If there is one book that tops the list of most translated books, surprisingly even more than the Bible, it is The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan, a famous religious writer in the English language. Bunyan is said to have a minimal proper education and a modest background, probably the reason for his simple, narrative, allegorical English writing style. It is also assumed that his learning of the English language may have come from his readings of the Bible since some parts of his book are being compared to the latter. He is regarded as a religious man who was put in jail for preaching without properly obtaining a license for such act.
It was during his second time of imprisonment that the book, The Pilgrim’s Progress, materialized. The complete title of his book is The Pilgrim’s Progress from this World to that which is to come. The first part was published in 1678 and the second part was in 1684. The first part of story is about a man named Christian who leaves his home upon reading in the book that he is holding that his house will burn down, but his family thinks he has gone mad. A man named Evangelist instead advised him to start his journey, passing from one mysterious place to another in search of redemption in the Celestial City.
The second part engages his wife, the inspired Christiana, and their children following the same journey that he takes. The Pilgrim’s Progress is an intense Christian writing that has influenced generations, and making it as one of the Christian books in English widely read by both the young and adult readers, particularly for Christians who are taking the journey to achieve spirituality against the temptations of life. It is considered to be one of the greatest writings of English literature, and in that it has released more than one hundred copies in translated languages.
II. Body A. Themes of the Poem 1. Major Themes a. Path to Salvation The philosophy of the story is that people do not reach heaven by practicing their religion and maintaining the good nature of one’s character, but rather they are particularly chosen by God to enter the gates of Heaven. However, a closer reading of the text also proves that a true believer must show that he is willing to face anything – obstacles or difficulties along the way – to achieve salvation, because even if chosen by God, he is not excused from worldly temptations around him.
He is continuously tried everyday of his life to prove his devotion to Him. In real life, especially to the Catholic religion, this is not the case though. Catholics believe that to achieve salvation and witness Heaven one must be good to oneself, to other people, and repent for one’s sins aside from the fact that one must hold on to that religion by heart. Salvation or God, for that matter, do not choose people who will experience eternal gratification. Instead it is the people themselves who choose themselves to lead a life into the goodness of God.
And through this, God opens his heart to those who believe in him and may eventually enter the gates of heaven. b. Faith over Family Since this is a Christian book, the reader may attempt to question if the actions of the protagonist Christian are ethically correct – choosing to pursue the path to salvation over staying with his family. The argument lies whether one should pursue what he thinks is right to his religious faith against his social responsibility of being a father to his family.
Isn’t choosing social responsibility also ethically correct because it’s for a collective good? But as for the Catholics, we are also expected to take God first above all else as stated in the Ten Commandments. Therefore, the story takes its readers on a tug of war between faith and family significance. c. Lessons from Seeking Travel Journey has always been a wonderful experience for any person. And in this book, Bunyan clearly presents to us the relevance of finding oneself and growing within this journey that one seeks.
Life may be rough because one learns from his mistakes as he goes through that journey, but these difficulties prepare him to be a worthy person to the gates of Heaven. He becomes not only a traveler but a pilgrim who seeks to grow spiritually. Christian here is described as a pilgrim who takes his mistakes as lessons and eventually learns from the experience so as not to commit the same mistakes again. Bunyan also points out that what makes a pilgrim different from a plain traveler is the understanding of the whole experience of journey.
Our life today is already considered a personal journey towards self discovery. We are tested everyday as to how much faith we can keep inside of us against worldly temptations. However, with the current states of mind of different people, not everybody takes home a nugget of lesson and learn from it. Some people let themselves fall prey into the pitfalls of human weakness and be immersed in the world of sin. d. Significance of Reading The book emphasizes throughout the whole story why reading the Bible is significant in any Christian life.
Like Christian’s readings, reading the Bible is one of the keys to achieving happiness and salvation because it shows us the ways to enter Heaven. Take for example the part where Christian is crying while holding a book firmly in his hands and finds out a fearful revelation that leads him to seeking God. That book is the Bible, revealing to him the pains and truths about life. Reading is not only acquiring knowledge. To read a book is to understand deeply what it says and apply it in our daily lives.
