Pilgrim's Progress

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


The second part opens, like the first, in verse. Bunyan, addressing Christiana, Christian's wife, commands her to re-trace the first pilgrim (Christian's) steps. He announces that Christiana will be traveling with their children on the same pilgrimage that Christian did. Then Bunyan presents several objections that Christiana (a metaphor for the book itself) may face, and in turn, presents solutions. The first objection is that some might not believe that Bunyan wrote the second Pilgrim's Progress. Bunyan proclaims that he is willing to come and defend his work to anyone that questions it. The second objection addresses with the negative reaction that many readers had to Bunyan's first volume. Bunyan reassures his reader that the criticism was borne of fear and shame, and that many readers across the world embraced and internalized his work.

Bunyan's third potential objection is that some readers do not appreciate his style of writing, unable to understand the his intent. He answers that this volume will clarify some of the questions that may have arisen from the first, by writing, "besides, what my first Pilgrim left conceal'd, / thou, my brave Second Pilgrim, has reveal'd" (192). The fourth objection is similar to the third, and Bunyan predicts that some readers will not take to his narrative style and use of metaphor. He responds that there will always be people with differing opinions, but encourages Christiana, and further reveals his motive, to try and convert the naysayers along this next journey, writing, "and may it some persuade, that go astray/To turn their feet and heart to the right way" (197).

As in the first part, the narration opens with Bunyan's dream, explaining that he has seen the story of the family Christian left behind. In Bunyan's dream, he encounters a Mr. Sagacity, who tells the author of the mockery Christian's neighbors made of him after he had gone, but now the whole community reveres him. He tells Bunyan that although Christiana and her four sons were devastated when Christian left, they soon had second thoughts and packed up to follow his path. Mr. Sagacity explains Christiana's conversion in more detail, telling Bunyan how after Christian left, his wife was properly devastated. She recalls his suffering and agony resulting from the burden he could not shed. She begins to experience a change of heart. Those feelings are bolstered by a dream that she has, in which she sees her life laid out on a parchment and realizes the gravity of her sins. She awakes, but soon falls back to sleep. Asleep, she has another dream, in which she sees her husband in heaven.

When she wakes in the morning, a visitor from heaven, named Secret, comes to the door. He calls her to the pilgrimage, telling her that the Lord wishes to welcome him at his table. He delivers her letter of election and bids her leave the City of Destruction with the boys. She shares the news with her sons, who burst into tears of joy. As Christiana begins to prepare for the voyage, her neighbors, Mrs. Timorous and Mrs. Mercy, stop by and try to deter her from her purpose, citing Pliable and Obstinate, who tried to follow Christian and were forced to turn back. Christiana refuses to listen and sends the women off. However, Mrs. Mercy is touched by Christiana's faith and decides that she wants to join the family on their pilgrimage, feeling such a yearning within herself. Meanwhile, Mrs. Timorous shares the gossip with some of her other neighbors, and all together they criticize her reckless choice and talk about their own sinful enjoyments.

Mercy, Christiana, and her children set off on the journey. Mercy agrees to be Christiana's servant, in hopes that she, too will receive encouragement at the Wicket Gate. The party soon arrives at the Slough of Despond. With their faith bolstering their courage, they get through it fine. After that, Mr. Sagacity completes his narration and we are once again inside Bunyan's dream just in time to see Christiana's group come to the Wicket Gate. Christiana, because she is the eldest, goes to knock at the door, but no one answers. Eventually, a dog comes and scares the group of pilgrims, but they keep knocking, and eventually the gatekeeper admits Christiana and the boys through the gate. Mercy is left outside, but Christiana immediately begins intercessing on her behalf. Mercy is so overcome with fear that she faints. She explains that she is worried that because her call to conversion and pilgrimage did not come directly from God, she will ultimately be denied access. However, there is enough grace to go around, and the gatekeeper admits the frantic Mercy. Mercy explains to Christiana that when she was waiting outside the gate, the dog had frightened her. The Lord comes down to the women and explains that the dog is there to sort out the brave pilgrims from the fearful ones. Now that everyone is safe and on the way, the pilgrims can set out on the next phase of their journey.


