The Pilgrim's Progress By John Bunyan Summary and Analysis Part 1: Section 2 - Through the Wicket Gate to Interpreter's House

Summary

Reaching the little Wicket Gate, Christian sees a sign over it: "Knock and it shall be opened unto you" (Matt. 7:7). He knocks, and then again, and many more times before he arouses the gatekeeper, a "grave person" named Good-will, who comes out to ask what he wants. When Christian tells him that he was directed to the gate by Evangelist and that he is a poor burdened sinner bound for Mount Zion, Good-will unlocks the gate and gives Christian a strong pull to get him inside quickly. Why the pull? asks Christian. Because there is a strong castle nearby from which Beelzebub and his minions shoot arrows at those knocking at the gate, hoping to kill them before they enter.

Under Good-will's questioning, Christian relates his adventures at length. Good-will then walks a little way with Christian to show him the way he must go, pointing out that it is a very narrow path that runs as straight as a rule can make it. Are there no turnings or windings to confuse a stranger? Yes, but Christian need not be confused if he remembers there is only one right path, "That only being straight and narrow" (Matt. 7:14).

Good-will directs Christian to the house of Interpreter, saying the latter would show him "excellent things." Arriving there, Christian knocks and knocks before a man comes to the door. Christian asks to speak with the master of the house, who in time appears and invites the traveler to come in to see things that will help him in his journey. Commanding his man to light "the candle," Interpreter leads Christian into a private room, where there is a picture of a "very grave person" hanging on the wall. "It had eyes lifted up to Heaven, the best of Books in his hand, the Law of Truth was written upon his lips, the world was behind his back. It stood as if it pleaded with men, and a crown of gold did hang over his head." The picture, explains Interpreter, is that of one of many sincere, inspiring preachers of the Gospel, a man of God, and Christian should mark his features well and remember them so that he will be able to distinguish any pious pretenders who may try to mislead him on his journey.

Leading Christian into a very large parlor full of dust, Interpreter calls for a man to sweep out the room. The latter raises such a cloud of dust that Christian all but chokes. Turning to a damsel standing by, Interpreter asks her, "Bring hither water and sprinkle the room." As soon as that is done, the room is "swept and cleansed with pleasure." When Christian asks the meaning of this, Interpreter tells him that the parlor is the heart of man, which has to be swept out to remove the dust of "Original Sin and inward corruptions," and that the damsel with her water is the Gospel that makes the soul clean and "consequently fit for the King of Glory to inhabit" (John 15:3; Eph. 5:26; Acts 15:9; Rom. 16:25,26).

After a visit to two small children — Passion (the bad boy, wanting everything here and now) and Patience (the good boy, willing to wait for his reward in Heaven) — Interpreter takes Christian to a place where there is a fire burning against a wall. By the fire is a sinister figure constantly throwing water on the blaze to put it out. But the fire gets higher and hotter because a man on the other side of the wall is secretly adding fuel to the flames from a vessel of oil — "the oil of Christ's Grace." Do what he may, the Devil will never extinguish the flame kindled in the hearts of men as a work of Grace.

Christian is next led to a place where stands a stately beautiful palace. In front of it is gathered a large crowd anxious to get in. But in the doorway stands a troop of armed men to keep everybody out. It is not that the people in the palace want to keep people out. It is that Satan has posted the soldiers to intimidate the crowd and prevent anyone from entering.

Off to the side sits a man with a pen and inkhorn on the table before him, ready to register in a book the names of those deemed worthy to enter the palace. A man of "very stout countenance" approaches and says: "Set down my name, sir." That done, the man draws his sword, puts on his helmet, and rushes upon the soldiers in the doorway, who wound him many times. But the man, "cutting and hacking most fiercely," finally presses through the soldiers and into the palace, and those outside hear a pleasant voice welcoming him:

Come in, come in;
Eternal glory thou shalt win.

Christian suggests that he had better be on his way now, but Interpreter has some other things to show him, leading him into a very dark room where there is a man in an iron cage. Christian talks with the dejected man in the iron cage of Despair and learns that the prisoner was once a "fair and flourishing" Christian, with good hopes of getting to the Celestial City. But tempted by the lusts, pleasures, and profits of this world, he had fallen by the wayside, renounced the Faith, and become an apostate — a sin against the Holy Ghost for which he can never be forgiven. Through all eternity he must suffer the tortures of Hell.

Christian again suggests that he should be going, but Interpreter insists on showing him one more thing, leading him into a chamber where a man is getting up from bed and violently trembling as he dresses himself. He is shaking because of a dream he just had, and he proceeds to relate it. In the dream, the skies suddenly grew very black, with great lightning and thunder. A trumpet sounds as a man sitting on a cloud appears with his heavenly attendants around him, "all in flaming fire," and a voice rings out: "Arise ye dead, and come to Judgment!"

Rocks split asunder, graves open up, the dead emerge. Some are "exceeding happy" and hopefully look upward. Others try "to hide themselves under the mountains" (Isa. 26:21; Mic. 7:16, 17; Ps. 50:1-3). The man on the cloud orders his attendants to go among the resurrected to "gather together the tares, the chaff, and stubble, and cast them into the burning lake." To receive the chaff, the bottomless pit opens up and out of it comes hellish smoke and flames, "with hideous noises." At another order, "Gather my wheat into my garner," angels come winging down, catch up many, and carry them away into the clouds.

When Christian asks what was so frightening about that, the dreamer replies that he thought the Day of Judgment had come, and he was not ready for it. His conscience greatly troubled him. Besides, he could see that the "Judge" (the man on the cloud) was closely watching him, "showing indignation in his countenance."

Now content to let the Pilgrim be on his way, Interpreter first questions him on whether he has understood the deeper meaning of all the "excellent things" he has been shown, and whether he will always remember the lessons they have taught. Assuring Interpreter that he will never forget, Christian girds up his loins and is off, still burdened by the sack of sins on his back.

Analysis

The pace of the narrative slows up in this section, with Christian largely occupied in sightseeing and listening to Interpreter's lengthy discourse, filled with biblical quotations and allusions, as he expounds the deeper meaning of the sights. Only one thing he does not explain, and there is no need, for Christian catches the point immediately. It is the scene in which the man of "stout countenance" registers as a Christian, draws his sword, and forces his way through soldiers blocking his way into one of the Lord's castles. "I think verily I know the meaning of this," Christian remarks. A true Pilgrim has to be in fact, as well as in name, a Christian soldier, armed to defend himself and ready to whack his way through any who try to block his way to salvation.

Back to Top

Take the Quiz

Diffidence suggests to Giant Despair that rather than kill his captives outright, he should




Quiz