The Pilgrim's Progress By John Bunyan Summary and Analysis Part 2: Section 1 - To Palace Beautiful

Summary

Part II of this book, like Part I, is a long continuous narrative, with no divisions, and the story accordingly will be dealt with in sections.

Christian's wife whom Bunyan names Christiana misses her husband and begins to regret her refusal to go with him when he set out on his pilgrimage. She hears reports that Christian is faring very well in Heaven, having already a very rich and pleasant dwelling at court, is eating and drinking well sitting on the right hand of the Lord from whom he receives many smiles and favors. It would be nice to be enjoying some of this too. In addition Christiana has become worried about the salvation of her soul and the salvation of her four children all boys

Should she now set out to trace her husband's footsteps in the hope of joining him in the raptures of the Celestial City? Sagacity and other of her friends encourage her to do so. Still others advise against it Christiana cannot make up her mind until she is visited by an emissary who comes from Heaven to deliver to her a note from God, written "in letters of gold," and "if smelt after the manner of the best perfume" (Song of Sol. 1:3). The gist of the note is: "That the King would have her do as did Christian her husband, for that was the way to come to his City, and to dwell in his Presence with joy forever."

Gathering her children, who "burst out into tears for joy" at her decision, Christiana is packing up when two friends come in, Mrs. Timorous and Neighbor Mercy, both in great excitement. Mrs. Timorous is horrified that Christiana is going to sacrifice her "four sweet babes" in such a hazardous venture. But Neighbor Mercy finds that "her bowels yearned over Christiana," and even more "over her own soul (for what Christiana had said had taken some hold upon her mind)." She therefore says that she will accompany Christiana a little way on her journey. Meantime, Mrs. Timorous has run home and called in her favorite gossips — Mrs. Bat's-eyes, Mrs. Inconsiderate, Mrs. Light-mind, and Mrs. Know-nothing — who all agree that Christiana is a "blind and foolish woman.

Having walked a little way, Mercy decides that she will not turn back but go on with Christiana and the children. They pass without much difficulty through the Slough of Despond, in which Christian had floundered so badly, and come to the Wicket Gate, where Christiana knocks and is admitted with her children. Mercy is left outside and fearing that she has been rejected, falls in a faint. On Christiana's plea in her behalf, the gatekeeper comes out, takes Mercy by the hand, leads her inside, gives her some myrrh as smelling salts, and invites all in the party to rest themselves in a summer parlor. The Lord soon appears there to assure Mercy that she is welcome as a Pilgrim.

Proceeding, they have gone only a bow-shot or two from the Wicket Gate when they see two "very ill-favored ones" coming toward them. Christiana and Mercy drop their veils over their faces and attempt to pass by, but the men stop them, then try to embrace them. "Stand back," cries Christiana angrily, "and be gone, for we have no money to lose, being Pilgrims as you see . . ."

"We make no assault upon you for money," says one of the men, "but are come out to tell you that if you will but grant one small request . . . we will make women of you forever . . . We intend no hurt to your lives. 'Tis another thing we would have."

Christiana replies that she knows very well what they would have, but would rather die than give it. With that, she and Mercy let out a cry of "Murder, murder! and so put themselves under those laws that are provided for the protection of women" (Dent. 22:25-27). Their cries are heard at the Wicket Gate, and a figure named Reliever comes running to the rescue, arriving just in time to save Christiana and Mercy finding each of them "in the scuffle," with the children standing by and wailing, not understanding what is going on.

Reliever chases away the "ruffians" (fiends) and then remarks his wonder why the two "weak" women, when at the Wicket Gate had not petitioned the Lord "for a conductor." Because, says Christiana, "who could have thought that so near the King's palace there should have lurked such naughty ones?" Indeed, it would have been better to have asked for a conductor, Christiana grants, "but since our Lord knew 'twould be for our profit, I wonder he sent not one along with us!" Reliever explains that it is often better not to grant things not asked for, because things unasked for are usually held in "little esteem." One should ask of God and, if circumstances warrant, it will be given.

