made their countenances more like them of angels" (p. 256). Clothed in their white garments, the women seem "to be a terror one to the other, for that they could not see that glory each one on herself which they could see in each other" (p. 256). Purified and transformed, the women may now approach the Cross, where their guide Great-heart explains the salvific effects of the Crucifixion in terms of bathing and clothing: "He has Performed righteousness to cover you, and spilt blood to wash you in" (p. 258). The double character of their purification, first by physical immersion, then by the spiritual cleansing of the Crucifixion sacrifice, differs markedly from Christian's purely spiritual experience of sanctification.

Great-heart leads the women and children from the Cross to House Beautiful, slaying the Giant Grim on the way. The family rests at House Beautiful "a month or above" (p. 274), delighting in the companionship of the holy women there. When Matthew gets a gripe, Christiana accuses herself of negligence; but from this point on, nothing seriously disturbs the women's spiritual tranquility. Mercy sews for the poor and marries, as she is directed, within the faith. Both Christiana and Mercy devote themselves to their children. They place all their trust in Great-heart, who guides them, protects them, and instructs them in proper female conduct. The family passes safely through the Valley of Humiliation, which, appearing fruitful and pleasing to the women, suits Mercy's spirits (p. 291), and through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. There Great-heart challenges the Giant Maul and slays him, while the women and children watch, sighing and crying (p. 297). At a nearby Inn, the family meets Gaius, who delivers a speech "on the behalf of women to take away their reproach" (p. 316, see Luke 1:25), the reproach of sexuality. He argues that women "are sharers with us in the grace of life" (p. 316), partly from scriptural examples of women ministering to Jesus, and partly from 1 Timothy 2:14-15: "And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved through childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety" (KJV). This consideration, as well as a strong belief in the Puritan concept of tribal sainthood, presumably influences Gaius's eagerness to marry off Mercy and his own daughter Phoebe.28 That evening, the adults, Christiana, Great-heart, Gaius, and Old Honest, sit up until dawn, but Christiana, who knows her place, listens "in silence with all subjection" (KJV, 1 Tim. 2:11).

Barely half-way through his account of Christiana's pilgrimage, Bunyan's emphasis switches from Christiana and her family to the larger experience of male believers. Immediately after Great-heart's victory over the Giant Maul, the family discovers an old gentleman asleep under an oak. After praising Christiana for her husband's exemplary faith and blessing her boys, Old Honest converses with Great-heart about the pilgrimages of Mr. Fearing and Mr. Self-will. These stories, as Knott argues, are "object lessons" for the pilgrims and the reader, offering a rich variety of spiritual models,29 but Bunyan multiplies these second-hand histories because he has exhausted the range of spiritual experience which his ideology will allow women. Because Bunyan restricts his female characters to real-life roles, he must rely on male activity to move the group along the road, to offer protection, and to provide dramatic interest.

During the remainder of The Pilgrim's Progress , Christiana and Mercy mend clothes while the men slay giants. The men launch three expeditions. Near the Inn, they rescue Mr. Feeble-mind from the giant Slay-good. At Vanity Fair, they join with the elders of the gathered congregation there to engage the Babylonian monster, although with small success; at By-path stile, they leave the women in the road while they storm Doubting Castle. Christiana and Mercy provide the music at the victory celebration; Christiana, in accordance with her role as mother, revives the starving Mr. Despondency with food and medicinal spirits. The company, for it can hardly be called a family any longer, proceeds like an army on maneuvers, with a small camp following of women and children, although the littlest ones are left with a shepherd this side of the Delectable Mountains; like a volunteer army, it continues to swell. Mr. Valiant-for-truth, a proper militant with a fine Jerusalem blade, joins up shortly after the Delectable Mountains; they find Mr. Stand-fast at prayer in the midst of the Enchanted Ground.

Bunyan does not pay much attention to Christiana, or indeed to Mercy, between the House Beautiful and the Land of Beulah. They have each "risen a mother in Israel" (p. 268), to be noticed and praised only for their husbands and sons (see pages 301, 331, 351). Mercy, who fell in love with her salvation through Christiana's influence (p. 232), following her out of a love as strong as Ruth's for Naomi (p. 255), becomes simply "Mercy the wife of Matthew" (p. 344), "a young, and breeding woman" (p. 345). Bunyan speaks of her as if the reader would not remember who she was: her wifehood subsumes her past and personality. More strikingly, he diminishes the strength of the bond between the two women. When Christiana gathers the company around her deathbed, she has no special token for this dear daughter. She simply remarks on their foreheads and their snowy garments; but recognizing her spiritual kinship to Stand-fast, she gives him her ring, the symbol of her chastity toward her husband and toward God (p. 366).

Although he has restricted Christiana's role in the last half of Part 2 to that of concerned mother and submissive churchwoman, Bunyan describes her death in detail, stressing her femininity and her love-relation with the Lord. Christiana is the first of her band of pilgrims to be called over the River. The message from her Lord comes again in the form of a letter, which begins like the annunciation to Mary, "Hail, good woman" (p. 365). As an assurance that the call is genuine, Christiana receives a love-token from her Bridegroom—"an arrow with a point sharpened with love [that] let easily into her heart" (p. 365). All the male pilgrims who die receive only passages of Scripture as assurance of their calls. The love-poisoned arrow, which prepares Christiana to die, suggests that Christiana's death will consummate her marriage to Christ, although Bunyan predictably avoids using the word "die."

But Bunyan does not close the second part of The Pilgrim's Progress with Christiana's death. Seven more pilgrims cross over the River to the Celestial City before Bunyan bids his reader Adieu. The last of these pilgrims is Stand-fast, whom the group found praying on the Enchanted Ground. Like Christiana, Stand-fast has resisted persistent sexual advances. When he relates his ordeal, however, Stand-fast is not chastised for having encouraged Madam Bubble or having secretly desired her "enticements" (p. 361). Great-heart condemns Madam Bubble as "a bold and impudent slut" (p. 362), displacing his anger at lust onto the woman. She has become a personification of sexual evil and functions as a scapegoat, bearing on her head all the sins of the world (p. 363). Bunyan, who identifies Christiana's attackers as a projection of her own carnal desires, glosses Madam Bubble as "this vain world" (p. 361). He locates sexual lust firmly within the female. The female body represents earthly imperfection. Women may be cleansed of their sexual evil, but they cannot divest themselves of their womanly bodies. But in a system where man corresponds to woman as spirit to flesh, male characters can transcend the taint of sexuality.

Although he has established the Christian's metaphorical relationship to God as beloved to lover within the normal sexual nexus, Bunyan, in the tradition of Christian devotional literature, transfers the metaphor to the male. He appropriates for his hero Stand-fast distinctly feminine language, language that in the logic of the allegory belongs in Christiana's mouth. Stand-fast, wearing Christiana's ring, rejoices in the person of the male Beloved, Christ, as he anticipates their union: "His name has been to me as a civetbox, yea, sweeter than all perfumes. His voice to me has been most sweet, and his countenance I have more desired than they that have most desired the light of the sun. His words I did use to gather for my food, and for antidotes against my faintings" (p. 372). Stand-fast's magnificat employs the richly sensuous imagery of the Song of Solomon. His final sentence, "Take me, for I come unto thee" (p. 373), transforms his death into an explicitly sexual surrender. In this moment, Bunyan completes the displacement of the female implicit in the second book's controlling metaphor: Stand-fast, the male perfection of the idea of the feminine, usurps Christiana's role. The Type of a "higher chastity"—male chastity—Stand-fast can become the most perfect Bride of Christ.


1. See John R. Knott, Jr., "Bunyan and the Holy Community," SP 80 (Spring 1983): 200-25, for a comprehensive discussion of Bunyan's concern with church community and the workings of a Separatist congregation.

2. U. Milo Kaufmann, The Pilgrim's Progress and Traditions in Puritan Meditation (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1966).

3. Stanley Eugene Fish, "Progress in The Pilgrim's Progress," ELR 1 (Autumn 1971): 265. Rpt. in Self-Consuming Artifacts (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1972).

4. Fish, p. 271.

5. John R. Knott, Jr., "Bunyan's Gospel Day: A Reading of The Pilgrim's Progress," in ELR 3 (Autumn 1973): 448, 451.

6. Knott, "Bunyan's Gospel Day," p. 449.

7. John Bunyan, The Pilgrim's Progress, ed. Roger Sharrock (New York: Penguin Books, 1965), p. 91. All further references to The Pilgrim's Progress will be made by page number in the text.

8. See Christopher Hill, The World Turned Upside Down: Radical Ideas during the English Revolution (London: Temple Smith, 1972). Hill's chapter, "Base Impudent Kisses," discusses both the Puritan concept of female chastity within marriage and Bunyan's reaction against the freedom allowed women in the emerging Protestant sects (pp. 247-60).

9. William Gouge, Of Domesticall Duties (reproduced from the Bodleian Library copy by Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, Amsterdam, 1976), pp. 18, 30.

10. The Works of John Bunyan, ed. George Offor, 3 vols. (Glasgow: Blackie and Son, 1856), 2:558.

11. Benjamin Wadsworth, The Well-Ordered Family (Boston, 1712), Evans American Bibliography, Catalogue #1591, pp. 25-26.

12. Milton, De Doctrina Christiana in The Complete Poems and Major Prose, ed. Merritt Y. Hughes (New York: Odyssey Press, 1957).

13. Paradise Lost, X.930-31.

14. Fish, pp. 273-74.

15. Christiana's neighbors, upon their failure to keep her at home, express their irritation at her higher apprehension of "wifely duty" with slander and gossip. They gossip of carnal pleasures and what the domestic theorists of the time would consider inappropriate and irresponsible behavior for married women: "I was yesterday at Madam Wanton's where we were as merry as the maids. For who do you think should be there, but I, and Mrs Love-the-flesh, and three or four men, with Mr Lechery, Mrs Filth, and some others. So there we had music and dancing and what else was meet to fill up the pleasure" (p. 231).

16. See Lynn Veach Sadler, John Bunyan (Boston: Twayne, 1979), p. 101.

17. Fish, p. 266.

18. Bunyan, Works, 2:655.

19. Paradise Lost, IV.440-43.

20. Gouge, pp. 79, 235, 269.

21. Cotton Mather, Ornaments for the Daughters of Zion (Cambridge, 1692), Evans American Bibliography, Catalogue #624, p. 12.

22. See Monica Furlong, Puritan's Progress: A Study of John Bunyan (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1975), p. 119.

