Pilgrim's Progress

Pilgrim's Progress Summary and Analysis of Part I, Section II


This section begins with Christian's arrival at the house of the Interpreter, who tells Christian that he will "show him things that will be profitable for him" (36). The first thing the Interpreter shows him is a picture of a man holding the Bible, with the world behind him, and a crown over his head. The Interpreter insinuates that the picture is of a proper minister, and warns Christian that only men like this are authorized to lead sinners to the Heavenly City.

Next, he shows Christian a dusty room which a man sprinkles with water and then sweeps. At first, the dust flies around, causing Christian to nearly choke. The purpose of this is to show Christian how grace (the water) can cleanse away sin (the dust) from a man's heart (the room). The way the dust flew around when the man swept it represents the law, which, according to the Interpreter, revives and strengthens sin. Once the room is clean, it is 'fit for a King of Glory to inhabit' (35). After that, the Interpreter leads Christian into a room where two children, Passion and Patience, are seated in matching chairs. Passion is discontented, so someone brings him a bag of treasure. He is pleased, while Patience looks on with scorn. However, the treasure soon withers away, leaving Passion in tattered rags. The interpreter explains that these two figures represent the two kinds of men in the world. Passionate men need everything good right away, but they are left with nothing. Patience, however, knows how to wait contentedly for the good things in life. As a result, Christian learns an important lesson -- that the good things in life are the eternal gifts, not the material possessions that man can often covet.

The next thing the Interpreter shows Christian is a fire burning up a wall, which water cannot extinguish. The Interpreter explains that the fire is the work of grace, the man tossing water on it is the devil, and the man behind it secretly putting more oil on it is Christ. The oil maintains the heart's grace, even if the devil is trying to put it out.

Next, the Interpreter takes Christian into a palace, upon which people in gold are walking. There is a group of men at the door of the palace, desperate to go inside. A man sits near the door, with a book of names, determining who is allowed to enter. Also in the doorway are armed warriors, ready to attack. One man stands up and once his name is written, the warriors attack him. The brave man, however, fights his way into the palace. He soon is soon cloaked in gold like the other men in the palace. This battle symbolizes the struggles a man must face if he wants to enter the kingdom of God.

From here, the Interpreter shows Christian a destitute man in an iron cage. The man tells Christian that he once was religious, but he sinned, turning his back on God. He insulted the Spirit of Grace by relapsing into his sinful ways even after he knew the truth. He just could not stop himself from indulging in the pleasures of the world. Now, his heart is too hard and God has denied this man repentance, and thus he will suffer, imprisoned for eternity.

The final sight the Interpreter expounds for Christian is a man who was not ready for the Day of Judgment, but dreamt that it had come, and thus was properly terrified. "Unready" knew from then on that God was always watching him. The Interpreter warns Christian that he should be constantly vigilant, always ready for the end of days. Christian tells the Interpreter that these things have inspired hope and fear in him, and he is ready to go on his way (44).

Christian walks on along a highway with walls on either side, and Bunyan narrates that the wall is called "Salvation". Christian arrives at a Cross in the ground, with a sepulchre at its base. At this point, the burden falls off Christian's back and rolls into the mouth of the sepulchre, gone forever. Three shining ones come to Christian, who is happily weeping. They give him new clothes, a mark on his forehead, and a roll with a seal upon it that marks his election, which they instruct him to hand in at the Celestial Gate. Christian is joyful and light as he moves on with his journey.

Then Christian sees three men, shackled but sleeping. They are named Simple, Sloth and Presumption. Christian warns them that many dangerous things could happen to them while they are sleeping and offers to help them off with their irons. They do not heed his warnings or want his help, however, and he continues on his way.

Next, Christian runs into two men named Formalist and Hypocrisy who come tumbling over the wall. They were are trying to find a shortcut to enter Mount Zion. Christian knows that they will ultimately be unsuccessful in their quest for entry into Heaven, and tells them, "I walk by the Rule of my Master, you walk by the rude working of your fancies" (47). Even though Formalist and Hypocrisy follow the law, they will not be saved, because they do not have the grace of God. Christian explains this to them by detailing his own virtuous journey, but the two men laugh flippantly and move on.

