The Pilgrim's Progress Summary

Overview (Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

In The Pilgrim’s Progress from This World to That Which Is to Come, John Bunyan strove to dramatize through allegory the pilgrimage that a Christian must undertake to get safely “from this world to that which is to come.” Bunyan’s protagonist, Christian—warned by the allegorical figure Evangelist to flee the “wrath to come”— forsakes a wife and four children (the same number Bunyan left behind when he went to prison in 1660) when they refuse to accompany him, despite the chidings and ridicule of neighbors. Although two neighbors, Obstinate and Pliable, try to drag him back by force, he manages to make it through the Slough of Despond and past Mr. Worldly-Wiseman, who counsels him against Evangelist’s preaching, to the Strait Gate through which one must pass to go to the Celestial City. Good Will opens the Gate for him when he discovers Christian’s brokenhearted repentance for sin.

Entering the Gate, Christian makes his way to Interpreter’s House (suggested perhaps by the church at Bedford), where Interpreter enlightens him from Scriptures about the difficulties of the journey and explains how he can overcome them. Rested and illumined, Christian heads directly to the cross, where the heavy burden of sin and guilt he has borne fall immediately from his back. He proceeds with greater confidence without this burden, but he faces difficulty all along the way, constantly tempted to leave the path by such figures as Simple, Sloth, Formalist, Hypocrisie, Timorous, and Mistrust. Resting after an arduous climb up the hill Difficulty, he reads from his Roll (the Scriptures) for encouragement, then places it under his head and goes to sleep. When he awakens, he leaves without the Roll and has to return “with sorrow” to find it, for he cannot reach the Celestial City without it.

At the Porter’s Lodge, Watchful, Piety, Prudence, and Charity supply much-needed encouragement and, still fearful for the rest of the journey, arm him with Sword, Shield, Helmet, Breastplate, All-Prayer, and Shoes that will not wear out. They also show him a vision of the Delectable Mountains of Immanuel’s Land within sight of the Celestial City. Thus outfitted, Christian overcomes Apollyon (the Destroyer) in hand-to-hand combat. All-Prayer enables him to pass unharmed through the Valley of the Shadow of Death that winds just above Hell itself. There Christian overtakes Faithful, who shares with...

(The entire section is 990 words.)

The Pilgrim's Progress Summary (Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

The Pilgrim’s Progress, Bunyan’s best-known work, narrates the protagonist Christian’s journey to salvation. Made aware of his own mortality, Christian abandons the City of Destruction and begins his journey to the Heavenly City. The narrative takes the form of an allegorical dream vision and develops the theme of individual salvation through a highly consistent allegorical framework.

Urged on by Evangelist, Christian abandons his wife and children, stopping his ears with his fingers to silence their pleas, an indication that the journey to salvation must be an individual experience. The two companions whom he encounters along the way, Faithful and Hopeful, are actually facets of his own character. Once he has begun the journey, he reflects the character of the wayfaring, warring Christian disciple, often tempted and often struggling but never abandoning the path.

Christian is not tempted by the worldly pleasures of Vanity Fair or by any pomp and ceremony associated with riches, nor is he swayed by the erroneous reasoning of Obstinate, Pliable, Sloth, or Mr. Worldly Wiseman or the shallow optimism apparent in characters such as Hypocrisy, Formality, and Ignorance. His serious temptations concern fear, doubt, and despair. At the journey’s beginning he is mired in the Slough of Despond, escaping only after difficult exertions. He meets frightening monsters such as Pope and Pagan and battles the demoniac warrior Apollyon. Cast...

(The entire section is 428 words.)

The Pilgrim's Progress Summary (Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

John Bunyan lays down in a den to sleep. In his sleep, he dreams that he sees a man, named Christian, standing in a field and crying out in pain and sorrow because he and his whole family, as well as the town in which they live, are to be destroyed. Christian knows of this catastrophe because he had read about it in the book—the Bible—that he holds in his hands.

Evangelist, the preacher of Christianity, soon comes up to Christian and presents him with a roll of paper on which it is written that he should flee from the wrath of God and make his way from the City of Destruction to the City of Zion. Running home with this hope of salvation, Christian tries to get his neighbors and family to go away with him, but they do not listen and think he is either sick or mad. Finally, he shuts his ears to his family’s entreaties to stay with them and runs off toward the light in the distance. Under the light, he knows he will find the wicket gate that opens into Heaven.

