Pilgrim's Progress

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


Back on the appropriate road, Christian and Hopeful reach the Delectable Mountains in Emmanuel's Land. There they encounter some shepherds, named Knowledge, Experience, Watchful, and Sincere, who feed them and show them the landscape. They point out particularly Mount Caution, which is where Christian and Faithful would have ended up for eternity had they not escaped from Doubting-Castle. The shepherds also show them a by-way to hell and offer them their telescope, so they might glimpse the heavenly city. After giving them several warnings about obstacles to come, secrets that they won't share with other men, the pilgrims go on their way. Bunyan mentions at the end of this chapter that he wakes up.

By the next chapter, Bunyan is asleep again, and dreaming further of Christian and Hopeful continuing on their way. Near the country of Conceit, they meet a man named Ignorance. Ignorance did not enter this path through the Wicket Gate, but rather, through a crooked lane. He does not seem especially concerned about that fact and defends his shortcut by claiming he is a pious man even through Christian warns him otherwise. Calling Ignorance a fool, our pilgrims continue on, with Ignorance lagging behind. They soon pass through a dark lane, which creates fear in both the pilgrims. Christian tells Hopeful a story about that alley. Little-Faith, a good man, was going on his pilgrimage. He took an ill-fated nap at the Dead-Man's Lane, so named because of the frequent murders that took place there. He wakes up to three thugs, who beat him and take his money. However, they do not take his jewels, but he would not sell them so he was forced to beg. Apparently if his jewels had been missing at the Celestial Gate, Little-Faith would have been denied an inheritance there. Hopeful wonders why Little-Faith didn't fight back against the thugs, and Christian tells him that he was a weaker man (hence his name). They compare him to Great-Grace, a champion of the King, who would have been more effective against the thieves. This story leads Christian and Hopeful to discourse about how faith cannot be bought or sold. They also decide that they should arm themselves with the shield of faith against thieves (150).

Soon, they encounter a fork in the road, and when they are wondering which way to take, the Flatterer approaches them. He leads them into a net, and they only realize too late that this is the man the shepherds had warned them about. The flatterer is a false apostle. A Shining One comes to rescue the trio of entrapped pilgrims, but he chastises them for not heeding the good advice they were given by the shepherds. After this hiccup, they soon meet the Aetheist, who is convinced that Mount Zion does not exist. He says that after searching for 20 years he cannot find it. The pilgrims ignore the Aetheist and continue, holding true to their faith. Meanwhile, the Atheist laughs at them as he retreats.

Christian and Hopeful avoid falling asleep on the Enchanted Ground, heeding the shepherd's warning. To keep awake, they begin to discuss Hopeful's conversion. Hopeful used to be a sinful man, destroying his soul. He realized that his sins would incite the wrath of God, but tried to shut out the truth, as he did not want to give up his ways. However, his sins kept weighing on his conscience and he finally decided to mend his life. He could not forget his past, even though he was now on a righteous path. It was Faithful who told Hopeful that if he could be justified by a man who had never sinned, like Jesus Christ, he could truly be saved. Hopeful's conversion occurred at the depth of his despair, when he had a vision of Christ. He told Christ he was a very sinful man, and Christ answered him, "My grace is sufficient for thee" (160). Christian asks about the state of Hopeful's spirit, and Hopeful says that now, he would spill a thousand gallons of blood for Jesus Christ.

Christian and Hopeful go on with Ignorance still in tow. Then Ignorance joins them again, and the three again discuss how Ignorance's belief in his own election is not enough to get into Heaven. Even as Christian systematically dismantles Ignorance's faith, Ignorance refuses to believe them. Christian explains that God is the only one who can determine whether a man's soul is good nor not because "he can see sin in us when and where we can see none in ourselves" (172). Christian insinuates that Ignorance doesn't believe in Christ. It comes out that Ignorance has never seen Christ revealed to him from Heaven. Eventually Ignorance decides to return to his position behind Christian and Faithful as they walk on along.

Christian and Faithful continue to discuss Ignorance's ignorance, and then, the meaning of true, or real fear, which according to Christian is that which makes a man fearful of dishonoring God. Ignorant men seek to stifle such fear, and try to appear confident. Hopeful agrees, saying he was once just like Ignorant in this way. Christian asks Hopeful if he knew a man named Temporary who was a "forward man in religion" about ten years earlier. Hopeful knew him, but then he "backslid", leading the two pilgrims to a longer conversation about the nature of backsliding. This happens when a man loses the guilt that made him turn to religion in the first place and he loses his fear of damnation. Another reason is that becoming religious makes them fearful of losing what they have, and they have second thoughts. A man without shame tends to backslide because he sees himself as above religion. Finally, men can backslide because they cannot fully change the way their minds work. Christian details the process of backsliding based on what he has seen.

Finally reaching the end of the Enchanted Ground, the pilgrims arrive at Beulah, which abuts the City of Zion. They get their first view of the heavenly city, which is built of pearls and gems and other precious substances. Both Pilgrims become sick with love upon glimpsing it. Finally, they reach a river. The river is the boundary between life and death, and every pilgrim must cross it in order to enter into eternal life. They are quite frightened of the prospect of crossing the river, but eventually they are delivered from their fears, and the ford the river, the depth of which is determined by one's faith. They emerge from the river and are given immortal garments, after which they begin their final ascent. A heavenly host with trumpets joins them on the last leg of the journey. Christian and Hopeful show their certificates at the gate and gain admittance. Ignorance arrives just after they do, but without a certificate, he is escorted into hell. With that, Bunyan awakes from his dream.

In the Conclusion to Part I, he advises the reader, "What of my dross thou findest here, be bold / to throw away, but yet preserve the Gold" (181).


