Pilgrim's Progress

analyze and evaluate

1a. what might the town of Vanity symbolize, or represent?

1b. how does the reflect Bunyan's Puritan beliefs?


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The town of Vanity symbolizes humanity's base desires for things that flatter or validate them in the eyes of others hence "Vanity Fair".

The events at Vanity-Fair are among the most poignant in the whole text. Many scholars note that this scene is particularly inspired by Bunyan's own experience with the judicial system and in prison, and it includes some of Bunyan's most scathing criticisms of the current social and political order. Hawkes notes that scholars disagree on what exactly Bunyan meant the town of Vanity and its fair to represent; some say the market in the world, others believe it signifies the Catholic Church (351). Still, others suggest that Bunyan meant Vanity to be understood as London, and Beelzebub as King Charles II (Keeble 312). The saying of the wise, to which the Narrator refers, is a reference to Ecclesiastes 2:11. We can understand this as an assessment of the town, meaning that everything that happens in Vanity comes from its citizens' self-absorption and is ultimately worthless (in vain). It is a direct attack on the system that tried and imprisoned Bunyan. Finally, Bunyan wishes to warn his readers that the excesses and absurdities of this Vanity are not isolated by writing, "this fair is no new erected business, but a thing of ancient standing." After reading this warning, Bunyan's readers would have been alerted to watch for examples of 'Vanity-Fairs' that might exist in their own communities.