23. See Knott, "Bunyan and the Holy Community," p. 217, and Carolynn Van Dyke, The Fiction of Truth: Structures of Meaning in Narrative and Dramatic Allegory (Ithaca and London: Cornell Univ. Press, 1985), p. 191.

24. John Calvin cites Job 14.4, "Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one," to refute the idea that original sin "passed by imitation not by propagation." He points out that "The orthodox, therefore, and more especially Augustine, laboured to show that we are not corrupted by acquired wickedness, but bring an innate corruption from the very womb" (Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Henry Beveridge, 2 vols. [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1953], 1:214). Milton's description of how Sin will infect the human race suggests that original sin is a kind of venereal disease (PL X.606-609).

25. In Puritan Manifestoes: A Study of the Origin of the Puritan Revolt, with a reprint of the Admonition to Parliament and kindred documents, 1572, ed. W. H. Frere and C. E. Douglas (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1907), p. 28.

26. For a discussion of Puritan revisions to the prayer book, see Francis Proctor and Walter Frere, A New History of the Book of Common Prayer (London: Macmillan, 1961), pp. 133-34.

27. In "A Confession of My Faith, and A Reason of My Practice," Bunyan argues against water-baptism as an initiating ordinance and a prerequisite to participation in the Lord's Supper (Works, 2:606). He distinguishes between baptism by water and baptism in the Spirit, referring to Paul's distinction between circumcision in the flesh and circumcision in the spirit. In a later treatise, "Differences in Judgment about Water Baptism, No Bar to Communion" (1673), Bunyan challenges a critic of his reading of Ephesians 4.1-6 saying, "the sixth argument is, There is 'one baptism.' Now we are come to a pinch, viz., whether it be that of water, or no? which I must positively deny" (Works, 2:623).

28. Cotton Mather proffers the same arguments for marriage and motherhood in Ornaments and in Elizabeth in Her Holy Retirement (Boston, 1710) (Evans American Bibliography, Catalogue #1463). Edmund Morgan notes the tribal nature of the Puritan vision of salvation, the belief that salvation can be physically inherited, in The Puritan Family (Boston: Trustees of the Public Library, 1944). See also Laurence Stone, Family, Sex, and Marriage: 1500–1800 (New York: Harper and Row, 1977), p. 416, for the Puritan arguments that birth control would reduce the number of the Elect and that "childbirth brought honour to women and aided them to achieve salvation."

29. Knott, "Bunyan and the Holy Community," p. 209.

Brainerd P. Stranahan (essay date June 1987)

SOURCE: Stranahan, Brainerd P. "'With Great Delight': The Song of Solomon in The Pilgrim's Progress." English Studies 68, no. 3 (June 1987): 220-27.

[In the following essay, Stranahan argues that Bunyan's biblical imagery in The Pilgrim's Progress holds many allegorical parallels to The Song of Solomon.]

Although the resemblances between Grace Abounding and The Pilgrim's Progress have long been accepted,1 Dayton Haskin has recently stressed an important difference. Most of the autobiography depicts the anguish laid on its author by the 'burden of interpretation': he must anxiously read the scriptures to determine whether he is saved or damned. However, in the later work 'Christian loses his burden relatively early in the narrative, and reading becomes for him, after he acquires his roll and especially while he visits the Palace Beautiful, a decided pleasure'. Noting the folksiness of 'The Author's Apology' that serves as a preface, Haskin adds, 'There is something much more playful about both Bunyan's book and the reader's interpretive task than there is about Christian's burden … There is an assurance from the very start that for an earnest participant a happy conclusion is in store'.2 We may add that the prospect for the reader is something more exalted than mere entertainment, for the journey in this story will lead to, and increasingly anticipate, the supreme delights of the spirit. Certainly it is possible to overemphasize the elements of grimness and fear in The Pilgrim's Progress. For John Bunyan, the life of a true pilgrim encompasses not only great perils, but great pleasures as well—and the latter increase in frequency and strength as the protagonists approach the Celestial City itself.

In order to depict the comforts and joys of Christian experience, The Pilgrim's Progress employs a strain of biblical imagery that is characteristic of The Song of Solomon. Although these materials can be found in many other parts of the Bible, this one source appears to have related them to one another in a way that Bunyan has imitated in his allegory. Throughout both Parts, the language of The Song of Solomon not only furnishes metaphors for the delights of the Christian life but also conveys the degree of their intensity. When the pilgrims are vouchsafed mere hints of their future happiness, Bunyan includes short allusions to the Hebrew poem; as they approach nearer to the Celestial City, he prefers to use direct quotations.3

Many of the relevant images, and their interrelationships, may be illustrated in two brief passages from The Song of Solomon. Imagery of wedded love, water, fruition, and spices occurs in the following verses of chapter 4:

10 How fair is thy love, my sister, my spouse! how much better is thy love than wine! and the smell of thine ointments than all spices!

11 Thy lips, O my spouse, drop as the honeycomb: honey and milk are under thy tongue; and the smell of thy garments is like the smell of Lebanon.

12 A garden inclosed is my sister, my spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed.

13 Thy plants are an orchard of pomegranates, with pleasant fruits; camphire, with spikenard,

14 Spikenard and saffron; calmus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense; myrrh and aloes, with all the chief spices:

15 A fountain of gardens, a well of living waters, and streams from Lebanon.

King Solomon and his bride are also associated with pastoral imagery and with vineyards, in this example from the first chapter:

6 Look not upon me, because I am black, because the sun hath looked upon me: my mother's children were angry with me; they made me the keeper of the vineyards; but mine own vineyard have I not kept.

7 Tell me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest, where thou makest thy flock to rest at noon: for why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of thy companions?

8 If thou know not, O thou fairest among women, go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock, and feed thy kids beside the shepherds' tents.

For Bunyan, the imagery of The Song of Solomon was a means of suggesting the love between Christ and his Church—or between Christ and the individual believer. In employing this allegorical interpretation of the Old Testament work, he was following traditional Christian opinion on the subject—as stated, for example, in the 'Argument' prefixed to the Geneva Version's translation, which identifies Solomon as a type of Christ:

In this Song, Salomón by most swete and comfortable allegories and parables describeth the perfite loue of Jesus Christ, the true Salomón and King of peace, and the faithful soule or his Church, which he hathe sanctified and appointed to be his spouse, holy, chast and without reprehension. So that here is declared the singular loue of the bridegrome toward the bride, and his great and excellent benefites wherewith he doeth enriche her of his pure bountie and grace without anie of her deservings. Also the earnest affection of the Church which is inflamed with the loue of Christ desiring to be more and more ioyned to him in loue, and not to be forsaken for anie spot or blemish that is in her.4

Though modern Protestant scholars usually understand The Song of Solomon as a group of secular love lyrics, a spiritualized reading of its language was made more plausible for Bunyan by the fact that most of its characteristic images are associated in the New Testament with the life and role of Jesus. Spices are brought by the wise men at his birth, he is anointed with them shortly before his betrayal, and his body is bound in them after the crucifixion (Matthew 2:11; Mark 14:3; John 19:40). In John, he applies to himself several other images that occur in The Song of Solomon:

If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water … I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep … I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.

                        (7:37-38; 10:11; 15:1-2)

Bunyan's use of The Song of Solomon in The Pilgrim's Progress shows that he understood its language (and similar passages in other parts of the Bible) in terms of texts like these.5

Imagery representing the joys of the Christian life makes a very late appearance in the First Part, but this restraint is consistent with the development of other continuing metaphors in Bunyan's allegory.6 Having escaped the horrors of the City of Destruction, Christian needs to run for some distance along the Way to the promised land before he is in any position to enjoy the consolations of his religion. Even then, he experiences only a prospect of future comforts. Shortly before his departure from the House Beautiful, Christian is allowed a glimpse of the Delectable Mountains:

When the Morning was up, they had him to the top of the House, and bid him look South; so he did; and behold at a great distance he saw a most pleasant Mountainous Country, beautified with Woods, Vinyards, Fruits of all sorts; Flowers also, with Springs and Fountains, very delectable to behold.7

The connection of this scene with The Song of Solomon cannot be established conclusively without comparing it with similar ones that occur later in the narrative, for it imitates no single verse. However, nearly all the important words recall the feeling for spring and for landscape that is evident in many parts of the Old Testament poem: 'Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south; blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out. Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat his pleasant fruits.' 'Make haste, my beloved, and be thou like to a roe or to a young hart upon the mountains of spices'. 'My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth …' (4:16; 8:14; 2:10-12). Invitations like 'come away' are frequent in The Song of Solomon, and it is perhaps not coincidental that Christian's immediate reaction to what he sees is, 'Now he bethought himself of setting forward'.

As it comes time for his hero to taste more of the joys of his religion, Bunyan begins to use such imagery more directly. He does not introduce it again until Christian has survived the flight with Apollyon, the dangers of the Valley of the Shadow, imprisonment in the town of Vanity, and several lesser hazards. Eventually, Christian and Hopeful come upon a place that clearly affords them their first real acquaintance with the happiness of a Christian life:

I saw then that they went on their way to a pleasant River, which David the King called the River of God; but, John, The River of the water of life. Now their way lay just upon the bank of the River: here therefore Christian and his Companion walked with great delight; they drank also of the water of the River, which was pleasant and enlivening to their weary Spirits: besides, on the banks of this River, on either side, were green Trees, that bore all manner of Fruit; and the leaves of the Trees were good for Medicine; with the Fruit of these trees they were also much delighted; and the leaves they eat to prevent Surfeits, and other Diseases that are incident to those that heat their blood by Travels. On either side of the River was also a Meadow, curiously beautified with Lilies; And it was green all the year long.


The Song of Solomon is represented by the emphasis on the words 'pleasant', 'green', 'fruit', and the phrase 'with great delight': 'Behold, thou art fair, my beloved, yea, pleasant: also our bed is green…. I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste' (1:16; 2:3). Also, Solomon's poem contains over half of the Bible's references to lilies.8 As the passage indicates, this river recalls several other biblical texts in which water is suggestive of spiritual refreshment (Psalms 65:9; Revelation 22:1; Exekiel 47). To the fruit trees of Solomon, Bunyan has added an allusion to Revelation 22:2: 'In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits; and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations'.

After a severe reaction, represented by their detour into the grounds of Giant Despair, the pilgrims finally reach the land that Christian had seen from afar:

They went then, till they came to the delectable Mountains, which Mountains belong to the Lord of that Hill of which we have spoken before; so they went up to the Mountains, to behold the Gardens, and Orchards, the Vineyards, and Fountains of water, where also they drank, and washed themselves, and did freely eat of the Vineyards. Now there was on the tops of these Mountains, Shepherds feeding their flocks, and they stood by the high-way side.