On his way, Christian meets Pliant and Obstinate; Christian is so distracted by them that he falls in a bog called the Slough of Despond. He cannot get out because of the bundle of sins on his back. Finally, Help comes along and helps Christian out of the sticky mire. Going on his way, he soon falls in with Mr. Worldly Wiseman, who tries to convince Christian that he could lead a happier life if he gives up his trip toward the light and settles down to the comforts of a burdenless town life. Fearing that Christian is about to be led astray, Evangelist comes up to the two men and quickly shows the errors in Mr. Worldly Wiseman’s arguments.

Soon, Christian arrives at a closed gate where he meets Good-Will, who tells him that if he knocks, the gate will be opened to him. Christian does so. He is invited into the gatekeeper’s house by the Interpreter and learns from him the meaning of many of the Christian mysteries. He is shown pictures of Christ and Passion and Patience; Despair in a cage of iron bars; and a vision of the Day of Judgment, when evil people will be sent to the bottomless pit and good people will be carried up to Heaven. Christian is filled with both hope and fear after having seen these things. Continuing on his journey, he comes to the Holy Cross and the Sepulchre of Christ. There his burden of sins falls off, and he is able to take to the road with renewed vigor.

Soon he meets Sloth, Simple, Presumption, Formalism, and Hypocrisy, but he keeps to his way and they keep to theirs. Later, Christian lies down to sleep for a while. When he continues on again, he forgets to pick up the roll of paper Evangelist had given him. Remembering it later, he runs back to find it. Running to make up the time lost, he suddenly finds himself confronted by two lions. He is afraid to pass by them until the porter of the house by the side of...

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The Pilgrim's Progress Overview

In the nineteenth century, The Pilgrim's Progress was a standard volume in nearly every literate household in the United States and...

(The entire section is 458 words.)

The Pilgrim's Progress Chapter Summaries

Part 1, Chapter 1 Summary

The narrator walks through the wilderness and finds a den in which he lies down to sleep. He begins to dream and sees a man clothed in rags, carrying a Book and bearing a burden on his back.

As the man (who is called Christian) reads the Book, he begins to weep. His family thinks that he is mentally unbalanced, and so he leaves his home to find relief from his burden. He encounters a man named Evangelist, who points him the way to the Wicket Gate, lit by a guiding light. There he will find relief from his burden.

Christian starts running toward the Light, ignoring the cries of his family and friends, who try to stop him in his supposed madness. Two of his neighbors, Obstinate and Pliable, overtake him....

(The entire section is 458 words.)

Part 1, Chapter 2 Summary

A man named Goodwill comes to the Gate. As Christian enters, Goodwill drags him in quickly, explaining that there is a castle nearby from which Beelzebub and his forces shoot arrows to kill those who come to the gate.

Christian explains his previous adventures since Goodwill is concerned that he came alone. Christian is anxious if he will be allowed to stay inside the Gate because he had strayed from the way, but Goodwill tells him that no one is cast out because of their previous actions.

Goodwill shows Christian the straight and narrow way he must go to be relieved of his burden, but first he must go to the house of the Interpreter. At the house, Christian asks for the Master of the House.

The...

(The entire section is 483 words.)

Part 1, Chapter 3 Summary

Having been greeted by three Shining Ones who announced that he had received salvation, dressed him in a new coat, and given him a Scroll, Christian sets off on the path to Mount Zion. He meets three men fast asleep. Their names are Simple, Sloth, and Presumption. He urges them to awaken and join him for the Devil might come by soon. They dismiss his warning, so he travels on.

Christian encounters two men, Formalist and Hypocrisy, who climb over the wall and start on the same path. Christian warns them that unless they come in through the Gate, they will face condemnation. They tell him that it does not matter how they got on the path; once they are in, they are in.

When they come to the Hill Difficulty,...

(The entire section is 421 words.)

Part 1, Chapter 4 Summary

Christian has not traveled far into the Valley of Humiliation when he meets a foul Fiend. Christian has some armor supplied to him by the damsels of the Palace Beautiful but he has no covering on his back, so he cannot turn and run.

The monster, Apollyon, asks him where he has come from and where is going. Christian tells the fiend that he has come from the City of Destruction and is journeying to the City of Zion. Apollyon tells Christian that the City of Destruction is a country he rules. He demands to know why Christian has run away from his king. Christian replies that the life there was hard and the wages of sin were death.

Apollyon tells Christian that he will not let him go and that because he...

(The entire section is 409 words.)

Part 1, Chapter 5 Summary

Christian comes upon a hill and sees his neighbor, Faithful, ahead of him. He calls out to him to wait, but Faithful says that he cannot because the Avenger of Blood is behind him.

Christian catches up with him and the two are grateful for each other’s company. Faithful tells of his own journey. He left the City of Destruction after Pliable returned. Christian’s companion in the Slough of Despond is now a mockery even to those who do not believe.