The opening of Part II of The Pilgrim's Progress is quite similar to the beginning of Part I. Bunyan has written the introduction in verse, but unlike the first part, which is addressed to the reader, the opening of part II is addressed to the book, which Bunyan uses interchangeably with Christiana the pilgrim. Bunyan sends Christiana, his book personified, out in to the world with instructions on how she might react to criticisms levied against her. The reader, then, is privy to an otherwise very intimate relationship, that between an author and his text. The unusual structure of Part II's introduction forges a closeness between author, book, and reader that gives the reader a greater stake in the story. Bunyan openly explains that he intends the book to inspire conversions, and the reader is now part of that journey.

This new set of pilgrims are wont to “meet with rough Winds and swelling Tides” as they set forth (188). With this evocative metaphor, Bunyan alludes here to the censure of the government and popular opinion towards dissenters. This is actually the second time that he employs such a metaphor, the first being in the description of By-ends’ religion in Part I. That is not the only parallel to Part I that appears in these first few pages of Part II. Bunyan also references the strange language in which pilgrims speak (188), invokes Vanity-Fair and the fact that Christian and Faithful spoke a different language than the residents there. Hawkes argues in the footnote that Bunyan means the content of the pilgrims' speech is foreign and widely unpopular, rather than the language itself, but the sense of foreignness and strangeness persists.

Gender is much more important in the second part of the book. The protagonist, of course, is female, making gender necessarily more salient than in Christian's section, but Bunyan also makes a point of addressing his female readers in this introduction. Gender was an interesting and complex issue for the Puritans during the time when Bunyan was writing. It is significant to note that women were encouraged to read and engage with scripture on their own, and Bunyan’s address to them particularly underscores that fact (cf. Hughes).

Finally, having addressed many objections and answers in this introduction, Bunyan again makes a case for the utility of similes and metaphors in his writing (191). The repeated justification of his style would suggest that the first part received much criticism on that score, but Bunyan does not let that affect his style.

As Part II opens, Bunyan makes it clear that he is not an omniscient narrator. Rather, he must rely on an outside source, Mr. Sagacity for good information of what happened to Christiana and her four sons after Christian left them. It is worth noting that Christiana and Christian have four sons because there are four sons and four gospel books. Since these four sons are literally created by the two protagonists, so the truths of the four gospels also issue forth from them.

In many ways, Christiana’s conversion is like her husband’s. She feels guilty and agitated, having taken stock of her past actions (specifically towards her husband), and she feels the weight of her burden (sin) acutely. She, too, is nameless until her conversion. After a dream and a visit from Secret with her call to the elect in Heaven, Christiana and her four sons and Mercy embark on the difficult journey. They meet the same scorn from their neighbors as Christian did. We see here that between the two journeys, despite the rumors of Christian's holy ascent, the general attitude of the English towards Puritans has not changed.

Though both of Christian’s and Christiana’s conversions are accompanied by physical malaise and agitation, on the whole, the physicality of religious experience is much more prominent in this second part. It does not end with Christiana’s conversion, because many of the characters are sick with fear, or overcome with trembling, etc. Mercy’s pleading at the Wicket Gate, for instance, is very physical, and her anguish is made manifest in her actions, as she wails and faints (207). This may have something to do with gender. As Hughes remarks, Puritan women, in their weakness, “were better suited for intense and effective piety” (298).

The physical and visceral tone of Part II is evident in the literary techniques that Bunyan employs, as well as in the actions he describes. When describing Mercy’s conversion experience, he writes, “her bowels yearned over Christiana,” which Hawkes reports was a “conventional synecdoche for compassion” (204). Though Part II is certainly no less about the soul and the spirit than Part I, it does strike a much more bodily and emotionally affective chord. The reader should note that not all of the physicality is reserved for anguish, because tears of joy and other positive affective experiences occur as well (e.g. 202).

A final point of note in this section is Mercy’s entrance at the Wicket Gate, which occurs without a certificate of election (211). It is the first big miracle of grace in Part II, and with it, Bunyan informs readers of his most current theology of predestination and grace. Mercy’s heart is true and her faith earnest, and most importantly, she doesn’t try to cheat the system. She enters the path from the beginning and from the right place, which sets her apart from all the other would-be pilgrims in Part I who snuck onto the path. That is enough to earn her a place among the elect.