To actions characteristic of the Song of Solomon (5:1: 'eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved')9 Bunyan now adds pastoral imagery—taken from the New Testament, rather than the earlier poem. In the passage quoted above, the last sentence imitates, in subject matter and prose rhythm, the description of the scene at the birth of Jesus: 'And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night' (Luke 2:8). The pilgrims are coming closer to the founder of their religion.

Christian and Hopeful experience greater spiritual pleasures before the end of their journey, while their difficulties grow correspondingly less severe. The climax of their earthly pilgrimage is the arrival at the land of Beulah. The name of this country is taken from a prophecy in Isaiah that compares Israel and its God to a bride and her bridegroom:

4 Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate: but thou shalt be called Hepzibah, and thy land Beulah; for the Lord delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married.

5 For as a young man marrieth a virgin, so shall thy sons marry thee: and as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee.

                                   (chapter 62)

In the beginning of the description of Beulah, Bunyan quotes directly from The Song of Solomon (2:12), contrasting the singing of birds and the voice of the turtle dove with the dangers that the pilgrims have known earlier:

Now I saw in my Dream, that by this time the Pilgrims were got over the Inchanted Ground, and entering into the Country of Beulah, whose Air was very sweet and pleasant, the way lying directly through it, they solaced themselves there for a season. Yea, here they heard continually the singing of Birds, and saw every day the flowers appear in the earth: and heard the voice of the Turtle in the Land. In this Countrey the Sun shineth night and day; wherefore this was beyond the Valley of the shadow of death, and also out of the reach of Giant Despair; neither could they from this place so much as see Doubting-Castle.


He also quotes the bridegroom metaphor from Isaiah 62, clearly interpreting it as a prophecy of Christ, and alludes to verse 8 of the same chapter, in which Israel is promised an abundance of corn and wine:

In this Land also the contract between the Bride and the Bridegroom was renewed: Yea here, as the Bridegroom rejoyceth over the Bride, so did their God rejoyce over them. Here they had no want of Corn and Wine; for in this place they met with abundance of what they had sought for in all their Pilgrimage.


In Bunyan's eyes, a single Christian intention unites the hymeneal imagery used by Solomon, the prophets, and the New Testament.

In this episode the erotic language of The Song of Solomon (5:8: 'I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if ye find my beloved, that ye tell him, that I am sick of love'.) is also combined with the imagery of splendid wealth that describes the Celestial City:

Now as they walked in this Land they had more rejoycing then in parts more remote from the Kingdom, to which they were bound; and drawing near to the City, they had yet a more perfect view thereof. It was builded of Pearls and Precious Stones, also the Street thereof was paved with Gold, so that by reason of the natural glory of the City and the reflection of the Sunbeams upon it, Christian, with desire fell sick, Hopeful also had a fit or two of the same Disease: Wherefore here they lay by it a while, crying out because of their pangs, If you see my Beloved, tell him that I am sick of love.


Fear alternates once again with consolation in Christian's experience, for in the River of Death 'he in great measure lost his senses, so that he could neither remember nor orderly talk of any of those sweet refreshments that he had met with in the way of his Pilgrimage' (157). Nevertheless, he reaches the city in which his comforts will be eternal, and Bunyan includes a last reference to wedded love in the shout of the Heavenly Host, 'Blessed are they that are called to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb' (160). The words announce the marriage of the lamb (Christ) and his wife (the Church) in Revelation 19:9.

In the Second Part, while the memory of the City of Destruction grows dim, and the pilgrims speak of more sufferings than they actually undergo, the joys of Christian spiritual life appear earlier and more frequently in the narrative. Bunyan includes some set pieces in the manner of the First Part, but he relies more on briefer references to The Song of Solomon. The first of these occurs even before Christiana has set out on her pilgrimage. Like her husband, she is given credentials to carry—in this case a 'Letter' rather than a 'Roll'; appropriately for a woman, the document is perfumed (180, 38). Bunyan's marginal reference is to the third verse of the Hebrew poem, which in the traditional interpretation is spoken to Christ by the Church: 'Because of the savour of thy good ointments thy name is as ointment poured forth, therefore do the virgins love thee'. When Mercie enters and faints inside the Wicket Gate, she is given 'a Bundle of Myrrh' by the Keeper (190). The phrase occurs in the King James Version only in the first chapter of The Song of Solomon: 'A bundle of myrrh is my well-beloved unto me; he shall lie all night betwixt my breasts' (verse 13). Since, in this scene, there are many indications that the Keeper of the Gate is a portrait of Christ, the myrrh is a token of his love. After the pilgrims have finished their bath, the Interpreter pronounces them 'fair as the Moon' (207). He is not otherwise identified with Christ, but his words are those of Solomon: 'Who is she that looketh forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners?' (6:10). In the Valley of Humiliation, Christiana and her friends listen to the songs of 'Countrey Birds' (235). Here Bunyan refers in his margin to chapter 2, verses 11 and 12 of The Song of Solomon—a text which he does not cite in the First Part until Christian reaches the land of Beulah.

Bunyan reworks some of his Biblical materials later in the Second Part. At the House of Gaius the pilgrims improvise rhymes and riddles on such themes as 'eat his Apples, who art sick of Love' (262).10 Near the River of God, they meet a shepherd who 'could gently lead those that were with young', and they find 'delicate Waters, pleasant Medows, dainty Flowers, variety of Trees, and such as bear wholsom Fruit' (280). By the River of Death, however, Bunyan shows new invention. As they prepare themselves for crossing the river, the pilgrims are anointed with a great number of spices, which grow nearby:

In this place, the Children of the Town would go into the Kings Gardens and gather Nose-gaies for the Pilgrims, and bring them to them with much affection. Here also grew Camphire, with Spicknard, and Saffron, Calamus, and Cinamon, with all its Trees of Frankincense, Myrrhe, and Aloes, with all chief Spices. With these the Pilgrims Chambers were perfumed, while they stayed here; and with these were their Bodys anointed to prepare them to go over the River when the time appointed was come.


The catalogue of spices is taken intact from The Song of Solomon (4:12-13), a passage which contains the most extravagant of many references to spices in the poem. The length of the list indicates the strength of the pilgrims' Christian joys—as does, again, the directness of the Biblical allusion. The king who owns these gardens is evidently not Solomon but the ruler whom he prefigures, King Jesus. After they have followed him in their lives, the application of spices associates Christiana and her friends with his death, and with the hope of participating in his resurrection.

The final event in the narrative is the death of Mr. Stand-fast, who is the last of several pilgrims to make a speech of farewell before crossing the river of Death. His whole address is a reprise of several Biblical metaphors (most of them drawn from the Epistle to the Hebrews) that make up Bunyan's total conception of life as a pilgrimage.11 However, his final words recall language of The Song of Solomon, in order to express both the Christian pleasures which he has experienced and those to which he still looks forward:

His Name has been to me as a Civit-Box, yea sweeter than all Perfumes. His Voice to me has been most sweet, and his Countenance, I have more desired then they that have most desired the Light of the Sun.


'Civit' is not mentioned in The Song of Solomon, but it could easily have been included among the spices and perfumes with which the pilgrims have all been anointed. The second sentence is in part a reworking of a portion of chapter two, verse fourteen: 'O my dove … let me see thy countenance is comely'.

Mr. Stand-fast crosses the River saying, 'Take me, for I come unto thee'. As has been noted,12 this pilgrim's parting words do resemble those uttered by John Foxe's martyrs—including the biblical Stephen: 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit' (Acts 7:59). However, in vocabulary and rhythm, they are more closely modelled on the words of the daughters of Jerusalem: 'Draw me, we will run after thee' (1:4). In the interpretation of the translators at Geneva, Mr. Standfast is 'inflamed with the loue of Christ desiring to be more and more ioyned to him in loue'. Having been attracted to this goal throughout his pilgrimage, he is now entering into spiritual union with the source of all Christian joys. John Bunyan has come a long way from the anguish of Grace Abounding.


1. See Roger Sharrock, 'Spiritual Autobiography in The Pilgrim's Progress', RES, XXIV (1948), 102-20.

2. Dayton Haskin, 'The Burden of Interpretation in The Pilgrim's Progress', SP, LXXIX (1982), 271, 273.

3. The increasingly direct use of material from The Song of Solomon provides yet another means of reexamining Stanley E. Fish's provocative assertion that 'There is, it would seem, no progress in The Pilgrim's Progress', a view that has since been challenged in several quarters. See Fish's essay 'Progress in The Pilgrim's Progress' in Self-Consuming Artifacts (Berkeley, 1972), p. 233; and, for varying contrary or modifying opinions, John R. Knott, Jr., 'Bunyan's Gospel Day: A Reading of The Pilgrim's Progress', ELR, III (1973), 443; Vincent Newey, 'Bunyan and the Confines of the Mind', in The Pilgrim's Progress: Critical and Historical Views, ed. Newey (Totowa, N.J., 1980), pp. 34-5; Philip Edwards, 'The Journey in The Pilgrim's Progress', in Newey, p. 111; Nick Shrimpton, 'Bunyan's Military Metaphor', in Newey, pp. 205-23 passim; and Brainerd P. Stranahan, 'Bunyan and the Epistle to the Hebrews: His Source for the Idea of Pilgrimage in The Pilgrim's Progress', SP, LXXIX (1982), 284.

4. The Geneva Bible: A Facsimile of the 1560 Edition (Madison, Wisc., 1969), facing page 281 of the Old Testament section (only the right-hand pages are numbered in this edition). Since he sometimes quotes from the Geneva version in his evangelical works, Bunyan was undoubtedly familiar with this 'Argument', which was reprinted unchanged in subsequent editions of the Geneva text. Seventeenth-century printings of the King James or Authorized Version (Bunyan's preferred translation and the one quoted elsewhere in this paper) include brief interpretations of The Song of Solomon similar to those of Geneva, as do early editions of the Catholic Douai Version.

5. Bunyan was probably not familiar with all the refinements of The Song of Solomon's interpretative tradition that are evident in the poetry and art of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. This subject is carefully examined in Stanley Stewart's The Enclosed Garden: The Tradition and the Image in Seventeenth-Century Poetry (Madison, Wisc., 1966). However, besides his reading of Christian translations of scripture, Bunyan had access to the tradition through the sermons he heard and through emblem books. Early in his own spiritual journey he was impressed by a sermon on chapter 4, verse 1 of The Song of Solomon ('Behold, thou art fair, my love …'); among the meanings found by the preacher was 'That the Church, and so every saved Soul, is Christs Love, when loveless' (Bunyan, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, ed. Roger Sharrock [Oxford, 1962], p. 29). Bunyan's acquaintance with the emblem tradition is well known, and Sharrock has concluded that he was certainly familiar with Quarles's Emblemes ('Bunyan and the English Emblem Writers', RES, XXI [1945], 107). Stewart reprints two of Quarles' illustrations for verses from The Song of Solomon (Figures 30, 31).

