Pilgrim's Progress

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


The Pilgrims, now a large and varied group, travel on. Mr. Honest asks Mr. Great-Heart to share some stories of pilgrims that have traveled before them. He shares stories of Christian and Faithful's journeys, both the triumphs and the challenges.

When the pilgrims arrive at the town of Vanity, Mr. Great-Heart reveals that he has a contact in the town, a former disciple named Mr. Mnason, from Cyprus. Mr. Mnason and his daughter, Grace, take the pilgrims in and arrange for the only other good men in Vanity to come and converse with them. Over dinner, the pilgrims discourse with these men about the virtues and difficulties of the pilgrimage, and how the burning of Faithful has changed the environment of Vanity for the better. The pilgrims then rest for a while in Vanity, and while they are there, Mr. Mnason's daughters Grace and Martha marry Samuel and Joseph, respectively. Also during their stay, Mr. Great-Heart and the men go and wound a monster who had been capturing children from the town. Therefore, they leave Vanity in a much better state than Christian and Faithful -- as heroes.

Eventually, the pilgrims set out on their way again, and just outside of Vanity, they erect a monument in honor of Faithful. They pass the silver mine that was the downfall of By-ends, and finally, they arrive at the field before the Delectable Mountains. Christiana instructs her daughters to leave their babies with the One, a trusted Man who will give the children a good life. When the group arrives at the road for Doubting-Castle, they decide that Mr. Great-Heart and the other men should go and slay Despair, the resident giant, and free any pilgrims trapped there. Great-Heart and the men are successful in slaying Despair, and Dissident, his evil Giantess wife. They subsequently free the pilgrims in the dungeon, including Despondency and his daughter, Much-Afraid. Upon their triumphant return, Christiana and Mercy serenade the heroic men on the viol and lute. Like they have done so many times before, the pilgrims put the head of the defeated giant on a stake to serve as a warning for those who will pass by.

The shepherds at the base of the Delectable Mountains give the victorious pilgrims a feast and show them wonders of the land. First to Mount Marvel, where they observe Great-Grace, the man who is tasked with teaching pilgrims to deal with the difficulties that accompany unwavering faith. At Mount Charity, they see a man who is always making clothes for others out of a never-ending roll of cloth. By this point, Mercy is pregnant, and she has seen a mirror in the shepherds' house that she would like to buy. The mirror is really unique, as it sometimes shows the face of the pilgrim, and sometimes the face of Christ. The shepherds happily oblige, and also give the other women a variety of jewelry before they go on their way.

The next person the pilgrims encounter is Valiant-for-Truth, who is beaten and bloody after courageously fighting off thieves who attacked him in the same place where Little-Faith was robbed. Respecting his courage, Great-Heart invites him to join the group of pilgrims. The ensuing conversation about Christian's famous pilgrimage lasts until the pilgrims reach the Enchanted Ground. They reach an arbour where they want to sleep, but Great-Heart wisely makes them press on ahead, aided by his map that details all the routes to the Celestial City. In another arbour further along, they find two men sleeping. The pilgrims try to rouse the men, but to no avail.

Near the end of the Enchanted Ground, the pilgrims encounter Standfast, and he is quickly added to their number. Standfast had been delayed on his journey because of Madam Bubble, an enchantress and figure of worldliness. The expanded group all continue until they find themselves in Beulah. There, they finally come to the river. Christiana is the first to go across, but before she goes, she blesses her children and speaks to each pilgrim individually. Mr. Ready-to-Halt is the next to cross over. He knows it is his time because he has received a summons in the post. Feeble-Mind and a few others are next. Finally, it is Mr. Honesty's turn; he is followed by Mr. Valiant-for-Truth and Mr. Standfast. At the end, Christiana's boys and their wives stay behind, so that they might increase the church and help future pilgrims along the way.


This section begins with the encounter with By-Ends, who represents the dissenters would conform to the Church of England only when it was convenient, or whose religion was shaped more by public opinion and the government rather than a truthful sense of conviction. Bunyan levies a charge of hypocrisy against these men by describing By-ends as a “very arch fellow” (298). As discussed earlier, the stakes get higher for pilgrims as they progress. Because By-ends appears so close to the end of the journey signifies the gravity of his sins and the larger threat that he represents.

The pilgrims continue to make progress, though not as easily or as swiftly as Christian did, for “the women and children being weakly, they were forced to go as they could bear” (304). It is remarks like these that form the counter-narrative of the Puritan gender construction. Even though women were allowed to learn and proved themselves quite capable of it, the common belief was that the female was weaker than her male counterpart. Even if some of Bunyan’s treatment of women seems quite progressive to the modern reader, on the whole, his depiction is very much in line with dominant Puritan ideology from the time (cf. Hughes).