Faithful managed to escape the Slough but was attacked by a woman called Wanton. He then met Adam the First, who invited Faithful to stay with him. Adam has three daughters: The Lust of the Flesh, the Lust of the Flesh, and the Pride of Life, and Faithful was...

(The entire section is 438 words.)

Part 1, Chapter 6 Summary

Faithful and Christian arrive at the town that Evangelist warned them about. It is named Vanity but is most known for the Vanity Fair, for there is a constant fair there where all manner of vanities are sold.

The citizens of Vanity laugh at the clothing and speech of Christian and Faithful. The two men do not look at any of the wares for sale at the fair, saying that they will buy only Truth. This causes chaos in the fair, and they are taken into custody as madmen. They are placed in a cage to await their trial.

The men of Vanity Fair begin to disagree among themselves about Faithful and Christian, with some being accused of being confederates with them. Besides the suspicion of madness, Faithful and...

(The entire section is 415 words.)

Part 1, Chapter 7 Summary

When Christian leaves Vanity Fair following Faithful’s death, he is joined by Hopeful, who tells him that soon even more men from the town might join the journey to the Celestial City.

They are met by Mr. By-ends from the town of Fair Speech. Mr. By-ends is traveling the road to the Celestial City, but he tells Christian and Hopeful that he is interested in religion only if the way is easy. The two men leave him as a bad influence.

Mr. By-ends continues on his way and meets with Mr. Hold-the-World, Mr. Money-love, and Mr. Save-all, all of whom he has known since they were in school together. All of them agree that it is no sin to use religion to gain a higher standing (and more money) in the world. They...

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Part 1, Chapter 8 Summary

Hopeful and Christian continue on their journey until the come to the Delectable Mountains. There they see many orchards, vineyards, and fountains, where they refresh themselves.

They see shepherds tending their flocks by the side of the road. The shepherds’ names are Knowledge, Experience, Watchful, and Sincere. The shepherds explain to the pilgrims that the mountains belong to the King of Celestial City.

Christian asks how far it is to the City, and the shepherds tell him that it is still far and accessible only to the faithful. The shepherds invite the travels to stay and rest for a while in the Mountains.

The next morning, the shepherds show Christian and Hopeful some of the sights to be...

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Part 1, Chapter 9 Summary

As the narrator sleeps and dreams again, the two pilgrims go down the mountains to the highway that leads to the Celestial City. They see the country of Conceit and meet Ignorance. He has not come in through the Wicket Gate, so Christian warns him that he will be turned back at the city gates.

Ignorance tells him to follow his religion while he follows his own. Seeing that Ignorance is a fool, Christian and Hopeful decide to pass him by.

Down the road, the two pilgrims see a man who has a sign on his back that labels him as Wanton Professor and Damnable Apostate. Christian remembers a man called Little-Faith who was attacked by thieves on the way. They took his money, but he still had some jewels.

...

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Part 1, Chapter 10 Summary

Christian and Hopeful finally make it through the Enchanted Ground and enter the Country of Beulah, where the air is sweet and pleasant. The sun shines day and night; this land is beyond the Valley of the Shadow of Death and beyond the reach of the Giant Despair. The Shining Ones continually walk about because it is close to the Celestial City.

As the pilgrims approach the Celestial City, they see that it is built of pearls and precious stones, and the streets are paved with gold. Christian and Hopeful feel sick with desire for the city.

A gardener tells them that the vineyards belong to the King and are planted for the solace of all pilgrims who approach the city. They sleep in the vineyards, talking in...

(The entire section is 423 words.)

Part 2, Chapter 1 Summary

The narrator goes once again into the woods and falls asleep. He dreams that a man by the name of Mr. Sagacity approaches him and the two of them walk on together.

They pass by the City of Destruction, and the narrator asks Mr. Sagacity what has happened since Christian’s successful journey to the Celestial City. Sagacity tells him that Christian’s tale has spread far and wide, and many people speak well of him, even though when he was among them he was called a fool. Christian’s wife, Christiana, and her sons also have followed him on his pilgrim journey, and Sagacity begins to tell their story.

After her husband’s departure, Christiana began to feel guilt concerning her hardheartedness toward him...

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Part 2, Chapter 2 Summary

As the story continues, Christiana, Mercy, and the four boys approach the Wicket Gate and knock on the door. They hear the fierce barking of a dog and leave off knocking, not certain what to do. They do not dare go back and offend the Keeper of the Gate, so they knock louder until the door is opened.