The next stop is at Interpreter's House, where the party is warmly welcomed after Christiana has introduced herself as the wife of Christian, whom Interpreter well remembers from his visit some years before. Interpreter shows Christiana and Mercy what he had shown to Christian — the man in the iron cage, the man awakening from a bad dream, and other "excellent things" — but also something more. Interpreter leads them into a room where there is a man who can "look no way but downwards, with a muck-rake in his hand." Above him stands one holding a Celestial crown, offering it to Muck-rake, but the latter does not look up and goes on raking "to himself the straws, the small sticks, and dust on the floor."

"I know somewhat the meaning of this," says Christiana, "for this is a figure of a man of this world, is it not, good sir?" Yes it is, says Interpreter, who then has a damsel named Innocent lead them into the garden of the bath, "wash them, and make them clean," for so the Lord would have women who come into his presence. Emerging from the bath, Christiana and Mercy are "not only sweet and clean but also much enlivened and strengthened in their joints." Interpreter then asks Innocent to go into the vestry and bring out new raiment fine linen white and clean and summoning his man servant Great heart orders him to take up sword shield and helmet and "escort these my daughters to the house called Beautiful at which place they will rest next."

Coming to the base of Difficulty Hill Great heart shows Christiana and Mercy the bypaths by which Formalist and Hypocrisy traveling with Christian had hoped to get around the hill and had perished which prompts Christiana to remark: "The way of transgressors is hard" (Prov. 13:15). Climbing the steep hill all begin to pant; Mercy wants to sit down the youngest child begins to cry. Picking up the child Great heart urges them to keep going until they reach the Prince s arbor halfway up the "breathing hill."

Here they are all happy to sit down and rest as Christian had done. Christiana brings out a bit to eat, given to her by Interpreter — "a piece of pomegranate . . . also a piece of honeycomb and a little bottle of spirits." Having rested and refreshed themselves, they start climbing again but soon stop when Christiana discovers that she has forgotten her bottle of spirits and sends one of her boys back to fetch it. "I think this is a losing place," says Mercy. "Here Christian lost his Roll, and here Christiana left her bottle behind her. Sir, what is the cause of this?" Great-heart replies that the cause is sleep and forgetfulness: "Some sleep when they should keep awake; and some forget when they should remember."

Satisfied with this explanation of the obvious, they go on till they catch sight of the lions in front of the gate to Palace Beautiful. As Great-heart advances with drawn sword, he is confronted by a giant named Grim, or Bloody-man, who suddenly emerges from a cave and bellows that no one is to pass. After some argument Great-heart rushes at him, knocks him to his knees, breaks his helmet, cuts off an arm, and leaves him sprawling, dead, on the ground. He then leads the trembling women and boys past the lions and up the lane to the gatehouse of the palace.

That accomplished, Great-heart announces he is returning to Interpreter's House that night. Christiana, Mercy, and the boys plead with him to stay and escort them the rest of the way. Great-heart explains that he cannot because of his orders from the Lord. But he adds, consolingly, that if he were again assigned to escort them, he would willingly do so.

Analysis

In Part I, as will be recalled, Bunyan "dreamed" his tale of Christian and his pilgrimage while lying in jail, locked up for his nonconformist practices and beliefs proscribed by law. In Part II, he dreams of the adventures of Christiana and her children while sleeping in a wood, which he places about a mile from the City of Destruction.

The first figure to be introduced is an old gentleman, Mr. Sagacity, who relates to the dreamer how well Christian is faring up above and the news that his wife Christiana has decided to take the children and follow him to the Celestial City after receiving from God a personal note urging her to do as Christian did and thus share with him the countless joys of eternal life on Mount Zion. Christiana and her children, and her friend Mercy, do not appear and speak in person till they are already on their journey and past the Slough of Despond.

