John Bunyan narrates this story as if he were seeing it in his dreams. The revelation of Christian's journey is something he wishes to share with community. He uses the first person throughout the text, though somewhat infrequently, and he often addresses the reader directly.
The Evangelist appears to instruct Christian how to rid himself of his burden. He tells Christian where to go and occasionally reappears to set Christian back on track or help him out of a tight spot during his journey. His name is directly derived from the Bible, since the writers of the gospel are referred to as the evangelists. The term comes from the Greek word for "good news." The Evangelist always comes with good news, for it is his message that leads Christian to salvation.
Formerly known as Graceless, or just 'Man', Christian is the protagonist of Bunyan's allegory. He is every man, and he is meant to inspire readers, just as his story inspires other characters in Pilgrim's Progress. His intelligence and worldliness improve a great deal over the course of the text because he learns from each misstep. He proves that tenacity and diligence, when matched with God's grace, are the keys to entering heaven. He stops at nothing in order to achieve his salvation, even through it means leaving his family and his hometown behind. He is eager to share what he has learned with other pilgrims along the way, but he is humble enough to absorb their teachings as well.
One of the first men that Christian encounters as he leaves on his pilgrimage. Obstinate eventually refuses to accompany Christian on his journey, and later publicly mocks him for leaving.
Pliable starts out as Obstinate's travelling partner, but he agrees to accompany Christian even when Obstinate turns back. Pliable leaves Christian at the Slough of Despond, however, because he is frustrated by the difficulty of the journey and the limitations of Christian's knowledge.
Help appears to assist Christian in his escape from the Slough of Despond.
Mr. Worldly Wiseman
He presents the first real temptation for Christian to stray from his righteous path. He tells Christian to ignore the Evangelist's advice, and that he can shed his burden by going to the town of Morality and following the guidance of Mr. Legality and his son.
He is the head of the town of Morality. Mr. Legality represents the law, and though he doesn't ultimately snare Christian, his smooth talking has snared many other would-be pilgrims.
The Interpreter is a critical figure for both Christian and Christiana as they make their pilgrimages. He is the first to teach them the way to read allegory. He does so by showing them a series of vignettes, each imbued with religious meaning. Though the Interpreter begins his presentations by telling the pilgrims what each scene means, they eventually learn to interpret the signs themselves. The Interpreter's House is the first critical stop on the pilgrimage. In addition to equipping the pilgrims with allegorical understanding, The Interpreter provides them with armor and weaponry, and in the case of Christiana, a guide (Mr. Great-Heart).
The Shining Ones are angels who appear periodically throughout the book. Usually they appear alone or in threes, a significant number in Christianity.
The Lions represent the Restoration Government responsible for quashing the religious dissent during Bunyan's time. Whether or not the lions are roaring (when Christian passes them they are asleep) indicates the level of religious persecution at the time when Bunyan was writing a particular passage.
Watchful is the porter at the Beautiful Palace, the second bastion of help along the way on Christian's journey.
One of the damsels at the Beautiful Palace.
One of the damsels at the Beautiful Palace. She quizzes Christiana's sons and is impressed by their knowledge of the faith.
Another damsel at the Beautiful Palace.
One of the damsels in the Beautiful Palace.
Faithful is Christian's first companion on the pilgrimage. They meet up after Christian passes through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, and the two share enlightening conversation. Faithful becomes a martyr at Vanity-Fair, where he is burnt at the stake on trumped up charges of inciting a riot. Faithful's testimony, comportment, and noble death inspire Hopeful to undertake the pilgrimage, and he becomes Christian's next companion.
Apollyon is the fiendish monster who inhabits the Valley of Humiliation.
Faithful meets Shame in the Valley of Humiliation. He represents the self-conscious upper class of Restoration Society that rejected religion as simplistic and unenlightened.
Talkative is a member of one of the non-conformist sects, likely the Ranters, who meets Christian and Hopeful on their pilgrimage. Bunyan is critical of these non-conformists' beliefs and practice, and Christian is hard on Talkative during their discourse. Christian (like Bunyan) is concerned, particularly, that Talkative spends too much time talking about the sincerity of his faith, and not enough time actually being faithful.
The leader of Vanity-Fair. Some scholars suggest that Beelzebub is specifically supposed to represent King Charles II. Beelzebub also owns the orchards just beyond the Wicket Gate from which Matthew steals fruit.
The judge at Faithful's trial, he represents the cruelty and absurdity of the judicial system, from Bunyan's point of view.
One of the witnesses who testifies against Faithful at his trial in Vanity-Fair.
Another one of the witnesses against Faithful.
The third and final witness who testifies against Faithful.
By-ends represents the people who conformed to the Church of England only when it was politically beneficial to them. More generally, he represents anyone whose faith is driven by the worldliness of public opinion rather than a spiritual understanding.
Inspired by Faithful's death, Hopeful joins Christian on the pilgrimage as he leaves Vanity. A loyal companion and good interlocutor, Hopeful and Christian are equals on the pathway to heaven. Hopeful sees promise in situations where Christian does not, like in the dungeon of the Doubting Castle.
