Bunyan wrote his vivid Protestant allegory while imprisoned for unlicenced preaching. Christian, encumbered by sin, flees the City of Destruction for the straight and narrow road to the Celestial City.
Passing through much tribulation, Christian encounters sloughs, valleys, hills and meadows. His sins fall from his back at Calvary, his friend Faithful is martyred at Vanity Fair. With his new friend Hopeful, he negotiates an English landscape undergoing enclosure; they are cast into Doubting Castle for trespassing upon Giant Despair’s land.
The characters Christian meets represent types of Christian virtue, worldly carnality, or spiritual experiences that edify, entice or terrify.
- I saw then in my dream, so far as this Valley reached, there was on the right hand a very deep Ditch: That Ditch is it, into which the blind have led the blind in all ages, and have both there miserably perished. Again, behold, on the left hand, there was a very dangerous Quag, into which, if even a good man falls, he finds no bottom for his foot to stand on: Into that Quag King David once did fall, and had, no doubt, therein been smothered, had not he that is able plucked him out.
- What a Fool, quoth he, am I, thus to lie in a stinking dungeon, when I may as well walk at liberty? I have a key in my bosom, called Promise, that will I am persuaded open any lock in Doubting Castle.
- Then I saw that there was a Way to Hell, even from the Gates of Heaven, as well as from the City of Destruction.
John Bunyan (1628-1688)
Born near Bedford, the son of a tinker, Bunyan served in the parliamentary army during the Civil War. He became an enthusiastic believer and was received into the Baptist church in Bedford by immersion in the River Great Ouse in 1653. He was imprisoned in 1660 for preaching without a licence and wrote Pilgrim’s Progress while in prison.
Other notable works include Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, and The Holy War.