The use of Sagacity as the first character is an ingenious and effective story-telling device. It enables Bunyan to set the base and the background of the story not in straightaway narrative exposition, which could be very dull, but rather in the far more interesting form of an enlightening conversation between Sagacity and the dreamer. In telling any story, dialogue is always more effective than mere exposition.

Though it is not explicitly stated, Christiana's friend and companion, the warm-hearted and "comely" Mercy, is an unmarried maiden, evidently in her late teens, for on the pilgrimage she becomes the bride of one of the "children," Matthew, Christiana's oldest son.

It is significant that Christiana and her party have little trouble in overcoming the first obstacle, the Slough of Despond, in which Christian, weighed down by doubts and fears, and by the heavy sack of sins on his shoulders, had so floundered and almost been "smothered with mud." As soon as the party is safely across Christiana hears a voice saying, "Blessed is she that believeth for there shall be a performance of the things that have been told her from the Lord."

In this second part of the book, Bunyan expands on his description of the Wicket Gate, the entrance to the Holy Way. Christian's reception here was quite simple. After knocking a time or two, Christian had been admitted by the gatekeeper, Good-will, who talked with him a bit before sending him on toward Interpreter's House. But when Christiana knocks, a great dog, a huge mastiff, comes bounding out, barking ferociously. Afraid of being torn to pieces, the women and children drawback, not knowing what to do. Summoning her courage, Christiana knocks again. The gatekeeper calls the dog off and after Christiana has identified herself and her "sweet babes," invites them to come in and shuts the gate, at the same time ordering "a trumpeter . . . to entertain Christiana with shouting and sound of trumpet for joy" [Luke 15:7]. The air resounds with "melodious notes."

Christiana, though grateful, rather sharply asks the gatekeeper why he keeps such a dog in his yard. The "filthy cur," it appears, does not belong to him, but to Satan, who uses it to scare Pilgrims away from the Holy Way. "But I take all at present patiently," the gatekeeper explains. "I also give my Pilgrims timely help, so they are not delivered up to his power, to do to them what his doggish nature would prompt him to do." Besides, the dog has often frightened Pilgrims enough to make them move "from worse to better."

Left outside the gate, thinking herself abandoned, Mercy swoons. But on Christiana's plea in her behalf, she is helped to her feet by the gatekeeper and taken inside, and all the weary Pilgrims are escorted to a pleasant "summer parlor," where they rest themselves for a time. Mercy continues to be worried about her status. Christiana is carrying a personal invitation from the Lord to come to Heaven, while Mercy has only the sponsorship of Christiana. To allay her anxieties, the Lord soon appears to assure Mercy that she can go on confidently toward the Celestial City.

The scene just beyond the Wicket Gate where two "very ill-favored" men accost Christiana and Mercy and attempt first to seduce them and then to rape them is the only scene of its kind in the entire book — one of the few with a slightly erotic flavor.

At Interpreter's House, Bunyan also adds new details. Christiana's party is shown all the things seen by Christian: the portrait of Evangelist, the man in the iron cage, and the man trembling violently as he awakens from a bad dream in which he sees himself called to Judgment when he is not ready for it. In addition to these and other "excellent things," the women and children are led into a large room where there is a man with a "muck-rake" in his hand. Over his head appears a figure offering him a "Celestial crown." But the man does not look up, only down, and goes on raking "the straws, the small sticks, and dust on the floor." Primarily, "muck" means barnyard manure, filth, anything disgusting, and not such trivia as straws, twigs, and dust.

Having specific reference to this passage, the word "muckraker" has come into the English — or at least the American — language as a term of criticism, reproach, and even of abuse. The epithet became popular after 1906 when President Theodore Roosevelt used it to characterize and stigmatize an influential group of authors and journalists who were seriously concerned about the iniquities and the inequities in American life, and were brilliantly exposing the roots of the trouble, finding them in the widespread corruption in politics and business.

Back to Top

Take the Quiz

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




Quiz