Christian soon arrives at the Hill of Difficulty. There is a spring at the bottom of the hill blocking one path and two easier paths; one curving to the left and the other to the right. Christian first drinks from the spring and takes the straight, but more difficult path up the hill, thinking that the wrong path will lead him to turmoil. Formalist and Hypocrisy come to the hill after Christian but are drawn to the easier two paths, which are called Danger and Destruction. Danger leads one man into a great wood, and the other into a mountain range where he falls and dies.

Meanwhile, Christian persists on the steep path until he stumbles across an arbour where pilgrims can rest, and he promptly falls asleep. While he is sleeping, he drops the roll that marks his election. He is awakened by one who advises him to consider the ways of the ant. Taking the note, Christian speeds to the top of the hill. As he is ascending, two men, named Timorous and Mistrust, race past him in the opposite direction. They explain that as they were climbing the hill, they kept facing new challenges, and so they want to go back. Christian, even after hearing about the deadly lions that await him, is determined to conquer his fear of death and keeps going.

Further along, Christian suddenly realizes he has lost the roll. He asks God for forgiveness and goes back to where he had napped, chastising himself for his "sinful sleep" (51). By the time he reaches the ardour again, he is so overcome that he sits down to weep. He he finds the roll under a bench and makes his way back up the hill, although it is now dark and he knows that he will stand helpless against the lions' attack. Prepared for misery, Christian steels himself and keeps going until he sees a palace called "Beautiful".

There are indeed lions at the entrance, but they are chained up, and present no danger to Christian, who is welcomed by the porter, Watchful. Watchful tells Christian that the Lord built the palace so that pilgrims could have a place to rest, and calls for a damsel named Discretion. She calls three other damsels in the "family", Prudence, Piety and Charity, and Christian starts to recall his personal journey to this rapt audience.

in his retelling, Christian shows a great deal of emotional progress. He regrets his previous reckless, sinful way of life to the point that it is painful for him to think about. He wants to be with other people like him, people who love God and reject their carnal desires. We that Christian was devastated to leave his wife and children behind, but he had to, even though they did not want him to go on this journey. Charity points out that his family's rejection of his holy quest means that Christian has "delivered [his] soul from their blood" (60).

In the following days, the damsels show Christian the rarities of "Beautiful", like the first pedigree of the Lord of the Hill, and records of his heroic acts and the acts of other pilgrims in Heaven. They show him the armor and weapons that the Lord provided for pilgrims when they fought, including the stone and sling David used against Goliath. The next morning, they present to him the Delectable Mountains from the top of the house, and told him that this country was "Immanuel's Land". Before Christian leaves, they give him armor and weaponry to defend himself in case of attack. The group accompanies him to the bottom of the hill, where they give him some food. Christian also learns from Watchful that his old friend Faithful is just a little bit ahead of him.

Christian next ventures into the Valley of Humiliation, where he has a run-in with Apollyon. a fiendish and hideous monster. The two talk, Apollyon trying all the while to scare Christian and shake his faith. Christian stands his ground, confident. Their struggle turns physical, and Apollyon wrestles Christian to the ground, knocking the sword out of his hand. At his weakest moment, Christian summons the words of the Lord, and finds his strength again. He catches the sword and wounds Apollyon, who flies away, defeated. Christian heals his wounds with leaves.

As Christian is about to enter the Valley of the Shadow of Death, two men who have turned around on the same path approach Christian and warn him about the evils that lie ahead. He heeds the warnings but keeps moving forward, entering the valley with his sword drawn. The way through the Valley is very narrow, and Christian must navigate it in the dark. Bunyan narrates that he believes the mouth of hell to be in the middle of the valley. Christian puts down his sword, however, and uses his prayer as a weapon instead. Moving forward, He can hear the voices of fiends in the dark, and when he feels them come close, he shouts, "I will walk in the Strength of the Lord God" (77), causing them to retreat. Bunyan describes Christian's struggle to stave off the dangers and blasphemies that he experiences while crossing through the valley, but he keeps himself going by remembering that he is not alone. The sun rises, and Christian finishes crossing the Valley safely, reflecting on how His light guided Christian through the darkness. At the end of the Valley of the Shadow of Death, he sees two giants, Pope and Pagan, surrounded by the remains of their human victims. However, Christian passes by them easily and Bunyan notes that Pagan had been dead for a while and Pope was too old to attack pilgrims anymore.