Christiana and the boys are welcomed in, but Mercy is left outside. She is fearful that she will not be admitted because she received no invitation from the King, as Christiana did, but came only at the request of Christiana herself. Nevertheless, she knocks loudly, startling Christiana inside. The door is opened again, but Mercy has fainted. She is taken inside and revived by the Keeper. He assures her that she is welcome,...

(The entire section is 455 words.)

Part 2, Chapter 3 Summary

The pilgrims come to the Hill Difficulty. Before they begin the climb, they go to the spring for a drink of water. The stream has been muddied by those who seek to discourage travelers to the Celestial City, so they must first put the water in a pot and let the dirt settle.

As they climb the hill, Great-Heart encourages them to persevere; there is the arbor at the top. There they stop and remember Christian’s loss of his Scroll there, so they avoid going to sleep. Nevertheless, Christiana forgets her bottle of spirits there.

They come to a stage with a placard that states that this is where Timourous and Mistrust tried to persuade Christian to go back. For their sins, their tongues were pierced with fire....

(The entire section is 416 words.)

Part 2, Chapter 4 Summary

Led by Great-Heart, the pilgrims begin their journey down the Hill Difficulty into the Valley of Humiliation. Piety, a damsel from the Porter’s Lodge who has accompanied them this far, tells Christiana that this is where Christian fought Apollyon.

James, the youngest son, finds a pillar on which is written an account and a warning of Christian’s fight. Great-Heart tells the pilgrims that the Valley of Humiliation may be a place where much spiritual fruit is grown, and many pilgrims wish to stop there.

They hear a shepherd boy singing and stop to listen to it, refreshed by the song’s encouragement. Great-Heart says that Christ had his country house in this valley. 

Samuel, the second oldest...

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Part 2, Chapter 5 Summary

The pilgrims arrive at the place where Christian met Faithful. Christiana asks Mr. Great-Heart if he was hurt in his battle with the giant, but the Guide says that he has minimal flesh wounds, a proof of his devotion to God. Matthew remarks on God’s goodness in bringing them all out of the Valley safely.

The group continues on their journey and comes across an old man sleeping under an oak tree. They greet him and learn that he is Mr. Honest, although he wishes his nature would agree with his name. He is from the town of Stupidity, which is in an even worse condition than the City of Destruction.

Mr. Honest joins them, and Great-Heart asks him if he knew Mr. Fearing, who had gone on pilgrimage previously....

(The entire section is 418 words.)

Part 2, Chapter 6 Summary

The pilgrims now approach the town of Vanity, where Christian met Faithful at Vanity Fair. They lodge with Mr. Mnason, a disciple who is amazed that they have come so far from Gaius’s home.

Learning that Christiana is the wife of the famous pilgrim Christian, Mr. Mnason invites several of the residents of Vanity to meet his guests. They are joined by Mr. Mnason’s daughter Grace.

One of the men from Vanity, Mr. Contrite, tells the pilgrims that the people of Vanity Fair are much more moderate than they were when they murdered Faithful. Mr. Honest and Mr. Great-Heart tell Mr. Contrite of their journey.

The pilgrims stay with Mr. Mnason for a long time during which Grace is married to Samuel,...

(The entire section is 418 words.)

Part 2, Chapter 7 Summary

Mr. Great-Heart leads the pilgrim band from Doubting Castle to the Delectable Mountains, where Christian and Hopeful had stopped to be refreshed. They are greeted by shepherds who welcome them as they had Christian.

Mr. Great-Heart introduces each of the pilgrims and the shepherds invite Mr. Ready-to-halt, Mr. Feeble-minded, Mr. Despondency, and Mrs. Much-afraid especially because these would be the ones most reluctant to step forward. The weak and feeble enter first, followed by the others. They are presented with a feast and rest.

The shepherds take the pilgrims to Mount-Marvel, where a man tumbles about, representing those who fall out of the way because of difficulties. At Mount Innocent, they see a man...

(The entire section is 410 words.)

Part 2, Chapter 8 Summary

At last the band of pilgrims comes to Beulah Land, where the Celestial City lies. They are welcomed into the town outside the Golden Gates beside the River separating them from the City.

There is nothing that is offensive to any of the senses. There is a record of all the pilgrims who have made it thus far. The children of the town gather flowers from the King’s Gardens to present to the pilgrims.

A summons from the City comes for Christiana. It is from the Master of the City, telling her that she will cross the River and enter the Gates in ten days. Along with the letter is the token of an arrow whose point is sharpened with Love and enters Christiana’s heart, preparing her to leave her loved ones....

(The entire section is 421 words.)

Michael Foster, Ed. Scott Locklear