6. See Stranahan, 284.

7. John Bunyan, The Pilgrim's Progress, ed. James Blanton Wharey, second edition rev. Roger Sharrock (Oxford, 1960), p. 55. Subsequent references within my text are to this edition.

8. Any statements in this paper about the frequency of words or phrases in the Bible are based on Robert Young's Analytical Concordance to the Bible, 22nd American ed. (New York, 1955). This is a concordance to the King James or Authorized Version.

9. Bunyan also has in mind here a parallel passage in Ecclesiastes: 'I made me great works; I builded me houses; I planted me vineyards: I made me gardens and orchards, and I planted trees in them of all kind of fruits: I made me pools of water, to water therewith the wood that bringeth forth trees' (2:4-6). This book of the Old Testament is traditionally attributed to Solomon also.

10. Though scenes of Christian fellowship are much more frequent in the Second Part of The Pilgrim's Progress, this recital by Gaius of a portion of one verse from The Song of Solomon is one of the very few references to the Old Testament poem in such scenes. Bunyan understood Solomon's allegory as portraying the ecstatic relations between Christ and his Church (or Christ and the individual believer), not as a depiction of the joys that Christians might experience in each other's company. For a sensitive discussion of Bunyan's views on the social satisfactions of non-conformist church life, see John R. Knott, Jr.'s 'Bunyan and the Holy Comunity', SP, LXXX (1983), 200-25.

11. See Stranahan, 295-6.

12. By Knott in 'Holy Community', 224.

Kathleen M. Swaim (essay date 1993)

SOURCE: Swaim, Kathleen M. "The Allegorical Way." In Pilgrim's Progress, Puritan Progress: Discourses and Contexts, pp. 18-41. Chicago, Ill.: University of Illinois, 1993.

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Kate Hegarty Bouman (review date December 1994)

SOURCE: Bouman, Kate Hegarty. Review of The Pilgrim's Progress, by John Bunyan, adapted by Gary D. Schmidt, illustrated by Barry Moser. School Library Journal 40, no. 12 (December 1994): 130.

Gr. 7 Up—Schmidt's retelling [of Pilgrim's Progress ] is much more accessible than the original version, which was written in the late 1600s. Although the number and extent of Christian's encounters with various temptations and trials on his journey to the Celestial City are reduced in this retelling, the flavor of his adventures is maintained. Schmidt has kept Bunyan's straightforward names such as Ignorance, Obstinate, Hopeful, Despair, Faithful, etc. for the players. The text is beautifully illustrated with Moser's colorful, realistic watercolors. His mix of both historical periods and ethnic groups is a fascinating way to extend the text spatially and temporally. For example, Christian is wearing a baseball cap but he also wears armor. Help is a portly gentleman in green overalls and a pinstriped shirt, while Evangelist is a distinguished African American in a white suit. An interesting, accessible version of an old classic that many YAs have heard about, but not all have read.

Michael Mullett (essay date 1996)

SOURCE: Mullett, Michael. "The Pilgrim's Progress, Part I." In John Bunyan in Context, pp. 191-210. Keele, Staffordshire, England: Keele University, 1996.

[In the following essay, Mullett asserts that, "The Pilgrim's Progress is replete with scriptural citations and marginalia, but, through giving them his own diction and rhythms, Bunyan lends freshness and realism to familiar scenes and characters."]

Bunyan's fame rests chiefly—perhaps disproportion-ately—on the two parts of The Pilgrim's Progress (1678 and 1684). It is possible that without this best seller Bunyan would be known to historians as a figure of some importance in the development of post-Restoration Nonconformity—perhaps on a level with someone like William Kiffin.1 It is all the more strange that he should owe his fame, far beyond the history of seventeenth-century radical Protestantism and into the realms of popular literature, to a work which is, on the face of it, hardly typical of his overall oeuvre, though, as Roger Sharrock points out, the rich metaphorical furnishings of The Pilgrim's Progress are anticipated in his earlier, non-fictional writings, while the great allegory contains scholastic method and homiletic arrangement of a kind to be found in Bunyan's more self-evidently doctrinal corpus.2 Despite such similarities and continuities between his 'minor' works and his acknowledged masterpiece, Bunyan's literary output before 1678 characteristically comprised sermon treatises, polemical tracts, ecclesiological and sacramental dialectics, Reformed soteriology, and so on—most of it exactingly cerebral. The Pilgrim's Progress, in contrast, is in the form of popular art designed for entertainment, and has the merits—clarity, a strong narrative line, vigorous diction—as well as the demerits—naïvety, occasional technical awkwardness—of amateur popular literature. Whether or not it was aimed at children—as, expressly, was his A Book for Boys and Girls (1684)—it became a children's classic; even Huckleberry Finn 'read considerable in it now and then. The statements was interesting but tough.' In the Romantic era, the book's apparent suitability for and appeal to children allowed for its reclassification—in terms of approval, given the Romantics' general admiration for childhood—as a children's book. Southey's attitude was typical: 'there is a homely reality about [The Pilgrim's Progress ]; a nursery tale is not more intelligible in it's [sic] manner of narration, to a child'. A doting father, George Crabbe recorded how his daughter 'Caroline, now six years old, reads incessantly and insatiably. She has been travelling with John Bunyan's "Pilgrim", and enjoying a pleasure never, perhaps, to be repeated.'3The Pilgrim's Progress had become a genteel reading primer for post-infancy.

Whilst appreciating Sharrock's warning against over-medievalizing Bunyan, and his suggestion that the form of The Pilgrim's Progress is that of a universal genre—the story—we might add that the more specific category to which the work belongs is that of the medieval romance, a form made available to the youthful Bunyan by Richard Johnson's Seven Champions of Christendom (1607). This compilation of chivalric tales held him in thrall, just as knightly tales such as Amadis de Gaules fascinated the young Ignatius Loyola. Whereas, following his conversion, Loyola adapted the ideals of the romances—self-sacrifice, male comradeship, obedience, crusading ardour, knightly dedication—to form the ethos of his Society of Jesus, Bunyan, having as part of the price of his second birth thrown over the stuff of the romances, made use of their scenic apparatus to adorn, explain and allegorize a Reformed schema of salvation.4

Bunyan's story is not of the species of the parable, that is to say a narrative containing abiding truths presented through the medium of everyday or real life; rather, The Pilgrim's Progress is an allegory grounded in fantasy, those of the chivalresque at its most elaborate—complete with giants and enchanted palaces, castles and kings' champions and all the other paraphernalia and cast of the chivalric cycles.5 This being the case—and because Bunyan is describing a world of the super-real—it would be to miss the point to praise the 'realism' of the 'close observation' of his projection of 'landscape'. Charles Firth, sentimentalizing Bunyan as the ideal type of the English countryman entirely at home in his rustic world and able to describe it artlessly and naturalistically, complimented the author on his mastery of 'the landscape of his native Midlands … those landscapes from Bedfordshire'.6 In fact, though, apart from one or two observations on roads and paths that do seem to have been based on real seventeenth-century English route patterns (a tinker was a man of the roads), the landscape in The Pilgrim's Progress was not a closely observed environment but a neutral nowhere, a colourless wash on which are painted polychrome and gilded literary images culled from the romances. James Turner comments on the sparseness of Bunyan's scenery and scenic description: 'Bunyan's [landscape] is minimal—a wilderness without, a prison within … [His] descriptive style runs forward with its fingers in its ears … The whole Progress takes place in a symbolic dream-land.' Turner also speculates that Bunyan's uncertainty and inconsistency about visualized landscape—his map-lessness—arose because he was not (as Firth tried to show him to be) entirely at home in his English world or able to give a naturally sensitive depiction of it, but was a stranger—a pilgrim—excluded from a privileged establishment which owned England in the sense of being in possession (and, after 1660, being back in possession) of its soil: 'The units of topographical space (heights and depths, lands, fields, hills, houses and roads) are inseparable in Bunyan's imagination from the social means of their control. from lordship, tenure and sale, trespass, action and enclosure claims.'7 Bunyan's pilgrim does not travel through a carefully described countryside, but makes a 'progress', a mental, moral and spiritual evolution. The Pilgrim's Progress provides a roughly spatial framework for what is, in effect, a diagram of the stages of salvation, of the kind drawn up by Perkins and constructed by Bunyan himself in A Mapp Shewing the Order & Causes of Salvation and Damnation (1663 or 1664).

If The Pilgrim's Progress is not, then, an itinerary, David Seed observes that it is largely a recording of discourse. Bunyan's abiding metaphor, that of pilgrimage, may have been suspect for its connotations of popery (though, as Brainerd Stranahan shows, it was anchored in the Epistle to the Hebrews, which would have given it a more acceptable metaphorical base8). Equally, if not more, reprehensible from the point of view of the Protestant literalist approach, was the allegorization of Scripture: Bunyan's 'extratextual' apologia for his allegorical method, a convention in the genre, was made all the more necessary by current misgivings about allegorizing the Bible's literal meaning. But if the metaphor of the pilgrimage and the method of allegory were, in their different ways, suspect, discourse was exalted in the gathered churches, and, as Seed comments, 'Dialogue accounts for most of The Pilgrim's Progress in terms of sheer bulk.'9 Bunyan emphasized the companionable nature of this discourse, which we may compare with the converse of the church members which, in Grace Abounding, he recalled gave him so much heart-easing: 'Then I saw in my Dream, they went very lovingly on together; and had sweet discourse of all things that had happened to them in their Pilgrimage.'10 Conversation in The Pilgrim's Progress mirrors the exchanges taking place in the gathered churches, in which participants disclosed their spiritual case-histories; the following excerpt, in which Christian evokes the alternation in his consciousness of crisis—'perplexity'—and calm 'golden hours' is an example:

Pru[dence] Do you not find sometimes, as if those things were vanquished, which at other times are your perplexity?

Chr[istian] Yes, but that is but seldom; but they are to me Golden hours, in which such things happen to me.11

A longer dialogue also derives from the way in which the gathered churches elicited convincing accounts of their conversions from prospective members:

Chr. Then Christian began and said, I will ask you a question. How came you to think at first of doing as you do now?

