The Life and Death of Mr. Badman Summary

John Bunyan


(Masterpieces of British Fiction)

Practically every literate speaker of English has heard of THE PILGRIM’S PROGRESS and its author, John Bunyan. Less well-known to readers, however, are Bunyan’s other writings, including THE LIFE AND DEATH OF MR. BADMAN PRESENTED TO THE WORLD IN A FAMILIAR DIALOGUE BETWEEN MR. WISEMAN AND MR. ATTENTIVE. There are reasons, of course, for modern neglect of Bunyan’s other works. First, there are relatively few readers attracted to the vast bulk of seventeenth century religious writings in our time. Second, THE LIFE AND DEATH OF MR. BADMAN, being a didactic work, seems sententious and dull to the modern reader. Third, the moral viewpoints expressed by Bunyan in THE LIFE AND DEATH OF MR. BADMAN sound strange in this century, so foreign are the writer’s ideas to those prevalent in our time.

In one sense, however, THE LIFE AND DEATH OF MR. BADMAN is a companion piece to THE PILGRIM’S PROGRESS. The latter work shows the Christian, devoted and obedient, winning his way to the rewards of righteousness, while the former illustrates what happens to the sinner who steadfastly refuses to acknowledge his evil ways and insists upon leading a depraved existence throughout a life that can be characterized only as evil, regardless of whether one agrees wholeheartedly with Bunyan’s code of ethics in its entirety. The protagonist of the story, as it is related in dialogue, is Mr. Badman. He has all the evil in his heart one could possibly imagine. Unlike the typical hero of picaresque fiction, Mr. Badman has no aspect that can endear him to the reader. Bunyan expected his readers to feel that the sooner Mr. Badman received punishment, the better; there is no need to shed tears over such a character.

Bunyan’s technique in presenting the story of Mr. Badman is to have Mr. Wiseman, the author’s spokesman, relate the story of Badman’s life shortly after the sinner’s death. Mr. Wiseman’s listener, aptly named Mr. Attentive, not only listens carefully but also draws out the details of the narrative when Mr. Wiseman lags. The dialogue form is an old one, used for ages to bring edifying material to the reader and force him into the role of a passive participant.

Possibly the...

(The entire section is 916 words.)