Overview (Masterplots II: Christian Literature)
The narrator of The Labyrinth of the World and the Paradise of the Heart begins by giving the reasons for undertaking his journey. He tells his readers that he has reached the age at which he can distinguish good from evil and wants to find his own place in the world. Therefore, he has decided to investigate social orders and professions to decide which one he should join. With this realistic rationale, the journey begins, and it turns immediately to allegory. The pilgrim meets a talkative man who asks him where he is bound. After learning that the pilgrim is setting out to learn about the world, this man, whose name turns out to be Mr. Searchall and who is also known as Mr. Ubiquitous, advises the traveler that the world is a labyrinth and that he will soon be lost without a guide. Mr. Ubiquitous identifies himself as a subject of Vanity, Queen of the World, known to him as Wisdom.
The pilgrim and Mr. Ubiquitous are joined by another man, who says that it is his job to explain the world, as it is the job of Ubiquitous to act as guide. He says that he is interpreter to the Queen of the World, and he gives his own name as Delusion. The guide puts a bridle in the mouth of the pilgrim to keep him from turning back, and the interpreter places spectacles before the pilgrim’s eyes. The spectacles make everything appear the opposite of what it really is. Clearly, Ubiquitous represents the force that drives people through a vain world, while Delusion prevents them from seeing clearly. The pilgrim, however, is able to see around the spectacles, so that he sees the world as it really is.
The bridled, spectacled pilgrim and his two companions enter the labyrinthine city of the world. The pilgrim sees the confusion of the marketplace. He views married couples and enters into the married state himself, only to lose his wife and suffer sorrow. He goes among the working classes and finds their lives wanting. He meets members of the learned class and finds their lives vain and disputatious. He finds philosophers to be hypocritical and alchemists to be working fraudulent experiments. The Rosicrucian mystics are no better than the philosophers or...
(The entire section is 883 words.)
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Bibliography (Masterplots II: Christian Literature)
Sources for Further Study
Doleel, Lubomir. Narrative Modes in Czech Literature. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1973. A collection of essays on Czech writers, beginning with Comenius and ending with the modern novelist Milan Kundera. This is useful for those who want to understand Comenius within the context of Czech literature.
Murphy, Daniel. Comenius: A Critical Reassessment of His Life and Work. Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 1995. A study of Comenius that offers a brief biography and an extensive consideration of the Czech author’s work and faith.
Spinka, Matthew. John Amos Comenius: That Incomparable Moravian. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1943. A biography that covers the life and works of Comenius.