Hope[full] Do you mean, How came I at first to look after the good of my Soul?12

Hopeful replies in an agonized narrative of his conversionary experience: we are once again in the world of Grace Abounding, a world of relentless self-analysis and self-disclosure, of unsparing recall of inner psychological states, and the release conferred by a scriptural passage vouchsafing redemption:

Chr. And did you indeavour to mend?

Hope. Yes, and fled from, not only my sins, but sinful Company too; and betook me to Religious Duties, as Praying, Reading, weeping for Sin … & c.

Chr. And did you think your self well then?

Hope. Yes, for a while …

Hope…. One day I was very sad, I think sader then at any one time in my life … But I replyed, Lord, I am a great, a very great sinner; and he answered, My grace is sufficient for thee

Hope. I know something of this my self; for before I knew my self it was so with me.13

Discourse, then, matters crucially in The Pilgrim's Progress : the book is a dialogue at least as much as it is a travelogue; indeed, at one point Christian has to issue a kind of reminder that what is being undertaken is a journey:

Hope…. I would know where we are.

Chr. We have not now about two Miles further to go thereon.

He still insists, though, on the primacy of the discourse: 'But let us return to our matter.' Yet for all the importance of discourse in The Pilgrim's Progress, we should also be aware of Bunyan's view of the limits on the utility of talk: a figure who represents discourse alone, without action or good disposition, Talkative, a character no doubt drawn from persons encountered in Bunyan's church—'a shame to all Professors'—is strongly censured. Talkative is a brilliant comic creation who can expatiate on: 'things heavenly, or things earthly; things Moral, or things Evangelical; things Sacred, or things Prophane; things past, or things to come; things forraign, or things at home; things more Essential, or things Circumstantial: provided that all be done to our profit'. He believes: 'that hearing and saying will make a good Christian, and thus he deceiveth his own Soul … Paul calleth some men, yea, and those great Talkers too, sounding Brass, and Tinckling Cymbals'. The centrality of deed and inner condition—'Deed and Truth'—in The Pilgrim's Progress extends the theme of action in The Strait Gate. The work's central metaphor, that of the journey, is one of vigorous activity, while countering it is the notion of sleep as the epitome of inaction. Bunyan employs the scriptural images of sleep as representing indifference, and wakefulness as betokening vigilance, as in Matthew 26: 40-6, Mark 13: 33-7, 1 Thessalonians 5: 5-6, and Romans 13: 11. The purpose of this book (though it was written under the conventions of dream literature) was to activate its readers: 'Yea, it will make the sloathful, active be.' Slumber is a mortal danger to the pilgrims:

Hope … let us lie down here and take one Nap.

Chr. By no means … lest sleping, we never awake more.14

Sleep, involving the loss of vigilance and the loss of control, is one of the many terrors confronting Christian. In contrast, a figure whom he passes by unharmed, but whose introduction we might expect to bring out the best of Bunyan's horror writing—the pope—is treated briefly and dismissively. Bunyan's pope is a most unterrifying character, a once potent persecutor grown decrepit and derisory; though still alive—barely—he seems about to join ancient paganism as a relic of history:

I espied a little before me a Cave, where two Giants, Pope and Pagan, dwelt in old time, by whose Power and Tyranny the Men whose bones, blood, ashes, & c. lay there, were cruelly put to death … [B]ut I have learnt since, that Pagan has been dead many a day; and as for the other, though he be yet alive, he is by reason of age, and also of the many shrewd brushes that he met with in his younger dayes, grown so crazy and stiff in his joynts, that he can now do little more then sit in his Caves mouth, grinning at Pilgrims as they go by, and biting his nails, because he cannot come at them.15

Apprehensiveness, then, with regard to the papacy, would be groundless: the old terrifying oppressor of the saints can now only utter empty threats and has become a laughing stock. How was it that Bunyan was, seemingly, thus able to dismiss the dread of popery that gripped his compatriots? One possible answer is that, when The Pilgrim's Progress came out in February 1678, he reflected a relative absence of paranoia in the period before the allegations made in the late summer by Israel Tonge and Titus Oates of a plot to assassinate Charles II so as to set up a Romanist regime. To set against that possibility is the fact that those editions that appeared after the alleged Popish Plot had been made public, although they did show extensive changes elsewhere in the text, left untouched Bunyan's depiction of the papacy as a harmless back number of history.16

Bunyan's portrayal of the papacy as a threat that was no longer to be taken seriously was the product not so much of observations on current events, as of an historical and eschatological overview which he reduced to a brief satirical incident in his allegory. Whatever minor changes took place in Bunyan's apocalyptic expectations, he retained his confidence in the demise of the papal Antichrist. In 1665 in The Holy City he had eagerly forecast the destruction of the 'shaking, tottering, staggering, kingdom of Rome'. In the early 1680s in Of Antichrist, and His Ruine he reflected on the history of the papacy, its defeats in the pre-Reformation period and the major blows it suffered, especially from the Tudor monarchs.17 Thus, the apparently light-hearted and indeed comic dismissal of popery in The Pilgrim's Progress should be seen as a condensed and simplified version of a larger eschatological and historical vision, in which the blows suffered by the papacy in a series of encounters from the late medieval heresies to the Reformation and beyond are summarized as 'the many shrewd brushes that he [the pope] met with in his younger dayes'.

Just as The Pilgrim's Progress encapsulates in one brief incident Bunyan's apocalyptic expectations concerning the papacy, so the work also contains, again in brief and coded form, his attitudes to government, kingship and the social order. As an outcome of his anti-papal apocalyptic and his experience of persecution, Bunyan dealt with kingship sympathetically, whereas he castigated the legal system, the gentry, Parliament and great wealth. By the time he came to write The Pilgrim's Progress, experience taught him that his foes populated the legal, social and political establishment—apart from the king. As W. R. Owens writes: 'if what you were chiefly interested in was toleration, it made sense to look to the King, rather than Parliament, in Restoration England'. In Of Antichrist, and His Ruine, Bunyan distanced his figure of the king from the gentlemen who conspired to alienate his people from him, and in The Holy City he differentiated the kings, who took an active part in building the New Jerusalem, from their nobles, who ignored the task.18 In The Pilgrim's Progress, likewise, Bunyan was positive about monarchy, but used figures from the social and political hierarchy below the king, and allusions to Acts of Parliament, as the basis for his moral denunciations. Christian serves a great king: 'Chr. But I have let my self to another, even to the King of Princes … I have given him my faith, and sworn my Allegiance to him.'19 Images of earthly kingship, of allegiance, fealty and treason, could be legitimately used as metaphors for God's sovereignty.

In contrast, nobility provides Bunyan with a figurative base for the vices: 'the Lord Old man, the Lord Carnal delight, the Lord Luxurious, the Lord Desire of Vain-glory, my old Lord Lechery, Sir Having Greedy, with all the rest of our Nobility'. A marginal note makes it entirely clear that he intends a social comment: 'Sins are all Lords and Great ones.' The temporizer By-ends is specifically of the gentry, albeit a parvenu: 'I am become a Gentleman of good Quality; yet my Great Grand-father was but a Waterman'; his wife was: 'my Lady Fainings Daughter, therefore she came of a very Honourable Family, and is arrived to such a pitch of Breeding, that she knows how to carry it to all, even to Prince and Peasant'. By-ends and his wife also stand for monied wealth, having links with the prosperous town of Fair-speech where he has 'very many Rich kindred'. The attack on wealth is particularly loud at the hill Lucre, where stands the tempter Demas 'Gentleman-man like': 'that Treasure is a snare to those that seek it, for it hindreth them in their Pilgrimage'.20

Bunyan's repudiation of wealth was part of a wider rejection of the temporal world, represented by Vanity Fair and all its ephemeral temptations: '[A]s Houses, Lands, Trades, Places, Honours, Preferments, Titles, Countreys, Kingdoms, Lusts, Pleasures, and Delights of all sorts.' His alienation from 'the world, the flesh and the devil' took in indifference to its division into nation-states—'Countreys, Kingdoms', the 'kingdoms of the world' (Matthew 4: 8): 'the Britain Row, the French Row, the Italian Row, the Spanish Row, the German Row' were merely the subdivisions of a great mart and its deceptive baubles. As for the world's institutions, Bunyan used his recollections of his court case to attack what he regarded as an unjust legal system. Brown suggested that Bunyan's model for the character of the hectoring judge in Faithful's trial in Vanity Fair was Kelyng. In fact, as we saw above in Chapter 2, Bunyan received a fair hearing at Kelyng's hands. The model for much of the dialogue is not Bunyan's court appearances, but his wife's attempt to intercede for him before the judges in 1661. Just as Hategood rails at Faithful in the Vanity Fair trial—'Judg. Sirrah, Sirrah, thou deservest to live no longer, but to be slain immediately upon the place'—so one of the judges hearing Elizabeth Bunyan loses all control of his passions: 'He preach the word of God! said Twisdon (and withal, she thought he would have struck her) … God! said he, his doctrine is the doctrine of the Devil.' Bunyan borrowed phrases from his account of Elizabeth's appeal and worked them into the Vanity Fair trial:

[from Elizabeth Bunyan's appeal]:

My Lord, said Justice Chester, he is a pestilent fellow, there is not such a fellow in the country again.

