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The Pilgrim's Progress

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The Pilgrim's Progress
First edition title page
First edition title page
Author(s) John Bunyan
Country England
Language English
Genre(s) Religious Allegory
Publisher Nathaniel Ponder
Publication date 1678
Media type Print
Pages 191 pp

The Pilgrim's Progress from This World to That Which Is to Come is a Christian allegory written by John Bunyan and published in February, 1678. It is regarded as one of the most significant works of religious English literature, has been translated into more than 200 languages, and has never been out of print. Bunyan began his work while in the Bedfordshire county gaol for violations of the Conventicle Act, which prohibited the holding of religious services outside the auspices of the established Church of England. Early Bunyan scholars like John Brown believed The Pilgrim's Progress was begun in Bunyan's second shorter imprisonment for six months in 1675, but more recent scholars like Roger Sharrock believe that it was begun during Bunyan's initial, more lengthy imprisonment from 1660-1672 right after he had written his spiritual autobiography, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners.

The English text comprises 108,260 words and is divided into two parts, each reading as a continuous narrative with no chapter divisions.

The first part was completed in 1677 and entered into the stationers' register on December 22, 1677. It was licensed and entered in the " Term Catalogue" on February 18, 1678, which is looked upon as the date of first publication. After the first edition of the first part in 1678, an expanded edition, with additions written after Bunyan was freed, appeared in 1679. The Second Part appeared in 1684. There were eleven editions of the first part in John Bunyan's lifetime, published in successive years from 1678 to 1685 and in 1688, and there were two editions of the second part, published in 1684 and 1686.


First Part

Christian, an everyman character, is the protagonist of the allegory, which centers itself in his journey from his hometown, the "City of Destruction" ("this world"), to the "Celestial City" ("that which is to come": Heaven) atop Mt. Zion. Christian is weighed down by a great burden, the knowledge of his sin, which he believed came from his reading "the book in his hand," (the Bible). This burden, which would cause him to sink into Tophet ( hell), is so unbearable that Christian must seek deliverance. He meets Evangelist as he is walking out in the fields, who directs him to the "Wicket Gate" for deliverance. Since Christian cannot see the "Wicket Gate" in the distance, Evangelist directs him to go to a "shining light," which Christian thinks he sees. Christian leaves his home, his wife, and children to save himself: he cannot persuade them to accompany him. Obstinate and Pliable go after Christian to bring him back, but Christian refuses. Obstinate returns disgusted, but Pliable is persuaded to go with Christian, hoping to take advantage of the paradise that Christian claims lies at the end of his journey. Pliable's journey with Christian is cut short when the two of them fall into the Slough of Despond. It is there that Pliable abandons Christian after getting himself out. After struggling to the other side of the bog, Christian is pulled out by Help, who has heard his cries.

Burdened Christian flees from home

On his way to the Wicket Gate, Christian is diverted by Mr. Worldly Wiseman into seeking deliverance from his burden through the Law, supposedly with the help of a Mr. Legality and his son Civility in the village of Morality, rather than through Christ, allegorically by way of the Wicket Gate. Evangelist meets the wayward Christian as he stops before Mount Sinai on the way to Legality's home. It hangs over the road and threatens to crush any who would pass it. Evangelist shows Christian that he had sinned by turning out of his way, but he assures him that he will be welcomed at the Wicket Gate if he should turn around and go there, which Christian does.

At the Wicket Gate begins the "straight and narrow" King's Highway, and Christian is directed onto it by the gatekeeper Good Will. In the Second Part, Good-will is shown to be Jesus himself. To Christian's query about relief from his burden, Good Will directs him forward to "the place of deliverance."

Christian makes his way from there to the House of the Interpreter, where he is shown pictures and tableaux that portray or dramatize aspects of the Christian faith and life. Roger Sharrock denotes them "emblems."

