Pilgrim's Progress

An Apology for This Book: Authorial Power in The Pilgrim's Progress

John Bunyan, as he tells us in his prefatory remarks, didn't mean to write Pilgrim's Progress; it all happened while he was otherwise engaged. His Apology, at least at first, takes on the word's modern connotations. He regrets having inflicted the reader with the book, which wasn't his fault, and he seems on the verge of promising not to do it again. Even the aggressive act of publication is taken by the author out of the author's hands. Not knowing whose advice to follow, Bunyan prints "to prove then who advised for the best" (2), and lets the audience be the ultimate accountant. But after he has made sufficient excuses, he lets loose with pages of justification and outright praise for his book: "Art thou for something rare, and profitable?/ Wouldst thou see a Truth within a Fable" (6). This confidence is allowed by the earlier diffidence. Bunyan, following some dictates of nerve and etiquette, needs to make a protective abdication of his power as the author in order to proceed with the book. But it does not end with the Apology. Abdication of power is a prominent feature of Bunyan's style throughout his book, and it reflects the fissure at the heart of a writer in his position: when...

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