[from Faithful's trial]:

Judge … this man … is one of the vilest men in Countrey …

Super[stition, a witness] … this I know, that he [Faithful] is a very pestilent fellow.21

He also drew on his recollections of the kind of allegations made against him and his like after the Restoration and especially after Venner's rising. In 1662 Bunyan was accused of political conspiracy in the capital: 'They charged me also, that I went thither to plot and raise division, and make insurrection.' Christian faces more general allegations of subversion: 'He neither regardeth Prince nor People, Law nor Custom; but doth all that he can to possess all men with certain of his disloyal notions.' Christian and Faithful also face their own variant of the accusation made against Nonconformists in post-Restoration England—that they had been guilty of inciting Civil War: 'Then were these two poor men brought before their Examiners again, and there charged as being guilty of the late Hubbub that had been in the fair'.22

If Bunyan used the court scenes in The Pilgrim's Progress to make veiled attacks on the legal machine under which he had suffered, he was equally scathing about the penal statutes of the Cavalier Parliament. Each of the decrees by which Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar and Darius enacted persecution becomes an 'Act'; Darius, constrained into a course of persecution by a powerful assembly (see Daniel 6), provides an apt analogy for Charles II's difficult relations with Parliament in this area; the way in which the repressive 'Acts' are listed and summarized gives them the appearance of a code of laws, exactly like the Clarendon Code.23

Following his farcical trial, Faithful is sentenced to a death of what Hammond calls 'baroquely complicated extravagance'—scourging, buffeting, lancing, stoning, stabbing and burning.24 Elaborate it all may be, but its instalments bring together the sufferings of Christ (scourging, beating and lancing), of Stephen (stoning), of other early Christian martyrs (stabbing, etc.) and of the English martyrs in the pages of Foxe (burning). In Bunyan's mind all these sufferings formed the background to and made meaningful his own privations and those of thousands of his fellow-Nonconformists under the laws prevailing in post-Restoration England. To take one example, as Hammond points out, the imprisonment of Faithful and Christian in an iron cage was actually undergone by the Dissenting minister John Child, who was known to Bunyan. However, the corollary to Penn's 'no cross, no crown' was that a cross merited a crown—and Faithful is indeed triumphantly vindicated:

Now, I saw that there stood behind the multitude, a Chariot and a couple of Horses, waiting for Faithful, who (so soon as his adversaries had dispatched him) was taken up into it, and straightway was carried up through the Clouds, with sound of Trumpet, the nearest way to the Coelestial Gate.25

Hammond argues that this heavenly outcome defuses the social ire that we have seen expressed in The Pilgrim's Progress against the nobility and gentry; the Christian will receive a celestial crown, and although the moral faults of the rich and powerful are condemned, a this-worldly solution is not offered. Bunyan espouses a 'strictly conservative' political outlook and—no Leveller or Digger—expresses hopes which are 'centred on the next world, not on this'.26

This is a persuasive view in many ways: Bunyan undoubtedly played his part in the long-term overhaul of Nonconformist political attitudes, leading to the greater passivity that was evident most especially after 1689. However, the Bunyan who had written A Few Sighs from Hell two decades before the appearance of the first part of The Pilgrim's Progress was still capable of invoking revenge—in his mind no less real for being eschatological—against persecutors. The Last Judgement was to be a day of wrath and of apocalyptic retribution:

When he shall come with sound of Trumpet in the Clouds, as upon the wings of the Wind, you [the saints] shall come with him; and when he shall sit upon the Throne of Judgement, you shall sit by him; yea, and when he shall pass Sentence upon all the workers of Iniquity … you also shall have a voice in that Judgement, because they were his and your Enemies.27

Using satirical metaphor and eschatological prediction to condemn the social, political and legal system that had kept him prisoner for so many years, Bunyan could hardly fail to attack the Church of England. His hostility to the Anglican liturgy can be read into Faithful's charge that 'whatever is thrust into the worship of God, that is not agreeable to divine Revelation, cannot be done but by an humane Faith, which Faith will not profit to Eternal Life'.28 The theme of salvation and faith that is here introduced indicates that, though Campbell may well be right to say that 'we should be ill-advised to search for Bunyan's theology in The Pilgrim's Progress', we should also pay heed to Sharrock's analysis of theological polemic in the character of Mr Worldly-Wiseman, a tempter into false assurance of righteousness through the works of the law and based on Edward Fowler: Fowler/Wiseman opposes justification by faith and tries to 'render the Cross odious' to Christian.29

Fowler's positions, as Bunyan perceived them, also come under attack in the opinions on justification of the character Ignorance:

Ignor[ance]. I believe that … I shall be justified before God from the curse, through his gracious acceptance of my obedience to his Law … Chr. … 2. Thou [Ignorance] believest with aFalse Faith, because it taketh Justification from the personal righteousness of Christ, and applies it to thy own.30

Yet, although Bunyan rejected a soteriology of self-assurance which he ascribed to Fowler, he himself, especially in his repudiation of the inactive and verbal religion of Talkative, seems again to move away from a Reformation doctrine of justification by faith alone, and to place confidence in the role, not of the individual's election or saving faith, but in his or her moral actions and works: 'The Soul of Religion is the practick part … at the day of Doom, men shall be judged according to their fruits. It will not be said then, Did you believe? but, Were you Doers, or Talkers only? and accordingly shall they be judged.'31 In what reads like a denial of justification by faith—'It will not be said then, Did you believe?'—Bunyan cites in his support the Epistle of James, the scriptural locus classicus of works righteousness and rejected by Luther for that reason; having acknowledged James 1:27 on what constituted 'pure religion', or, as Bunyan put it, 'the Soul of Religion', he went on to cite the passage so often taken to be the antithesis of Protestant solafideanism: 'Even so, faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone' (James 2:17). Campbell maintains that, because The Pilgrim's Progress concerns man's struggle rather than God's plan, the work avoids Reformed soteriology:

[T]he doctrine of election … does not affect the Christian of The Pilgrim's Progress. Many of the doctrines to which Bunyan subscribed are mentioned incidentally in the course of the book, but none is essential to Christian's progress … [I]n The Pilgrim's Progress, he eliminates the truths that are set in the mind of God, such as the doctrine of election.

However, whereas he seems to propose works-righteousness to Talkative—the epitome of the complacent professor who disputed any necessity for good works—when he rebuts Ignorance's confidence in the efficacy of personal merit, Bunyan restates justification by faith, in Christ alone: 'true Justifying Faith puts the soul (as sensible of its lost condition by the Law) upon flying for refuge unto Christs righteousness'. In this work, then, Bunyan does not so much contradict his own acceptance of the Protestant doctrine of justification by faith, as strive for a balance between the antinomian error of faith (or talk) without good works and Pelagian over-confidence in personal virtue. Bunyan also makes Ignorance deliver a warning against the danger of antinomian immorality that might arise out of an excessive trust in the redeeming work of Christ: 'What! would you have us trust to what Christ in his own person has done without us? This conceit would loosen the reines of our lust, and tollerate us to live as we list.'32

While he denigrated the works-righteousness represented by the distinctly non-Calvinist Mr Worldly-Wiseman, Bunyan can be seen to be criticizing aspects of what we might recognize as Puritanism. The character of Talkative is a brilliant parody of love of discourse for its own sake. But Talkative's futility is all the more marked in that his conversation is, in theological terms, correct from Bunyan's point of view: 'the necessity of the New-birth, the insufficiency of our works, the need of Christs righteousness, & c.' In the margin Bunyan comments ironically on 'Talkatives fine discourse'. Yet Talkative's fault is not simply garrulity; rather, it arises from his over-emphasis on the very theology of salvation that lay at the centre of Bunyan's outlook: 'all is of Grace, not of works: I could give you an hundred Scriptures for the confirmation of this'. Bunyan redoubles his sarcasm in his marginal comment on Talkative's over-assurance in faith without works: 'O brave Talkative.' This character's immorality, greed, harshness and self-indulgence—'as he talketh now with you, so will he talk when he is on the Ale-bench'—represent the perils of an ultra-antinomian formula of faith without works.33

Bunyan's discerning attitude to aspects of godly religion extended to diffidence expressed in The Pilgrim's Progress over the ordinances of the church. Campbell observes that the Palace Beautiful, standing for the gathered churches, is 'just by the highway side', not on the route to salvation, and that Christian is not baptized on entering the church'—the latter point being consistent with the view of baptism set out in A Confession of My Faith, and A Reason of my Practice in Worship. On the other hand, The Pilgrim's Progress celebrates some important features of the life of the gathered churches. For example, as Campbell points out, Christian's reception at the Palace Beautiful is modelled on the admission procedures of the Bedford congregation. Discourse is patterned on the godly converse of the separatist churches. The Puritan sabbatarianism that Bunyan was to unfold in Questions about the Nature and Perpetuity of the Seventh-Day Sabbath (1685) receives its recognition in the account of how Christian finds the key to his freedom—'called Promise'—in the early hours of a Sunday morning.34

The Pilgrim's Progress, then, is a Puritan book, and concerned with the life of the gathered churches. That said, it was not guaranteed a favourable reception from all members of such churches. For one thing, its literary form was made up of comedy and fiction. Where Milton adopted the voice of epic to 'justify the ways to God to men' in Paradise Lost, Bunyan chose the much less elevated forms of satire, laughter and popular fiction for his setting of the drama of man's redemption, arousing a hostile reaction from the Baptist Thomas Sherman, who objected to the 'lightness and laughter' of the book. Bunyan's defence was that in his work gravity hid her visage behind a smile:

Some things are of that Nature as to make

Ones fancie Checkle while his Heart doth ake.35

We have already glimpsed comedy in the depiction of the absurdly loquacious Talkative. It is also present, in a black version, in the babble of the jury during Faithful's trial in Vanity Fair: 'Hang him, hang him, said Mr. Heady. A sorry Scrub, said Mr. High-mind. My heart riseth against him, said Mr. Enmity. He is a Rogue, said Mr. Lyar. Hanging is too good for him, said Mr. Cruelty.' Bunyan's defence of his comic approach, as of his employment of motifs from the romances, rested also on the claim that such devices sugared the pill of doctrine:

They [readers] must be grop'd for, and be tickled too,

Or they will not be catcht, what e're you do.

Enjoyment—'delight'—is also aroused through the tension of the narrative. Bunyan was an effective suspense writer, setting up cliffhanger scenes of extreme peril followed by sudden rescue: 'Yet the Fiends seemed to come nearer and nearer, but when they were come even almost at him, he cried out with a most vehement voice, I will walk in the strength of the Lord God; so they gave back, and came no further.' Another scene, Christian's rescue from drowning, takes some of its power from its echoes of Christ's saving of Peter.36

Although Bunyan found his narrative apparatus in rehashed tales whose origins lay in the 'popish' hagiographies of St George, St David, St Anthony and the rest, he did not feel that he had to spend much time defending his genre source. Nick Shrimpton observes that Richard Johnston's chivalric heroes in The Seven Champions of Christendom were as much assisted by destiny as Calvinist saints were by predestination.37

A remaining objection to his literary approach that Bunyan felt he had to counter was that he indulged in metaphor: 'Metaphors make us blind.' Bunyan dealt with the objection that metaphors mislead and deceive at considerable length in his prefatory 'Authors Apology'. Yet, though there was a long-standing Puritan preference for plain and literal discourse, few of the godly would have been able to resist Bunyan's defence that:

His [God's] Gospel-laws, in olden time [were] held forth

By Types, Shadows and Metaphors.

