Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 262
Context: Bunyan, one of the great dissenting preachers of Restoration England, wrote "the most influential religious book ever composed in the English language" while confined to jail, the "Den" of his opening sentence, to prevent his preaching. In this allegorical novel he symbolizes in vivid physical terms the many spiritual snares that beset the devout Christian in his efforts to reach the Heavenly City. Bunyan, in his own words, "could also have stepped into a style much higher than this," but he chose a homely, plain style, for his message was to the multitude of simple but pious faithful, appropriately represented by his protagonist named Christian. This hero, perceiving some impending doom, leaves his home, his neighbors, who deride him for his fears, his wife, who has no faith in him, and his children to seek his soul's salvation. The opening paragraph of the book explains its nature as a dream allegory:
As I walked through the wilderness of this world, I lighted on a certain place where was a Den, and I laid me down in the place to sleep: and as I slept I dreamed a dream. I dreamed, and behold I saw a man clothed with rags, standing in a certain place, with his face from his own house, a book in his hand, and a great burden upon his back. I looked, and saw him open the book and read therein; and as he read, he wept and trembled; and not being able longer to contain, he brake out with a lamentable cry, saying, "What shall I do?"