From the House of the Interpreter, Christian finally reaches the "place of deliverance" (allegorically, the cross of Calvary and the open sepulcher of Christ), where the "straps" that bound Christian's burden to him break, and it rolls away into the open sepulchre. This event happens relatively early in the narrative: the immediate need of Christian at the beginning of the story being quickly remedied. After Christian is relieved of his burden, he is greeted by three shining ones, who give him the greeting of peace, new garments, and a scroll as a passport into the Celestial City — these are allegorical figures indicative of Christian Baptism.

Atop the Hill of Difficulty, Christian makes his first stop for the night at the House Beautiful, which is an allegory of the local Christian congregation. Christian spends three days here, and leaves clothed with armour (Eph. 6:11-18), which stands him in good stead in his battle against Apollyon in the Valley of Humiliation. This battle lasts "over half a day" until Christian manages to wound Apollyon with his two-edged sword (a reference to the Bible, Heb. 4:12). "And with that Apollyon spread his dragon wings and sped away."

As night falls Christian enters the Valley of the Shadow of Death. When he is in the middle of the valley amidst the gloom and terror he hears the words of the Twenty-third Psalm, spoken possibly by his friend Faithful:

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. ( Psalms 23:4.)

As he leaves this valley the sun rises on a new day.

Just outside the Valley of the Shadow of Death he meets Faithful, also a former resident of the City of Destruction, who accompanies him to Vanity Fair, where both are arrested and detained because of their disdain for the wares and business of the fair. Faithful is put on trial, and executed as a martyr. Hopeful, a resident of Vanity, takes Faithful's place to be Christian's companion for the rest of the way.

Along a rough stretch of road, Christian and Hopeful leave the highway to travel on the easier By-Path Meadow, where a rainstorm forces them to spend the night. In the morning they are captured by Giant Despair, who takes them to his Doubting Castle, where they are imprisoned, beaten and starved. The giant wants them to commit suicide, but they endure the ordeal until Christian realizes that a key he has, called Promise, will open all the doors and gates of Doubting Castle. Using the key, they escape.

The Delectable Mountains form the next stage of Christian and Hopeful's journey, where the shepherds show them some of the wonders of the place also known as "Immanuel's Land". As at the House of the Interpreter pilgrim's are shown sights that strengthen their faith and warn them against sinning. On Mount Clear they are able to see the Celestial City through the shepherd's "perspective glass," which serves as a telescope. This device is given to Mercy in the second part at her request.

On the way, Christian and Hopeful meet a lad named Ignorance, who believes that he will be allowed into the Celestial City through his own good deeds rather than as a gift of God's grace. Christian and Hopeful meet up with him twice and try to persuade him to journey to the Celestial City in the right way. Ignorance persists in his own way that leads to his being cast into hell. After getting over the River of Death on the ferry boat of Vain Hope without overcoming the hazards of wading across it, Ignorance appears before the gates of Celestial City without a passport, which he would have acquired had he gone into the King's Highway through the Wicket Gate. The Lord of the Celestial City orders shining ones to take Ignorance to one of the byways to hell and throw him in.

Christian and Hopeful make it through the dangerous Enchanted Ground into the Land of Beulah, where they ready themselves to cross the River of Death on foot to Mount Zion and the Celestial City. Christian has a rough time of it, but Hopeful helps him over; and they are welcomed into the Celestial City.

Second Part

The Second Part of The Pilgrim's Progress presents the pilgrimage of Christian's wife, Christiana; their sons; and the maiden, Mercy. They visit the same stopping places that Christian visited, with the addition of Gaius' Inn between the Valley of the Shadow of Death and Vanity Fair; but they take a longer time in order to accommodate marriage and childbirth for the four sons and their wives. The hero of the story is Greatheart, the servant of the Interpreter, who is a pilgrim's guide to the Celestial City. He kills four giants and participates in the slaying of a monster that terrorizes the city of Vanity.

The passage of years in this second pilgrimage better allegorizes the journey of the Christian life. By using heroines, Bunyan, in the Second Part, illustrates the idea that women as well as men can be brave pilgrims.