Perhaps, though, Bunyan's metaphorical approach was, or was becoming, objectionable, and, indeed, archaic, not so much from the point of view of Puritan literalism, but from the vantage point of a changing élite culture increasingly linked to scientific discovery and becoming suspicious of the mental world of metaphor. The increasing need in late Stuart England for an exact language to convey scientific meaning led to the de-poetization of speech and meaning, the conversion of poetry into verse, the erosion of imaginative meaning and the marginalization of metaphor. S. J. Newman summarizes Francis Bacon as maintaining that 'the popular mind is too unreliable, too anthropomorphic, too infected by faith and creativity to perceive things as they really are'; before he came along, Bacon believed, the human intellect was 'like an enchanted glass, full of superstition and imposture'. Natural philosophy had been impeded by 'the similitudes of human actions and arts'—a dismissive use of the word 'similitude', which was repeated by Glanvill, the writer on homiletics, in the year of the appearance of the first part of The Pilgrim's Progress , when Glanvill advised preachers to avoid 'the use of vulgar Proverbs and homely similitudes'.38

Yet Bunyan's classic is a 'similitude': The Pilgrim's Progress from This World to That which Is to Come, Delivered under the Similitude of a Dream —the term being assertively repeated in 'The Authors Apology'. Although Bunyan was an exact writer on theology, with complex numbered discourses appearing within The Pilgrim's Progress, he was not of a scientific frame of mind. It is the character of Shame, the supreme exponent of Restoration values, of 'the brave spirits of the times', who derides the godlys' 'want of understanding all natural Science'. In The Pilgrim's Progress Bunyan is the spokesman for a pre-scientific culture based on symbol, poetry, simile and allegory—'similitude'—rather than the laboratory exactitude and literalness looked for in Baconian language.39

Looking at the details of Bunyan's metaphorical range in this work, we find that some similes revolve around money and trade: Little-faith is robbed by Guilt and others of the 'spending Money' which represents his spiritual resources; a man's sins are his standing debt in God's account—'Gods Book'. Bunyan also draws upon Scripture for metaphor, building with lavish detail, for instance, on Peter's image of the dog returning to its vomit. There is imagery based on nature: 'Why [says Christian to Hopeful], I did but compare thee to some of the Birds that are of the brisker sort, who will run to and fro in untrodden paths with the shell upon their heads.'40 Apart from individual figures, there is an underlying metaphor running through the work, which accompanies that of the voyager: the warrior. Shrimpton argues that, whereas the figure of the pilgrim is apt for the Christian's progression towards conversion, the metaphor of warfare is appropriate for the constant struggle that the individual has to wage following conversion. Bunyan is certainly concerned with conflict in The Pilgrim's Progress, and in the great battle scene between Christian and Apollyon he depicts the war that the Christian must wage, with the sword of the spirit, against the forces of evil; he takes a metaphor and uses it for an allegory. For this particular encounter, though, Bunyan did not draw on his own experience of warfare, but used the chivalric romances as his source. The 'military metaphor' of Bunyan's book was culled from other books. The archaic weapons and forms of hand-to-hand combat in the duel between Christian and Apollyon were in no way related to the warfare of gunnery, siege and massed infantry movement that Bunyan had known in the 1640s. The illustrations for the 1678 edition show Christian fighting alone and wearing full armour, carrying a spear, helmeted and plumed, parrying and thrusting with sword and shield. He is no seventeenth-century trooper, but a solitary and knightly St George, 'clad with northern steel from top to toe', and facing Apollyon as the dragon, a figure based on the opponents who bar the way of the heroes in the medieval cycles. Figures like the King's Champion come straight out of chivalric lore. Thus, the battle metaphor in The Pilgrim's Progress stemmed not from personal observation, but from a literary tradition, one that emphasized two features of the hero—his solitude and his manliness.41

Though he is accompanied, Christian loses his friend, the martyred Faithful and, to underline his solitude, his relationship with Hopeful is marked by tension and male aggression rather than by friendship:

Hope. Why art thou so tart my Brother?…

Chr. … Here therefore, my Brother, is thy mistake.

Hope. I acknowledge it; but yet your severe reflection had almost made me angry.

Christian battles alone, the solitary Puritan contender merged with the loneliness of the knight errant. This means that relationships are a hindrance to him, as with Bacon's 'He who hath wife and children hath given hostages to fortune; for they are impediments to great enterprises.' Family is a weight impeding Bunyan's pilgrim's progress. In the opening narrative of the book, and recalling Bunyan's account of his melancholy self-absorption and psychological isolation from his family in Grace Abounding, Christian is shown as being concerned for his wife's and children's fate, but as being misunderstood by them: 'they also thought to drive away his distemper by harsh and surly carriages to him'. The prerequisite of Christian's embarking on his redemptive pilgrimage is his abandonment of his family: 'but his Wife and Children perceiving it [his departure], began to cry after him to return: but the Man put his fingers in his Ears, and ran on crying, Life, Life, Eternal Life'. Christian and his family, for all his professed love of them, are essentially estranged: 'Chr. Why, my Wife was afraid of losing this World; and my Children were given to the foolish delights of youth.' This lack of understanding on his family's part shows them to be 'implacable to good', so much so that Christian is cleared of any responsibility for their fate. 'Wives, Husbands, Children' are also part of the alluring impedimenta of Vanity Fair.42

As free of family ties as any knightly hero, Christian is at the centre of a pervasive concern with masculinity: Mr Worldly-Wise warns him of the dangers of spiritual cogitations which 'unman men'; in words borrowed from Latimer's rallying call to Ridley as recorded by Foxe, Faithful is bidden to 'play the man'; in a warning against recklessness, Christian counsels Hopeful not to 'be tickled at the thoughts of our own manhood'; 'yet I cannot boast of my manhood', says Christian, taking stock of how little of his survival he owes to himself; an allegation that Christian has to deal with is that 'a tender conscience was an unmanly thing'; the pilgrims were to 'Be vigilant, and quit themselves like Men'. Though the second part of The Pilgrim's Progress was to contain more in the way of feminine themes, it, too, was much taken up with images of a lone male struggle.43

The language of The Pilgrim's Progress, terse and exclamatory, conveys a sense of action and tension:

But Oh how nimbly now did he go up the rest of the Hill!… Ah thou sinful sleep! how for thy sake am I like to be benighted in my Journey!… Then said Christian to himself again, These Beasts range in the night for their prey, and if they should meet with me in the dark, how should I shift them? how I should escape being by them torn in pieces?

The force of such passages is intensified by the use of a strong Anglo-Saxon diction; only eight out of seventy-one words just reproduced are of Romance origin and sixty-one of them are monosyllables. Dialogue is vivid and realistic:

Chr. And what did you do then?

Hope. Do! I could not tell what to do …

Ignor. What! You are a man for revelations!

The Pilgrim's Progress is replete with scriptural citations and marginalia, but, through giving them his own diction and rhythms, Bunyan lends freshness and realism to familiar scenes and characters: 'Witness Peter, of whom I made mention before. He would swagger, Ay he would: He would, as his vain mind prompted him to say, do better, and stand more for his Master, then all men.'44 Speaking here is a Protestant's scepticism about the claims of a saint, popery's special saint, but Peter's boastfulness—his 'swagger'—is conveyed all the more sharply in the dismissive conversational aside 'Ay he would'.

For so long consigned to the nursery and dismissed as a simple book for simple people, The Pilgrim's Progress is, in fact, a literary work of considerable artistry and sophistication. Those qualities are also on display in Bunyan's moralistic novel, Mr. Badman.


1. Compare Sir Charles Firth: 'To contemporaries outside his own sect the author of The Pilgrim's Progress was nothing but a dissenting preacher with some little reputation among Nonconformists'—cited in Roger Sharrock (ed.), The Pilgrim's Progress: A Casebook (London and Basingstoke, 1976), p. 81.

2. Roger Sharrock, 'Life and Story in The Pilgrim's Progress', in Vincent Newey (ed.), The Pilgrim's Progress: Critical and Historical Views (Liverpool, 1980), pp. 51-4. Dayton Haskin in 'The Burden of Interpretation in The Pilgrim's Progress', Studies in Philology 79 (1982), pp. 256-78, shows how the book placed a 'benign interpretation' on scriptural evidence for one's election.

3. Mark Twain quoted in The Independent on Sunday, The Sunday Review, 8 August 1993, p. 11. For Southey and Crabb, see Sharrock (ed.), The Pilgrim's Progress, p. 57. Bunyan's (apparent) plebeian naturalness, which had set him as a discount with the Augustans, gave him a new currency with the Romantics: see N. H. Keeble, "'Of Him Thousands Do Daily Sing and Talk": Bunyan and his Reputation', in Keeble (ed.), John Bunyan: Conventicle and Parnassus (Oxford, 1988), pp. 246-7, 252-6. For a plot summary of The Pilgrim's Progress, see Roger Sharrock, John Bunyan (London, 1954; reissued 1968), pp. 74-87.

4. For Loyola's early reading, see William V. Bangert, SJ, A History of the Society of Jesus (2nd edn; St Louis, MO, 1986), p. 4.

5. For allegory and parable, see Valentine Cunningham, 'Glosing and Glozing: Bunyan and Allegory', in Keeble (ed.), John Bunyan, esp. pp. 237ff., and Thomas H. Luxon, Literal Figures: Puritan Allegory and the Reformed Crisis in Representation (Chicago and London, 1995), ch 6; for intention, truth, fiction, allegory and metaphor in The Pilgrim's Progress, see Barbara A. Johnson, "'Falling into Allegory": The "Apology" to The Pilgrim's Progress and Bunyan's Scriptural Methodology', in Robert G. Collmer (ed.), Bunyan in Our Time (Kent, OH, and London, 1989), pp. 113-37.

6. Firth, quoted in Sharrock, John Bunyan, pp. 91-2; Lindsay ('Bunyan had a deep feeling for Nature') used considerable ingenuity in locating the scenes of The Pilgrim's Progress in the English countryside: 'The Slough of Despond lies north of Dunstable … The Delectable Mountains are in the Chilterns': Jack Lindsay, John Bunyan: Maker of Myths (London, 1937; reprinted New York, 1969), pp. 170-3.

7. James Turner, 'Bunyan's Sense of Place', in Newey (ed.), The Pilgrim's Progress, pp. 92, 94, 97; see also Christopher Hill, The English Bible and the Seventeenth-Century Revolution (London, 1993), p. 131.

8. Brainerd Stranahan, 'Bunyan and the Epistle to the Hebrews: His Source for the Idea of Pilgrimage in The Pilgrim's Progress', Studies in Philology 79 (1982), pp. 279-96.

9. David Seed, 'Dialogue and Debate in The Pilgrim's Progress', in Newey (ed.), The Pilgrim's Progress, p. 69; E. Beatrice Batson, John Bun-yan: Allegory and Imagination (London and Canberra, 1984), pp. 29-30.