At the beginning of the section, Bunyan reminds the reader that this narrative is all a dream, underscoring the superiority of that mode of revelation (because God communicates in dreams) and the fact that this text, like Christian's pilgrimage, is all happening within the author’s heart and head. Even though Bunyan describes Christian's pilgrimage as a physical journey, it is ultimately an in internal transformation.

The first action of this stage takes place at the Interpreter’s house, where Christian learns to attune himself to the Christian meaning of a variety of symbols. Each vignette is meant to illuminate some sort of truth for the young pilgrim. Through the Interpreter, hence his name, Christian learns to interpret things metaphorically, or even allegorically. Bunyan reminds the reader of the importance of looking below the surface to find the deeper meaning of something. This also reminds the reader that the narrative that they’re reading is also an allegory. Bunyan often engages with the reader directly in this way in the text, making sure his intent is not lost.

The visions that Christian has at the Interpreter’s home represent a host of scriptural allusions and traditional Christian imagery, but one is the most poignant, and that is the dusty room. The whole image is a powerful representation of the way baptism cleanses sin, and it is these brilliant didactic moments, in which Bunyan simplifies complicated theology into a single vignette, that explain why this text has had such enduring appeal. The water that the damsel sprinkles on the dirty room is, of course, the water of baptism, which represents the life-giving power of the holy spirit. Baptism is one of two sacraments that the Reformed Church maintained. The definition of a sacrament is “an outward and physical sign of inward and spiritual grace”. The Interpreter's lessons display Bunyan’s symbolic powers at their best.

Christian’s journey remains positive as he leaves the Interpreter’s and comes to the Cross. In another didactic but emotional moment, Christian sees the Cross and loses his burden, gaining the certification of his election. This sequence of events represents the theology of the atonement, a particularly complex Christian doctrine that has been tweaked and re-worked for centuries. Bunyan cogently and precisely communicates this theology for his audience, which is biblically literate, but likely is also largely uneducated. These examples speak to Bunyan's intent, which goes beyond relaying a tale of courage. He wants to make sure this text gains the maximum readership and consequently, leads to conversions.

The ceremony of Christian's election is also symbolically rich. Three angels come down to meet him (three is a significant number in Christian numerology, cf. the Trinity), and they present him sumptuous material evidence of his election. The clothes they offer him, for instance, are lustrous and white, transforming the external appearance of Christian to reflect his soul, which has been washed clean and made to shine. Bunyan often shows a person's interior truth or condition reflected in the exterior and otherwise superficial appearance. The apparent irony, for the Puritans really opposed this kind of visual and material pomp and circumstance, dissipates precisely because of the nature of the allegory. Bunyan makes his methodology clear from page one, and thus, his readers will understand that what appears to be external is really only Bunyan's way of marking an internal condition.

Finally liberated from his sin, Christian makes his way to the Beautiful Palace. On his way there, he passes some lions, a traditional symbol for kingship, but also for non-Christians (lions and lambs); the lions appear several times, and they represent the authority of the government and its Church, which Bunyan regards as a false (or at least wholly misguided) church.

The clear departure from an otherwise rosy tone in this section occurs with Christian’s descent into the Valley of Humiliation. Here, the topography changes, and Christian slips a little on the way down, both symbolizing his own hesitation and the treacherous landscape. At the bottom of this first valley, Christian encounters Apollyon, which means “destroyer” in Greek. Christian prevails only by the grace of God, typified in his miraculous sword catch.

The Valley of the Shadow of Death also rich in metaphor, and marks a significant achievement for Christian. Bunyan derives the description of the Valley from the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah, a conflation of time periods which makes clear once more to the reader that Bunyan is describing a spiritual and interior pilgrimage. His choice to draw on the prophet’s witness speaks to the universality of Christian's experience, regardless of the temporal setting of his pilgrimage. Christian makes his way, terrified, through the valley, but near dawn he begins to pray, and with prayer and light, he gets through safely. This is the first of many scenes where the traditional symbol of light for good and God is brought to bear.

The final cultural reference of the section comes in the form of giants Pope and Pagan, which Bunyan makes clear are no longer relevant forces to be reckoned with. This sort of personification of a belief system is typical in Bunyan's writing.