The Pilgrim's Progress Overview

This Study Guide consists of approximately 36 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Pilgrim's Progress.
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The Pilgrim's Progress Summary & Study Guide Description

The Pilgrim's Progress Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Related Titles and a Free Quiz on The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan.

In the nineteenth century, The Pilgrim's Progress was a standard volume in nearly every literate household in the United States and England. Most children read it along with the Bible and the great plays of Shakespeare. In the twentieth century, its popularity has declined, mainly because of changes in contemporary views of religion. The Pilgrim's Progress stands, for better or worse, as one of the monuments of Puritanism, a part of our historical past rather than an active influence in our present.

Nevertheless, The Pilgrim's Progress has a good deal to offer the modem reader, both in religious instruction and enjoyment. John Bunyan's religious background may have been Puritan, but the doctrine that is at the heart of The Pilgrim's Progress comes directly from the New Testament's Sermon on the Mount where Christ exhorts his followers to seek "first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness" and to avoid the broad path that leads to destruction. In The Pilgrim's Progress, Bunyan provides an allegorical narrative that presents in powerful, uncompromising terms what it means to follow the narrow path to Christian salvation, resisting all temptation and all worldly cares and diversions along the way.

Stated in these terms The Pilgrim's Progress sounds austere; its message appears alien to modern times. But if its doctrine is uncompromising, its characters and story are enlivened by Bunyan's simple yet profound understanding of human nature. As Bunyan's main character, Christian, travels along the King's highway, he encounters many different kinds of people. Some are pilgrims; others are outright enemies to Christian, scorning his devotion to a straight and narrow path. Their psychological strengths and weaknesses are readily apparent to a modern reader, even if they are presented as allegorical figures rather than realistic, complex personalities. The reader "hears" their voices, just as Bunyan undoubtedly heard them in the conversations and discussions he had engaged in as a dissenting preacher. In the character of Christian, a reader may justly think that he is catching glimpses of Bunyan himself.

In The Pilgrim's Progress, a modern reader can become acquainted with the workings of a Puritan mind. For Bunyan, the gospel of Christ was a living message which informed his every thought and action, and this complete commitment to the teachings of Christ is very much at the heart of Bunyan's work. But The Pilgrim's Progress need not be read only for its Puritan elements, for its appeal is not primarily in its theology. Many critics see Christian as an Everyman figure whose quest represents any quest that begins in trouble and ends in maturity, reconciliation, and death. Christian's journey is finally a journey that everyone makes in some way; it is one person's way of confronting the essential difficulties and contradictions in human existence.

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This section contains 458 words
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