Demas runs the silver mine in the side of the Hill Lucre. He lies to Christian and Hopeful, trying to persuade them off their path to come mine for silver.
Giant Despair, who traps Christian and Hopeful in Doubting Castle, represents the temptation of despair. His relative size is indicative of the magnitude and gravity of the temptation of despair. Some of the obstacles Christian faces are external (like religious persecution), while others, like his despair, are internal.
Diffidence is Giant Despair's wife. She is more vicious than her husband, and wants to kill Christian and Hopeful.
The shepherds (Experience, Watchful, Sincere, and Knowledge) reside at the edge of the Enchanted Grounds. They are the last group of characters who provide Christian with support and education before the group of pilgrims arrive at the Celestial City. The last leg of the pilgrimage is successful thanks to the shepherds' warnings.
He is one of the last cautionary tales that Christian and Hopeful encounter before arriving at Mt. Zion. Ignorance makes it all the way to the Heavenly City, only to be sent to hell because he did not enter at the Wicket Gate and does not have the right certification of election. His great ignorance of the necessity and power of grace is his hamartia.
This poor man is robbed of his earthly money, though his jewels (his faith) are left to him. He must beg for the rest of his pilgrimage, but the trial is nothing to him in light of the promise of the world to come.
This false apostle tricks Christian and Hopeful even though the Shepherds have warned them about him. Fortunately, an angel comes to their rescue.
Mr. Sagacity only appears for the first few pages of the second part. Mr. Sagacity relates the state of Christiana and the rest of the City of Destruction after Christian left, but he disappears after her conversion, and Bunyan assumes the narration single-handedly.
Christian's wife, who originally mocks Christian for his pilgrimage, has a change of heart and takes to the road herself. Able, intelligent, and a caring mother, she is a model for female readers. She and her band of pilgrims represent the church in the allegory, which must be led by a pastor.
Secret is a messenger from heaven who comes to Christiana. He brings the certificate of her election, in the form of a letter, and a message that God forgives and wants Christiana to come to him.
Mercy is the virtuous young woman who sees the value in Christiana's journey and undertakes it with her. Though not called directly by God, he is gracious and sees she is sincere and she is admitted through the Wicket Gate. She eventually marries Matthew.
Mr. Great-Heart is one of the Interpreter's servants who is sent to guide Christiana and company on their pilgrimage. He represents the pastor of a church. Without his steadfast encouragement, guidance, and protection, the band of pilgrims in part II would not have made it to the City of Zion.
Grim (or Bloody-Man)
One of the giants Christiana and company encounter. He represents the state- persecuted religious dissenters, like Bunyan himself. Grim's size is proportional to the threat of the state when Bunyan was writing part II (which he wrote from prison).
One of Christiana's sons. He marries Phebe.
Christiana and Christian's eldest son. He marries Mercy.
One of Christiana's sons.
One of Christiana's sons.
Mercy's suitor while the pilgrims are in residence at the Beautiful Palace.
The physician who treats Matthew when Beelzebub's fruit makes him ill.
Another one of the giants that Great-Heart slays. He ensnares pilgrims with sophistry, complicated arguments that seem logical but are flawed.
Mr. Honest is a good man and fellow pilgrim. He joins Christiana and company and completes the pilgrimage with them.
Mr. Fearing is a mutual friend of Mr. Great-Heart and Mr. Honesty. He was very afraid and thus makes slow progress on his pilgrimage, but he eventually gets to heaven.
Christiana wishes for an Inn along their journey, and one appears. Gaius is the generous and pious inn-keeper. He provides much good instruction, and his daughter, Phebe, eventually marries James.
Great-Heart rescues after slaying his captor, the giant Slay-Good. Feeble-mind is, like his name, of Feeble-Mind, though he is among the elect.
The inn-keeper in Vanity who houses the group of pilgrims. He is one of the only good people in Vanity and helps many pilgrims on their journey.
A pilgrim who, along with his daughter, has been trapped by Giant Despair. They are rescued when Great-heart slays their captor.
This valiant pilgrim joins the group of pilgrims near the end, and they welcome his company. He is one of the stronger of the bunch, and he helps Great-Heart support the weaker members of the community, like Feeble-Mind, as they progress towards Mt. Zion.
Standfast is another good pilgrim that joins Great-Heart near the end of the pilgrimage.
Madam Bubble is the witch who enchants the Enchanted Grounds. She represents the world's temptations, but with Great-Heart as their guide, she is unable to sway Christiana and her group of pilgrims.
Pilgrim’s Progress Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Pilgrim’s Progress is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
In his dream, the author describes a man, Christian, with a heavy burden upon his back, crying in agony. His wife and children think that the man overreacting and dismiss him as ill. The man is extremely agitated by what he has read in his book...
By-ends represents the people who conformed to the Church of England only when it was politically beneficial to them. More generally, he represents anyone whose faith is driven by the worldliness of public opinion rather than a spiritual...