It is fitting that the final section of the first part of a book about the pilgrimage to the Kingdom of Heaven opens with a reference to predestination (cf. Hawkes 354). The pilgrims, Christian and Faithful, inquire of the shepherds whether the way is safe, and the shepherds reply that it is so for those for whom it is destined to be safe. The shepherd, of course, is a rich image in the Christian tradition (e.g. Christian as the good shepherd, the parish as a flock of sheep, etc.). As the shepherd guides and looks out for his sheep, so the shepherds show Christian and Hopeful the lay of the land for the last stage of their journey.

In this last stage of the pilgrimage, where Christian and Faithful are almost at the gates of heaven, the stakes are much higher. For each character, there is much further to fall. The deceitful characters that Christian and Hopeful encounter here are, in some sense, more pernicious than the characters heretofore because they are more clever, and their crimes are much more deadly. Incidentally, Dante employs a similar structure in the Inferno; as he approaches the center of hell, the crimes of the characters around him get much more heinous.

Ignorance is the first of these last-stage characters that Christian and Hopeful come upon, and he is with them periodically until the very end. He hails from the town of Conceit, which immediately tells the reader a lot about the specimen. Christian and Hopeful are suspicious of him from the beginning, which indicates that they have learned over the course of their pilgrimage. This time, they aren’t fooled by such a pretender to wisdom. Though they move quickly on, Ignorance follows behind them.

As they move on, Christian recounts the story of Little-Faith, who, even when his money was stolen from him, maintained the jewels that were his faith. We see again the irony of material value, which was eschewed by the Puritans, standing in for spiritual value, but the metaphor is apt. Hopeful wonders why Little-Faith turned to begging rather than selling the jewels, but Christian explains that those with faith, even a little faith, are focused on heavenly things, and cannot be persuaded to part with these precious jewels for earthly satisfaction. Part of Christian's explanation is a series of metaphors, likening Little-Man, for instance, to a turtle-dove who cannot be persuaded to eat carrion like a crow (146).

The next pernicious character they meet is the Flatterer, about whom the shepherds had warned them. They do not recognize him for who he is until they are already in his net, and the pilgrims find themselves imprisoned once again. The flatterer, who is really a false apostle, is disguised as an angel, with an outwardly shining appearance, but he sheds his robe and turns out to be black. The color refers to the state of his soul, not his race or any other superficial characteristic. Like every other escape, the pilgrims are rescued when an angel appears and performs a work of grace. Their deception is a reminder of the corrupted human condition, even in those humans so close to heaven. Because Christian and Hopeful must face the consequences of their blindness, the angel beats them as punishment.

After the Flatterer, they encounter the Atheist. With this character, Hawkes notes, Bunyan is making a reference to contemporary culture, in which Baconian Empiricism had gained some traction (153). The danger of this kind of belief, Bunyan implies to his readers, is that the individual utterly deceives himself in thinking he has achieved wisdom in the turn from God.

As they continue to walk, Christian and Hopeful decide to talk so as not to succumb to sleep. This active decision to engage in learning and discussion shows that they have learned from their past mistakes. The life of the pilgrim is one of constant vigilance, and Bunyan shows that his characters have finally learned that. Hopeful tells Christian the story of his conversion. At the depth of his despair, he has a vision of Christ, in which Christ speaks to him (161). All of Christ’s dialogue is quoted directly from scripture. Bunyan doesn’t want to put words in Christ’s mouth, and scripture is accepted as the word of God.

The next run-in with Ignorance involves much more of an exchange between the two. Bunyan creates another didactic moment, disseminating a list of truths. As he often does with theological certainties, the message is delivered unembellished in plain English. The format of the list allows for easily digested teaching and minimizes confusion. This technique has been oft employed over the course of the text when the information is too important to risk cloaking the message in metaphor or symbolism. This time, the exchange reveals that Ignorance is a Quaker, a rival dissenting group (Hawkes 162, 165). The placement of Ignorance within the narrative and the tone of Christian and Hopeful’s engagement reflect the force with which Bunyan wishes to warn his readership against this competing religion. Although the Quakers shared much theology and social criticism with Bunyan’s sympathizers, he believes that their beliefs ultimately truth and thus, they will never achieve salvation. The difference between the religions is subtle, but for Bunyan, it is a matter of life and death. This is why the Quaker-esque characters are so dangerous, and precisely why the pilgrims must be so vigilant.

Finally, the pilgrims cross into the land of Beulah. In order to enter into the Celestial City, they must cross the river, or die, as it were. Death is easy for those with strong faith, and correspondingly, the river is shallower. For those with little faith, it is treacherous and ominous. Though the river does equate to death, it is only death in the earthly sense. As Bunyan reminds us many times throughout the text, death actually means eternal life. This substitution of meaning, which is not to err from the sense of the text, fits into the larger scheme of water as a Christian symbol for life. Just as baptism (which for Christ occurred in the River Jordan) is the new birth of a person as a Christian, so too is does this river signify the new birth of the pilgrims into eternal life.

As Hopeful and Christian make their final ascent to the gates of Heaven, there is much fanfare, which once again proves that music accompanies most of the significant moments or statements in the Text. Here, in addition to the music signaling righteousness and truth, it also is a part of an allusion to the book of Revelation, in which the end of days is recounted.

Having presented their certificates of election, Christian and Hopeful are ushered into the Heavenly City. Ignorance, so sure of his own admittance, arrives just after the two pilgrims. Without certification, however, he is ushered down a direct path to hell. With that, the narrative comes to a triumphant close.

In the final concluding verses, Bunyan relies on a series of metaphors to exhort his reader to carefully consider and interpret the text, such as the following: “None throws away the apple for the core” (183). He ends with a warning: if you dismiss all of it, I will be forced to have another dream. Whether or not the text was dismissed, and by whom, does not matter because Bunyan did have another dream.