10. James Blanton Wharey (ed.), The Pilgrim's Progress from this World to That which is to Come (revised by Roger Sharrock; Oxford, 1960), p. 66; for the dating of the composition of the first part of The Pilgrim's Progress, see ibid., pp. xxix-xxxv.

11. Ibid., p. 50; for the narratives of conversion, see Roger Pooley, 'Spiritual Experience and Spiritual Autobiography', The Baptist Quarterly 32 (1988), p. 396.

12. The Pilgrim's Progress, p. 137.

13. Ibid., pp. 139, 142-3, 151.

14. Ibid., pp. 151, 84, 77, 79-80, 6, 136. Kaufmann, though, writes that Bunyan 'hints that the Christian life is as much a matter of rest as it is of movement': U. Milo Kaufmann, 'The Pilgrim's Progress and the Pilgrim's Regress: John Bunyan and C. S. Lewis on the Shape of the Christian Quest', in Collmer (ed.), Bunyan in Our Time, p. 189.

15. The Pilgrim's Progress, p. 65.

16. John Brown, John Bunyan: His Life, Times and Work (2nd edn; London, 1886), pp. 264-5; W. R. Owens, "'Antichrist Must Be Pulled Down": Bunyan and the Millennium', in Anne Laurence, W. R. Owens and Stuart Sim (eds), John Bunyan and His England, 1628–1688 (London and Ronceverte, WV, 1990), pp. 81-2; I. M. Green writes that 'Bunyan certainly shared the anti-Catholic prejudices of his day, but if his work contained fewer attacks on Catholic doctrine than that of two or three generations earlier, this was in line with the partial decline of the negative [anti-Catholic] side of English Protestantism': 'Bunyan in Context', in M. Van Os and G. J. Schutte (eds), Bunyan in England and Abroad (Amsterdam, 1990), pp. 1-11; see also The Pilgrim's Progress, 'Introduction'.

17. The Holy City, in J. Sears McGee (ed.), Miscellaneous Works of John Bunyan, vol. III (Oxford, 1987), p. 72; Of Antichrist, and His Ruine, pp. 431-504.

18. Owens, "'Antichrist Must Be Pulled Down'", pp. 82, 92; Hill adds: 'For Bunyan persecutors were the Church of England and the Anglican gentry, against whom Charles and James seemed possible allies': Hill, The English Bible, p. 321.

19. The Pilgrim's Progress, p. 57.

20. Ibid., pp. 94, 99, 106, 107; it is possible that the figure of Demas, 'the son of Abraham', having Judas for a father, contains a vestigial anti-Semitism. For social commentary, see Brean S. Hammond, 'The Pilgrim's Progress: Satire and Social Comment', in Newey (ed.), The Pilgrim's Progress, p. 123; Brainerd Stranahan, 'Bunyan's Satire and its Biblical Source', in Collmer (ed.) Bunyan in Our Time, pp. 50-1; and, for discussion of Cantarow's view of the vices as 'members of the upper classes', see David Herreshof, 'Marxist Perspectives on Bunyan', in ibid., p. 179.

21. The Pilgrim's Progress, pp. 88, 89, 95, 94; A Discourse between my Wife and the Judges, in Grace Abounding, pp. 127-8.

22. Some Carriages of the Adversaries of God's Truth with me, in Grace Abounding, p. 130; The Pilgrim's Progress, pp. 93, 91.

23. See Ibid., p. 96.

24. Hammond, 'Satire and Social Comment', p. 121; The Pilgrim's Progress, p. 97.

25. The Pilgrim's Progress, p. 97. Hammond, 'Satire and Social Comment', p. 119; Pooley also relates Faithful's form of execution to those of three Marian martyrs recorded by Foxe: see Roger Pooley, 'Plain and Simple: Bunyan and Style', in Keeble (ed.), John Bunyan, p. 106; see also Barrie White, 'John Bunyan and the Context of Persecution', in Laurence et al., John Bunyan, pp. 56-7, and Richard L. Greaves, 'Amid the Holy War: Bunyan and the Ethic of Suffering', in ibid., pp. 63-75 and esp. pp. 70-5.

26. Hammond, 'Satire and Social Comment', pp. 126-7, 130.

27. The Pilgrim's Progress, p. 160.

28. Ibid., p. 95.

29. Gordon Campbell, 'The Theology of The Pilgrim's Progress', in Newey (ed.), The Pilgrim's Progress, p. 261; see also Campbell, 'Fishing in Other Men's Waters: Bunyan and the Theologians', in Keeble (ed.), John Bunyan, esp. pp. 149-51; also Isabel Rivers, 'Grace, Holiness and the Pursuit of Happiness', in ibid., pp. 63-7; The Pilgrim's Progress, pp. 17-24: Fowler's patronizing attitude to Bunyan (see Brown, Bunyan, p. 234) may have provided the basis for similar attitudes on the part of Mr Worldly-Wiseman: 'How now, good fellow … hear me, I am older than thou!' (The Pilgrim's Progress, pp. 17-18).

30. Ibid., p. 147.

31. Ibid., pp. 79-80. Gordon Campbell picks up the 'discrepancy [which] arises between the theological position which [Bunyan] had inherited from the Bedford congregation and his practical private beliefs. Although he insisted in theory that the human will could play no part in salvation, in practice he never eased to exhort his readers to repent of their sins': Campbell, 'Fishing in Other Men's Waters', p. 149.

32. Campbell, 'The Theology of The Pilgrim's Progress', pp. 257, 261; The Pilgrim's Progress, p. 148. For the work's Christocentricity, see J. H. Alexander, 'Christ in The Pilgrim's Progress', Bunyan Studies 1, 2 (1989), pp. 22-9; see also Geoffrey Nuttall, 'The Heart of The Pilgrim's Progress', American Baptist Quarterly 7 (1988), pp. 472-83.

33. Ibid., pp. 76, 77, 78.

34. Campbell, 'The Theology of The Pilgrim's Progress', pp. 251-2; The Pilgrim's Progress, p. 118.

35. Hammond, 'Satire and Social Comment', p. 118. Compare the (fictionalized) attack on the place of humour in Christian divinity in Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose (trans. William Weaver; London 1984), pp. 467-79. The second part of The Pilgrim's Progress, p. 170.

36. The Pilgrim's Progress, pp. 97, 3, 63, 157-8; Matthew 14: 23-32.

37. Nick Shrimpton, 'Bunyan's Military Metaphor', in Newey (ed.), The Pilgrim's Progress, pp. 205-24.

38. The Pilgrim's Progress, p. 4. Bacon quoted in S. J. Newman, 'Bunyan's Solidness', in Newey (ed.), The Pilgrim's Progress, pp. 233-4, 249n. 20. Johnson, 'Falling into Allegory', pp. 133-6.

39. See, for example, the complex numbered discourse in The Pilgrim's Progress, pp. 153-4; Shame's attack on the godlys' ignorance of science, in ibid., p. 72.

40. Ibid., pp. 125-6, 140, 152, 129; 1 Peter 2: 22.

41. Shrimpton, 'Bunyan's Military Metaphor', pp. 207, 218; The Pilgrim's Progress, pp. 56-60; The Pilgrim's Progress: A Facsimile Reproduction (Old Woking, Surrey, 1978), pp. 100, 107. For some of the connotations of 'north' and 'northern' in Bunyan, see Hill, The English Bible, p. 124.

42. The Pilgrim's Progress, pp. 128-9, 9, 10, 51, 88; Bacon, 'Of Marriage and Single Life', in Sir Francis Bacon, The Essayes or Counsels, Civil and Morall (ed. Michael Kiernan; Oxford, 1985), p. 24.

43. The Pilgrim's Progress, pp. 18, 131, 132, 72, 74.

44. The Pilgrim's Progress, pp. 45, 140, 148, 131.



Bacon, Ernest W. Pilgrim and Dreamer: John Bunyan: His Life and Work. Exeter, England: Paternoster, 1983, 186 p.

Biography of Bunyan.

Brown, John. John Bunyan: His Life, Times and Work. London: Holder & Stoughton, 1994, 504 p.

Biography of Bunyan by John Brown, first published in 1885, re-edited with an introduction by Robert Backhouse.

Furlong, Monica. Puritan's Progress. New York, N.Y.: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, Inc., 1975, 223 p.

Biography of Bunyan.


Alpaugh, David J. "Emblem and Interpretation in The Pilgrim's Progress." ELH 33, no. 3 (September 1996): 299-314.

Explores the motif of vision and the themes of damnation and salvation in Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress.

Coats, R. H. "John Bunyan as a Writer for Children." Westminster Review 176, no. 3 (September 1911): 303-07.

Examines the enduring appeal of Bunyan's major works to children.

Ferrell, Tom. "Make Way for Allegories." New York Times Book Review (13 November 1994): 30.

Offers a critical assessment of The Pilgrim's Progress, by John Bunyan, adapted by Gary D. Schmidt, illustrated by Barry Moser.

Franson, J. Karl. "From Vanity Fair to Emerald City: Baum's Debt to Bunyan." In Children's Literature Annual, Volume 23, edited by Elizabeth Lennox Keyser, pp. 91-114. New Haven: Yale University, 1995.

Analyses the influence of Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress on L. Frank Baum's The Wizard of Oz.

Freeman, Rosemary. "John Bunyan: The End of the Tradition." In English Emblem Books, pp. 204-28. New York, N.Y.: Octagon Books, Inc., 1966.

Discussion of Bunyan's major works in the context of the literary history of the English emblem book.

Hill, Christopher. "John Bunyan and His Publics." History Today 38 (October 1988): 13-19.

Biographical overview of Bunyan's religious and political perspectives in the historical context of Restoration England.

Swaim, Kathleen M. "Mercy and the Feminine Heroic in the Second Part of Pilgrim's Progress." Studies in English Literature, 1500–1900 30, no. 3 (summer 1990): 387-409.

Discussion of theology and gender in Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress.

Additional coverage of Bunyan's life and career is contained in the following sources published by Thomson Gale: Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults, Vol. 5; British Writers, Vol. 2; Concise Dictionary of British Literary Biography, 1660–1789; Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol. 39; DISCovering Authors; DISCovering Authors: British Edition; DISCovering Authors: Canadian Edition; DISCovering Authors Modules: Most-studied Authors; Literature Criticism from 1400 to 1800, Vols. 4, 69; Literature Resource Center; Reference Guide to English Literature, Ed. 2; Twayne's English Authors; World Literature and Its Times, Ed. 3; World Literature Criticism, Vol. 1; and Writers for Children.