The Pilgrim's Progress

by John Bunyan

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Student Question

What is the purpose of the character Help in John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress?

Quick answer:

In The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan, the purpose of Help is to aid Christian by pulling him out of the mire of the Slough of Despond, from which he cannot not extricate himself because of the burden on his back. Christian is then able to continue on his journey alone.

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In the book The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan, Christian meets a man named Help near the beginning of his journey. Bunyan tells his story in the form of a dream about a man named Christian, who is convinced that he must flee the City of Destruction and find the Celestial City. A man named Evangelist directs him to a Wicket Gate. Two men, Obstinate and Pliant, are sent to pursue Christian. Obstinate turns back, but Pliant accompanies Christian as far as a bog called the Slough of Despond.

Christian and Pliant both fall into the Slough of Despond. Pliant manages to extricate himself from the bog and goes home alone. After he leaves, a man named Help comes along, asks Christian what he is doing there, and pulls him out. Help then explains why the Slough of Despond still exists and has not been repaired. After that, Christian continues on his journey alone.

We can now look at the alternative answers to your question. First, Help does not send Christian to the Slough of Despond. He finds Christian already wallowing in it. Second, Help does not argue with Christian's motives but merely asks him what he was doing there and why he did not look for the steps. And third, Help does not tempt Christian to sin but instead helps him continue on his way.

Help aids Christian by pulling him out of the Slough of Despond. Christian is unable to get out by himself "because of the burden that was upon his back." As Bunyan writes,

Then said he [Help], give me thy hand: so he [Christian] gave him his hand, and he drew him out, and set him upon sound ground, and bid him go on his way.

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