Alexander M. Witherspoon, professor of English at Yale University, writes in a prefatory essay:

Part II, which appeared in 1684, is much more than a mere sequel to or repetition of the earlier volume. It clarifies and reinforces and justifies the story of Part I. The beam of Bunyan's spotlight is broadened to include Christian's family and other men, women, and children; the incidents and accidents of everyday life are more numerous, the joys of the pilgrimage tend to outweigh the hardships; and to the faith and hope of Part I is added in abundant measure that greatest of virtues, charity. The two parts of The Pilgrim's Progress in reality constitute a whole, and the whole is, without doubt, the most influential religious book ever written in the English language.

This is exemplified by the frailness of the pilgrims of the Second Part in contrast to those of the First: women, children, and physically and mentally challenged individuals. When Christiana's party leaves Gaius's Inn and Mr. Feeble-mind lingers in order to be left behind, he is encouraged to accompany the party by Greatheart:

But brother ... I have it in commission, to comfort the feeble-minded, and to support the weak. You must needs go along with us; we will wait for you, we will lend you our help, we will deny ourselves of some things, both opinionative and practical, for your sake; we will not enter into doubtful disputations before you, we will be made all things to you, rather than you shall be left behind.

When the pilgrims end up in the Land of Beulah, they cross over the River of Death by appointment. As a matter of importance to Christians of Bunyan's persuasion reflected in the narrative of The Pilgrim's Progress, the last words of the pilgrims as they cross over the river are recorded. The four sons of Christian and their families do not cross, but remain for the support of the church in that place.


Main characters are in capital letters.

