A journey that takes the hero, Christian, through the varied landscapes that constitute life and through the events that happen to human beings is the plot of The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan. Readers who have read and loved Louisa May Alcott's Little Women would recall the many references to this 17th century work of religious fiction. The Pilgrim's Progress is based on several values based in the teachings of Christianity. The importance of using the Bible as a guiding principle in life, of traveling not just geographically but also spiritually, the emphasis on community living and of the companionship of fellow people and many other themes. The story begins with a detailed explanation by the author in which he explains his beliefs about misconceptions in people's minds about religion and fiction. He examines the role of stories and parables in the Bible and how they are used to teach us certain lessons about life. The narration goes on to portray a dream that the narrator has once when he is wandering in the wilderness. In the dream, a man named Christian is visited by a spiritual guide called Evangelist who urges him to leave his home in the City of Destruction and embark on an arduous journey to the Celestial City. Christian's family and friends refuse to go with him and he finally leaves alone, carrying a heavy burden. The rest of the book describes the strange and laborious journey, punctuated by grief, disappointment, fear and many difficulties. Each of these incidents are portrayed as different people or places that Christian has to pass or overcome before he can continue on his journey and reach his final glorious destination. Written in the period between 1677-84 by writer/preacher John Bunyan whose own life was as eventful, fraught with suffering and misfortunes, The Pilgrim's Progress was written during one of his terms of imprisonment for violating religious laws. The book received enormous acclaim and went on to become one of the most popular religious texts in Christianity. It was translated into many languages and was used by preachers and missionaries the world over. The Pilgrim's Progress retains enormous appeal for its imaginative and lyrical prose, wonderful descriptions of landscape and travel, simple yet elegant style and also for the delightful touches of humor. Many of the names of places are phrases taken from the Bible, which went on to become common idioms. For modern-day readers, both young and old, Pilgrim's Progress is an interesting and inspiring read.
The entire book is presented as a dream sequence narrated by an omniscient narrator. The allegory's protagonist, Christian, is an everyman character, and the plot centres on his journey from his hometown, the "City of Destruction" ("this world"), to the "Celestial City" ("that which is to come": Heaven) atop Mount Zion. Christian is weighed down by a great burden—the knowledge of his sin—which he believed came from his reading "the book in his hand" (the Bible). This burden, which would cause him to sink into Hell, is so unbearable that Christian must seek deliverance. He meets Evangelist as he is walking out in the fields, who directs him to the "Wicket Gate" for deliverance. Since Christian cannot see the "Wicket Gate" in the distance, Evangelist directs him to go to a "shining light," which Christian thinks he sees. Christian leaves his home, his wife, and children to save himself: he cannot persuade them to accompany him. Obstinate and Pliable go after Christian to bring him back, but Christian refuses. Obstinate returns disgusted, but Pliable is persuaded to go with Christian, hoping to take advantage of the Paradise that Christian claims lies at the end of his journey. Pliable's journey with Christian is cut short when the two of them fall into the Slough of Despond, a boggy mire-like swamp where pilgrims' doubts, fears, temptations, lusts, shames, guilts, and sins of their present condition of being a sinner are used to sink them into the mud of the swamp. It is there in that bog where Pliable abandons Christian after getting himself out. After struggling to the other side of the slough, Christian is pulled out by Help, who has heard his cries and tells him the swamp is made out of the decadence, scum, and filth of sin, but the ground is good at the narrow Wicket Gate.
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