To read the Bible is to be one with the words of God and to accept Him in our lives. e. Importance of Social Interaction If the first part of the books offers pilgrimage as an individual activity of Christian, the second part shows Christian’s wife, Christiana, who welcomes her own pilgrimage as a social activity, where more people get involved in the journey to salvation. It is Christiana’s strength as a socially active person that makes her pilgrimage a more productive one than Christian’s journey, because the former brings forth a communal force towards enlightenment.
The story awakens in us the need for other people to share in our discovery for true salvation and how it makes it easier for all of us to closely work together in achieving happiness. 2. Minor Themes Bunyan also plays with some minor themes such as the value of suffering in one’s life, the perseverance required to an individual to win the pursuit to happiness and salvation, spirituality over material interests, and that only few could make it to the gates of Heaven. Most of all, it reminds us that as long as we keep our faith in God, his grace is sufficient enough to help us make it through the difficult journey in life.
B. Comparison to the Bible Much has been discussed about the implications of the writings in the Bible with Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress. Critics say the book is similar to the Bible with regard to its subjects, linguistic styles and techniques, symbolism or imagery as presented in the style and form of the Bible. For one, his English language is said to be the English of the Bible that one already sees all phrases as a natural expression or means of his own thoughts. He is relating the existing observation of a biblical approach in his book.
He stands up to his use of allegory by requesting to look into to the patterns in the Bible. However, the book extends the significance of still writing religious texts in an artistic language: “Solidity indeed becomes the pen Of him that writeth things divine to men,” (Bunyan 4) Plus, he argues specifically about his use of allegory: But must I needs want solidness, because By metaphors I speak; was not God’s laws, His gospel-laws in older time held forth By types, shadows and metaphors? Yet loth Will any sober man be to find fault
With them, lest he be found for to assault The highest wisdom. ” (Bunyan 4) He validates the belief that the Bible has become his model in writing since the text comes from God, the absolute power of knowledge. Another similarity that can be derived between the two texts is seen in this statement by Christian, “I sink in deep waters, the billows go over my head, all his waves go over me, Selah…” (Bunyan 126). This quotation is adapted from Psalm 42:7, “He has sent waves of sorrow over my soul”, and Psalm. 9: 2, “I am sinking in deep mud, and there is no solid ground; I am out in deep water, and the waves are about to drown me. ” (Good News Bible) It validates the argument that Bunyan knows his Bible very well, so as not be to be mistaken as accidental quotes. More is to be said about the relating qualities of Bunyan’s book with the Bible, it’s as if the words of the Bible are encrypted in his head, obviously making him also the character in the pilgrimage – journeying, making mistakes, and learning from it until he achieves salvation.
But far more important than anything else is the shared theme of Bunyan’s book and the Bible – to reveal the truth about the gates to salvation and eternal happiness. III. Conclusion While it has been suggested also that several other books may have been used as sources in The Pilgrim’s Progress, it is however clear that the book’s masterpiece is due to Bunyan’s creativeness and extensive knowledge of the words of the Bible.
The subject of human life being a spiritual pilgrimage that each person has to pursue may have long been a subject for many other literary writings, but Bunyan’s wit and inventiveness makes the book as notable as the Bible. The book expresses a somber, deep, and serious tone all throughout the story in its vision of man’s journey to the gates of Heaven. The trials that these pilgrims have to face are rather traumatic but overwhelming. These obstacles are dealt with great patience and perseverance
The two parts of the book are concentrated and drenched on the philosophical idea of puritanical salvation and the ultimate quest for eternal happiness. Ideas and themes presented are far more essential than the plot or the actions within the story. Its allegorical features make it a point for the reader to instill in his life the values that are shared, to understand the story rather than just merely reading it, and to live by it to attain the gratification of seeing the gates of Heaven open on him.
And the realistic account, closer-to-life style brings weight to the inspiring reflections in the book. Like most of the writings of John Bunyan, his themes offer us spiritual guides, notes on personal awakenings from a dark past, answering the call to your personal or social duties, and the goodness we achieve from God’s graces. Among his many writings include The Holy War, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, and The Life and Death of Mr. Badman.
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