First Part

Christian enters the Wicket Gate, opened by Goodwill. Engraving from a 1778 edition printed in England.
" Beelzebub and them that are with him shoot arrows"
  • CHRISTIAN, whose name was Graceless at some time before, the protagonist in the First Part, whose journey to the Celestial City is the plot of the story.
  • EVANGELIST, the religious man who puts Christian on the path to the Celestial City. He also shows Christian a book, which readers assume to be the Bible.
  • Obstinate, one of the two residents of the City of Destruction, who run after Christian when he first sets out, in order to bring him back.
  • Pliable, the other of the two, who goes with Christian until both of them fall into the Slough of Despond. Pliable escapes from the slough and returns home.
  • Help, Christian's rescuer from the Slough of Despond.
  • MR. WORLDLY WISEMAN, a resident of a place called Carnal Policy, who persuades Christian go out of his way to be helped by a Mr. Legality and then move to the City of Morality.
  • GOODWILL, the keeper of the Wicket Gate through which one enters the "straight and narrow way" (also referred to as "the King's Highway") to the Celestial City. In the Second Part we find that this character is none other than Jesus Christ Himself.
  • Beelzebub, literally "Lord of the Flies", is one of the devil's companion archdevils, who has erected a fort near the Wicket Gate from which he and his companions can shoot arrows at those about to enter the Wicket Gate. He is also the Lord of Vanity Fair. Christian calls him "captain" of the fiend Apollyon.
  • THE INTERPRETER, the one who has his House along the way as a rest stop for travellers to check in to see pictures and dioramas to teach them the right way to live the Christian life. He has been identified as the Holy Spirit. He also appears in the Second Part.
  • Shining Ones, the messengers and servants of "the Lord of the Hill", God. They are obviously the holy angels.
  • Formalist, one of two travellers on the King's Highway, who do not come in by the Wicket Gate, but climb over the wall that encloses it, at least from the hill and sepulcre up to the Hill Difficulty. He and his companion Hypocrisy come from the land of Vainglory. He takes one of the two bypaths that avoid the Hill Difficulty, but is lost.
  • Hypocrisy, the companion of Formalist. He takes the other of the two bypaths and is also lost.
  • Timorous, one of two who try to persuade Christian to go back for fear of the chained lions near the House Beautiful. He is a relative of Mrs. Timorous of the Second Part. His companion is
  • Mistrust.
  • Watchful, the porter of the House Beautiful. He also appears in the Second Part and receives "a gold angel" coin from Christiana for his kindness and service to her and her companions. "Watchful" is also the name of one of the Delectable Mountains' shepherds.
  • Discretion, one of the maids of the House Beautiful, who decides to allow Christian to stay there.
  • Prudence, another of the House Beautiful maidens. She appears in the Second Part.
  • Piety, another of the House Beautiful maidens. She appears in the Second Part.
  • Charity, another of the House Beautiful maidens. She appears in the Second Part.
  • APOLLYON, literally "Destroyer"; the lord of the City of Destruction and one of the devil's companion archdevils, who tries to force Christian to return to his domain and service. His battle with Christian takes place in the Valley of Humiliation, just below the House Beautiful. He appears as a dragon-like creature with scales and bats' wings. He takes darts from his body to throw at his opponents.
  • Giants "Pope" and "Pagan", allegories of Roman Catholicism and paganism as persecutors of Protestant Christians. "Pagan" is dead, indicating the end of pagan persecution with Antiquity, and "Pope" is alive but decrepit, indicating the then diminished power and influence of the Roman Catholic pope.
  • FAITHFUL, Christian's friend from the City of Destruction, who is also going on pilgrimage. Christian meets him just after getting through the Valley of the Shadow of Death.
  • Wanton, a temptress who tries to get Faithful to leave his journey to the Celestial City. She may be the popular resident of the City of Destruction, Madam Wanton, who hosted a house party for friends of Mrs. Timorous.
  • Adam the First, "the old man" (representing carnality) who tries to persuade Faithful to leave his journey and come live with his 3 daughters: the Lust of the flesh, the Lust of the eyes, and the Pride of life.
  • Moses, the severe, violent avenger (representing the Law, which knows no mercy) who tries to kill Faithful for his momentary weakness in wanting to go with Adam the First out of the way.
  • Talkative, a hypocrite known to Christian from the City of Destruction, who lived on Prating Row. He talks fervently of religion, but has no evident works as a result of true salvation.
  • Lord Hate-good, the judge who tries Faithful in Vanity Fair.
  • Envy, the first witness against Faithful.
  • Superstition, the second witness against Faithful.
  • Pick-Thank, the third witness against Faithful.
  • HOPEFUL, the resident of Vanity Fair, who takes Faithful's place as Christian's fellow traveler. The character HOPEFUL poses an inconsistency in that there is a necessity imposed on the pilgrims that they enter the "King's Highway" by the Wicket Gate. HOPEFUL did not; however, of him we read: "... one died to bear testimony to the truth, and another rises out of his ashes to be a companion with Christian in his pilgrimage". HOPEFUL assumes FAITHFUL'S place by God's design. Theologically and allegorically it would follow in that "faith" is trust in God as far as things present are concerned, and " hope", biblically the same as " faith", is trust in God as far as things of the future are concerned. HOPEFUL would follow FAITHFUL. The other factor is Vanity Fair's location right on the straight and narrow way. IGNORANCE, in contrast to HOPEFUL, came from the Country of Conceit, that connected to the "King's Highway" by means of a crooked lane. IGNORANCE was told by CHRISTIAN and HOPEFUL that he should have entered the highway through the Wicket Gate.
  • Mr. By-Ends, a hypocritical pilgrim who perishes in the Hill Lucre silver mine with three of his friends. A "by-end" is a pursuit that is achieved indirectly. In the case of By-Ends and his companions, it is pursuing financial gain through religion.
  • Demas, a deceiver, who beckons to pilgrims at the Hill Lucre to come and join in the supposed silver mining going on in it.
  • GIANT DESPAIR, the owner of Doubting Castle, where Christians are imprisoned and murdered. He is slain by GREAT-HEART in the Second Part.
  • Giantess Diffidence, Despair's wife. She is slain by OLD HONEST in the Second Part.
  • Knowledge, one of the shepherds of the Delectable Mountains.
  • Experience, another of the Delectable Mountains shepherds.
  • Watchful, another of the Delectable Mountains shepherds.
  • Sincere, another of the Delectable Mountains shepherds.
  • IGNORANCE, "a brisk young lad", who joins the "King's Highway" by way of the "crooked lane" that comes from his native country, called "Conceit." He follows Christian and Hopeful and on two occasions talks with them. He believes that he will be received into the Celestial City because of his doing good works in accordance with God's will. Jesus Christ is for him only an example not a Savior. Christian and Hopeful try to set him right, but they fail. He gets a ferryman, Vain-Hope, to ferry him across the River of Death rather than cross it on foot as one is supposed to do. When he gets to the gates of the Celestial City, he is asked for a "certificate" needed for entry, which he does not have. The King, then, orders that he be bound and cast into hell.
  • The Flatterer, a deceiver who leads Christian and Hopeful out of their way, when they fail to look at the road map given them by the Shepherds of the Delectable Mountains.
  • Atheist, a mocker of CHRISTIAN and HOPEFUL, who goes the opposite way on the "King's Highway" because he boasts that he knows that God and the Celestial City do not exist.

