Study Help Essay Questions


Part 1

1. The Pilgrim's Progress is an allegory. What is an allegory? (It might be helpful to look up in a reference work the exact meaning of somewhat related terms, parable, symbolism, metaphor, fantasy, similitude; Bunyan described his story as "delivered under the similitude of a dream.")

2. Taking a major incident in the story as an example, show in detail how Bunyan used allegory to sharpen his meaning by making graphic the points he wished to make, by personalizing abstractions.

3. Who is Interpreter? On what clues do you base your opinion?

4. What is the significance of the Cross and the happenings there? What was the "Roll" that the three Shining Ones gave to Christian?

5. What does Palace Beautiful symbolize? What point was Bunyan making in stressing the fact that Faithful, Christian's friend and traveling companion, passed by the palace without stopping there?

6. Review the description of Vanity Fair. What is Bunyan saying here?

7. Why does Bunyan introduce Mr. Talkative? Is he a convincing character or merely a straw man set up as a target for Christian's (that is, Bunyan's) arguments?

8. Is Doubting Castle really a place, or just a state of mind? Or is it both?

9. What do you make of Bunyan's description of the Celestial City and its environs? Would you undertake a long pilgrimage to get there? Why, or why not?

10. It has been said that Christian is Everyman. In what sense, and to what extent, might this be true?

Part 2

1. A Bunyan scholar has written: "Christian made a pilgrimage; Christiana went on a walking tour." What was the writer driving at?

2. Review the scene of Christiana's departure from the City of Destruction for the Celestial City. How does it differ from Christian's departure? What led her to a final decision?

3. What is your analysis of Mercy as a character? What purpose does she serve in the story?

4. How is Great-heart introduced into the story, and what does he symbolize?

5. What was the "universal pill" which Mr. Skill, the ancient physician, concocted at Palace Beautiful for curing Matthew of the "gripes" he got from eating green plums out of Satan's orchard? What is Bunyan's point in elaborating on this incident?

6. Explain the author's account of the reason why Christian's and Christiana's parties experience such very different things in the Valley of Humiliation? Christian found it a place of terror; Mercy, the pleasantest place she had ever seen.

7. Review the scene at Vanity Fair and tell why the town seems to be so much improved since Christian passed through and Faithful was put to death there, being burned at the stake.

8. For what reason, in your opinion, does Bunyan introduce and make so much of such characters as Mr. Feeble-mind and Mr. Ready-to-halt, Mr. Despondency and his daughter Much-afraid?

9. Why is it, do you suppose, that the Holy Way, the King's highway to the heavenly Jerusalem, is so beset with fiends, devils, monsters, and malignant giants? Could there be a giant who was benign? Or is a "good" giant symbolically unfeasible? Look up the word "hagiology."

10. What interest, if any, has The Pilgrim's Progress for the modern reader? Be explicit in supporting whatever view you have.