After Demas and the silver mine, the pilgrims arrive at a refuge that foreshadows what they will find in heaven. The foreshadowing works on two levels. On a superficial level, Bunyan describes the place as a bastion of peace and spiritual refreshment, led by “One that was entrusted with [the young], who could have compassion, and that could gather these lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and that could gently lead those that were with young” (305). This offers the pilgrims a foretaste of the life that awaits them in heaven. On a deeper textual level, however, Bunyan also draws a scriptural allusion to an Old Testament prophecy in Isaiah, which is, in and of itself, a more indirect foreshadowing of what they will encounter later on.

In the episode with the Giant Despair, Bunyan further elucidates the nature and role of the church in the world. Because of Mr. Great-Heart’s acuity, the pilgrims are not tempted to go down the by-path, but Great-Heart detours out of his way to slay the giant and eliminate the threat for future pilgrims. Symbolically, the reader sees that the community of the church comes together powerfully to defeat despair. Strength in numbers gives them the ability to overcome even the fiercest of giants.

As the shepherds are showing the pilgrims what lies ahead, Bunyan again addresses the reader directly: “…of whom you read in the first part of the records of the Pilgrim’s Progress” (312). This break from the action of the plot has a very specific purpose. Addressing the reader directly reinforces Bunyan's didactic agenda and forces the reader to be accountable for the lessons learned in both parts of the text. This moment functions as a sort of check point, whereby Bunyan can ensure that the text is sinking in and having the desired effect on his readers.

After departing from the shepherds, the pilgrims encounter Valiant-for-Truth, and the reader gets another example of the wide and powerful reach of Christian’s legacy. Christian's own pilgrimage inspired Valiant-for-Truth to take his own journey, and allows Bunyan to comment on the power of example and the irresistibility of the Christian message. Mr. Great-Heart tells Valiant-for-Truth that his ability to tune out those who would dissuade him from his journey “was your victory, you faith even” (322). In this remark, Bunyan shares a way in which he believes faith manifests itself. He provides a tangible example of what faith, that most abstract of concepts, actually looks like in practice, which allows Bunyan to show the reader that Faith is attainable for anyone.

As the pilgrims get tired and darkness falls in the Enchanted Ground, the reader sees once more the saving grace and value of the community. “Encouraging words” from one another help them carry on (323), and when they can no longer see, Mr. Great-Heart is there to lead them. He strikes a match to look at his map, which is the Bible, and they carry on in safety. As always, Bunyan layers on heavy symbolism. In the dark, as the pilgrims huddle together, the light of the Word shows leads them to safety (325-6).

The last addition to the band of pilgrims is Standfast, who tells them of his run-in with Madam Bubble, the enchantress who oversees the Enchanted Grounds. She represents the World and is a foil to Christiana, a woman who represents the church. Madam Bubble is a gentlewoman, wealthy, well-spoken, attractive, greedy, promiscuous. She embodies everything that represents a threat to the church. As the final ominous figure that Bunyan describes, he portrays the threat of Madam Bubble as the most severe stumbling block for pilgrims. If one can stand fast, as Standfast does, and wait for deliverance (the church arrives to save him), she she can be defeated. Significantly, Great-Heart does not track her down and kill her. Madam Bubble’s threat—the threat of the vain world—is too pervasive to destroy. It can only be avoided with vigilance, principle, and community.

Finally, the pilgrims arrive at Beulah, which is always light and full of music (331). The setting, like it was in Part I, is sumptuous in every way, and the description appeals to all of the senses. The pilgrims remain there until they are summoned, in writing, by their lord. Christiana, a woman, is summoned first. The reader will recall Gaius’s justification of why women are saved, because they believed first in God (286). The men are summoned subsequently, but the stronger and more virtuous men are summoned after the weaker ones. This would suggest strongly to the reader that the promise of heaven is not earned in proportion to one’s virtue, highlighting the egalitarian nature of salvation. As Honesty leaves the world, he says “Grace Reigns,” a concise summation of the crux of Bunyan’s theology, which the reader knows to be authoritative because of the name and identity of the person who uttered it (337).

Christiana’s sons and their wives stay behind to grow the church on Earth. Timing is important in Christianity, and it is not their appointed time to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. They realize their responsibility is to further the Kingdom of God on earth. The community of the faithful must be sustained, especially in trying times, and their choice of vocation serves as a model and final instruction from Bunyan to his readers. He closes the text with the French, “adieu,” which is a truncation of a 14th century phrase that means “I commend you unto God” (Online Etymology Dictionary); a fitting benediction for the reader as he begins his own pilgrimage.