Second Part

  • Mr. Sagacity, a guest narrator who meets Bunyan himself in his new dream and recounts the events of the Second Part up to the arrival at the Wicket Gate.
  • CHRISTIANA, wife of CHRISTIAN, who leads her four sons and neighbour MERCY on pilgrimage.
  • MATTHEW, CHRISTIAN and CHRISTIANA's eldest son, who marries MERCY.
  • SAMUEL, second son, who marries Grace, Mr. Mnason's daughter.
  • JOSEPH, third son, who marries Martha, Mr. Mnason's daughter.
  • JAMES, fourth and youngest son, who marries Phoebe, Gaius's daughter.
  • MERCY, CHRISTIANA's neighbour, who goes with her on pilgrimage and marries MATTHEW.
  • Mrs. Timorous, relative of the Timorous of the First Part, who comes with MERCY to see CHRISTIANA before she sets out on pilgrimage.
  • Mrs. Bat's-Eyes, a resident of The City of Destruction and friend of Mrs. Timorous. Since she has a bat's eyes, she would be blind or nearly blind, so her characterization of Christiana as blind in her desire to go on pilgrimage is hypocritical.
  • Mrs. Inconsiderate, a resident of The City of Destruction and friend of Mrs. Timorous. She characterizes Christiana's departure "a good riddance" as an inconsiderate person would.
  • Mrs. Light-Mind, a resident of The City of Destruction and friend of Mrs. Timorous. She changes the subject from Christiana to gossip about being at a bawdy party at Madam Wanton's home.
  • Mrs. Know-Nothing, a resident of The City of Destruction and friend of Mrs. Timorous. She wonders if Christiana will actually go on pilgrimage.
  • Ill-favoured Ones, two evil characters CHRISTIANA sees in her dream, whom she and MERCY actually encounter when they leave the Wicket Gate.
  • Innocent, a young serving maid of the INTERPRETER, who answers the door of the house when Christiana and her companions arrive; and who conducts them to the garden bath, which signifies Christian baptism.
  • MR. GREAT-HEART, the guide and body-guard sent by the INTERPRETER with CHRISTIANA and her companions from his house to their journey's end. He proves to be one of the main protagonists in the Second Part.
  • Giant Grim, who "backs the [chained] lions" near the House Beautiful, slain by GREAT-HEART. He is also known as Bloody-man.
  • Humble-Mind, one of the maidens of the House Beautiful, who makes her appearance in the Second Part.
  • Mr. Brisk, a suitor of MERCY's, who gives up courting her when he finds out that she makes clothing only to give away to the poor.
  • Mr. Skill, the physician called to the House Beautiful to cure Matthew of his illness, which is caused by eating the apples of Beelzebub.
  • Giant Maul, a giant that GREAT-HEART kills as the pilgrims leave the Valley of the Shadow of Death.
  • OLD HONEST, a pilgrim that joins them, a welcome companion to GREAT-HEART.
  • Mr. Fearing, a pilgrim whom GREAT-HEART had "conducted" to the Celestial City in an earlier pilgrimage. Noted for his timidness. He is Mr. Feeble-Mind's uncle.
  • Gaius, an innkeeper with whom the pilgrims stay for some years after they leave the Valley of the Shadow of Death. He gives his daughter Phebe to JAMES in marriage. The lodging fee for his inn is paid by the Good Samaritan.
  • Giant Slay-Good, a giant that enlists the help of evil-doers on the King's Highway to abduct, murder, and consume pilgrims.
  • Mr. Feeble-Mind, rescued from Slay-Good by Mr. Great-Heart, who joins Christiana's company of pilgrims.
  • Phoebe, Gaius's daughter, who marries JAMES.
  • Mr. Ready-to-Halt, a pilgrim who meets CHRISTIANA's train of pilgrims at Gaius's door, and becomes the companion of Mr. Feeble-mind, to whom he gives one of his crutches.
  • Mr. Mnason, a resident of the town of Vanity, who puts up the pilgrims for a time, and gives his daughters Grace and Martha in marriage to SAMUEL and JOSEPH respectively.
  • Grace, Mnason's daughter, who marries SAMUEL.
  • Martha, Mnason's daughter, who marries JOSEPH.
  • Mr. Despondency, a rescued prisoner from Doubting Castle.
  • Much-Afraid, his daughter.
  • Mr. VALIANT-FOR-TRUTH, a pilgrim they find all bloody, with his sword in his hand, after leaving the Delectable Mountains.
  • Mr. Stand-Fast, a pilgrim found while praying for deliverance from Madame Bubble.
  • Madame Bubble, a witch whose enchantments made the Enchanted Ground enchanted. She is the adulterous woman mentioned in the Biblical Book of Proverbs.

