Pilgrim's Progress

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


Christian runs into his old friend Faithful, and they agree to proceed together. Faithful tells Christian that he left town amid swirling rumors that the City of Destruction would soon be burned down by fire from heaven. Despite that, his neighbors mocked Faithful's decision and he left town alone. He mentions that Pliable and Obstinate were publicly derided when they returned from their fool's errand. Then Faithful begins to tell Christian of his own pilgrimage, detailing his escape from the sultry and conniving Wanton. Faithful was tricked into slavery by Adam the First at the bottom of the Hill of Difficulty. He avoided this fate through divine intervention, for while Adam was convincing him to go, he saw suddenly written on the man's forehead, "Put off the Old Man with his Deeds" (83).

As a result of his initial inclination to go with Adam, Moses chases Faithful down and beats him mercilessly. Thankfully, Christ comes and begs for mercy on his behalf, saving Faithful. In the Valley of Humility, Discontent tries to convince Faithful to return with him, saying the valley is "without honor" and his friends would be offended if he were to go. Faithful disowns his former friends, now as a Pilgrim, he values honor over humility. Later, he runs into Shame, who is against religion. Faithful argues with him before choosing to reject Shame. Of his decision, Faithful says, "Therefore, thought I, what God says is best, though all the men in the world are against it" (87). Christian praises Faithful's decision, appalled by this villan who should perhaps he called "Audacious" instead.

Faithful and Christian meet Talkative along the way, and he engages the two in conversation. Christian knows Talkative from his town and warns Faithful that "Religion hath no place in his heart, or house, or conversation; all he hath lieth in his tongue, and his religion is to make a noise therewith" (91). Faithful had been a bit taken in by Talkative, but Christian points out the truth of this new friend's nature. He goes into a lengthy recitation of Leveticus, and the Lord's description of the beast that is clean. His point is that Talkative is the type who seeks knowledge, but doesn't part with the way of sinners, leaving him unclean. Newly in agreement, our duo continues to engage with Talkative about the nature of grace, highlighting the fact that knowledge by itself is useless unless it is accompanied by grace. Faithful and Christian grill Talkative, insinuating that Talkative is religious in his tongue but not in his actions and basically call him a liar. Talkative is put off by the new direction of their conversation, accusing Faithful and Christian of being judgmental. He dismisses their good counsel and takes leave of them, angry and upset. The pilgrims are relived to be free from Talkative.

After Talkative leaves, Faithful and Christian cross through a little Wilderness and are pleased to see Evangelist again. The Evangelist congratulates the two pilgrims for getting this far, but then takes on the role of the prophet, foretelling the difficulty that Faithful and Christian will experience in Vanity-Fair. He encourages them to be steadfast in their beliefs to the point of death.

Faithful and Christian arrive at Vanity-Fair, and John Bunyan pauses to explain the history of the town, Vanity. Five thousand years ago Beelzebub, Apollyon, and Legion were making the same pilgrimage to the Celestial City when they stopped here and decided to set up the fair where vanity would be sold. Now, the town is ruled over by Lord Beelzebub and he commonly tries to encourage pilgrims to purchase vanities. At the fair, "there is at all times to be seen jugglings, cheats, games, plays, fools, apes, knaves, and rogues, and that of every kind" (102).

Faithful and Christian stand out in the Fair because of their clothing and their speech, and because they were not enticed by all the wares the merchants were peddling. When asked what they would by, the pilgrims replied they would "buy the truth" (106). The townspeople are suspicious of these pilgrims, not understanding their motivations. So, they decide to beat them and put them in a cage. Faithful and Christian bear their imprisonment gracefully, which further enrages the people of Vanity. They are brought before the examiners and blamed for the chaos in the fair. They are beat more and locked in irons, before being paraded in front of the public. Christian and Faithful still refuse to buckle and, remembering the words of the Evangelist, remain calm, which incites greater rage in their attackers. The pilgrims are sentenced to death.

Christian and Faithful's trial is overseen by a Judge called Lord Hate-Good. Envy, Superstition, and Pickthank are called upon to testify against Faithful. Envy tells the judge that Faithful has condemned the ways of the people of Vanity, believing that his Christian values are superior. Superstition says that Faithful condemned the religion of the people of Vanity, and Pickthank avows that Faithful has slandered Beelzebub and the rest of the aristocracy in Vanity. Faithful tries to defend himself, staying true to his Christian beliefs. The Judge cites an act made by Pharaoh the Great, who proclaimed that if those of a contrary religion became too numerous, then their males should be thrown into the river. He then mentions an act of Nebuchadnezzar the Great, who condemned all who did not worship him to be thrown into a furnace. Finally, he mentions Darius, who sentenced any man who worshipped a God other than his to be cast into a lion's den. The jury decides to convict Faithful, and he is beaten, knifed, stoned, and stabbed, before being burnt at the stake. Bunyan describes a chariot and horses who appear and take Faithful's soul through the Celestial Gate. Christian is taken back to jail, from which he escapes by an act of deus ex machina.


This third section of Pilgrim's Progress encompasses the life and death of Faithful. It begins with Christian running to catch up with Faithful—chasing faith, as it were—and joining together with him on the pilgrimage. As they are walking, Faithful tells Christian of the things he’s encountered thus far on his trip. Because each pilgrim is unique, with a different set of strengths and weaknesses, the tribulations that Faithful describes are different to what Christian has seen. Faithful, for instance, has had a run-in with Adam the First, who tries to lure him into bondage. Adam has three daughters, who appear only briefly and do not speak, but they serve as foils to Prudence, Charity, and Piety from the Beautiful Palace. Their names, The Lust of the Flesh, The Lust of the Eyes, and The Pride of Life, are, in typical Bunyan style, symbolic of the types of women they are.

In the Valley of Humiliation, Faithful encounters Shame, who represents the people in the ruling class who have forsaken religion for the natural sciences. These non-believers dismiss religion as base, simple, and unenlightened. They believe that pilgrims should be ashamed of themselves. Shame, however, is a worldly emotion, and Faithful “shakes him off” (87). The construction of this specific turn of phrase highlights the interior nature of the pilgrimage, suggesting that shame is something Faithful felt himself, but was able “to shake off,” re-aligning his perspective on what he has read in the scripture.

Then, Faithful and Christian encounter Talkative, who is the first competing dissenter that appears in the story. Talkative, Hawkes notes, should ne understood as a Ranter, and not a Quaker (88). True to his name, he is verbose, and Faithful and Christian have few opportunities to speak. Talkative appears to be gracious and bright, because he gives a theologically correct summary of faith. Christian warns Faithful not to be taken in by Talkative's tongue, in an effective use of metonymy. Beyond this literal meaning, Christian is warning the reader to beware of people who talk about religion eloquently but do not practice it in life. The reference to the ale-bench (91) indicates that Bunyan is invoking a contemporary group of dissenters, and the warning thus takes on a greater sense of urgency.

Music is an important harbinger of truth throughout the text. There is a song with a didactic lesson at the end of almost every episode, and later on, music features heavily during Christian's entrance to the Celestial City. With Talkative, however, Bunyan presents an interesting reversal of the motif. Christian talks about things that “give sound without life,” such as musical instruments, and draws a parallel to people like Talkative, who have the outward appearance (the sound) of election, but lack the grace (life), and thus won’t end up in Heaven (94). While in other parts of the story, Bunyan uses music to deliver a truth but, in the case of Talkative, the music is the harbinger of his deception. Therefore, Bunyan maintains that the music means nothing unless there is faith to support it. Music, incidentally, enjoyed quite an exalted place in the medieval and early modern university as it was one of the higher sciences.

As Faithful and Christian leave Talkative, Bunyan once again matches the topography of the physical journey matching the tone of the pilgrimage. The pilgrims leave a wilderness as they depart from the pernicious force of the Ranter and emerge to meet the Evangelist, who prophesies that one of them will die at Vanity-Fair. The Evangelist then delivers a very dark prophecy, and commands his disciples to be “faithful unto death, [for which] the King will give you a Crown of Life” (100). Bunyan commonly employes this opposition between life and death. From a purely Christian perspective, these terms are more than opposites, however, for death a necessary path to attain eternal life. Life and death, which, temporally speaking are antithetical, but, in terms of soteriology, they are synonymous. This is one of the great paradoxes of the Christian message, and Bunyan employs it often when weaving his allegory.

The scene at Vanity-Fair presents a sharply pointed critique of the social order. Whether or not Bunyan means to indict Restoration London specifically, or simply the world, it is an attack on the prevailing order he sees around him. The pilgrims clearly do not belong at Vanity Fair and they are made to suffer for it. The inhabitants of Vanity Fair are afraid of what they do not understand, and persecute the perplexing strangers. In the process of the trial, Bunyan emphasizes the absurdity of the uproar. Several scholars note that Bunyan’s own experience with the judicial system heavily informs the proceedings in the allegory (cf. Hawkes 109, where he notes that Bunyan employs a phrase used against him in his own trial).

Bunyan further demonstrates the absurdity of Faithful and Christian's conviction through the reasoning of the jury in determining their verdict. The passage drips with irony as each man demonstrates the character flaw encapsulated in his name. Mr Blind-man, for instance, says “I see clearly that this man is an Heretick” (112). Bunyan leaves the injustice of the verdict in no uncertain terms, and Faithful goes to the stake a spotless martyr for his faith. Faithful's trial and imprisonment bears resemblance to Christ, from the quiet strength with which he bears the injustice of his trial, the happiness of the crowd with his conviction, the buffeting he bears (which includes lancing his flesh, as the Romans did to Christ’s side), and, finally, his swift entry into heaven after his death.