Places in The Pilgrim's Progress

A map of the places Pilgrim travels through on his progress; a fold-out map from an edition printed in England in 1778
  • City of Destruction, Christian's home, representative of the world (cf. Isaiah 19:18)
  • Slough of Despond, the miry swamp on the way to the Wicket Gate; one of the hazards of the journey to the Celestial City. In the First Part, Christian falling into it, sinks further under the weight of his sins (his burden) and his sense of their guilt.
  • Mount Sinai, a frightening mountain near the Village of Morality that threatens all who would go there.
  • Wicket Gate, the entry point of the straight and narrow way to the Celestial City. Pilgrims are required to enter the way by way of the Wicket Gate.
  • House of the Interpreter, a type of spiritual museum to guide the pilgrims to the Celestial City.
  • Cross and Sepulchre, emblematic of Calvary and the tomb of Christ.
  • Hill Difficulty, both the hill and the road up is called "Difficulty"; it is flanked by two treacherous byways "Danger" and "Destruction." There are three choices: CHRISTIAN takes "Difficulty" (the right way), and Formalist and Hypocrisy take the two other ways, which prove to be fatal dead ends.
  • House Beautiful, a palace that serves as a rest stop for pilgrims to the Celestial City. It apparently sits atop the Hill Difficulty. From the House Beautiful one can see forward to the Delectable Mountains. It represents the Christian congregation, and Bunyan takes its name from a gate of the Jerusalem temple (Acts 3:2, 10).
  • Valley of Humiliation, the valley on the other side of the Hill Difficulty, going down into which is said to be extremely slippery by the House Beautiful's damsel Prudence. It is where Christian meets Apollyon in the place known as "Forgetful Green." This valley had been a delight to the "Lord of the Hill", Jesus Christ, in his "state of humiliation."
  • Valley of the Shadow of Death, a treacherous valley with a quick sand bog on one side and a deep chasm/ditch on the other side of the King's Highway going through it (cf. Psalm 23:4).
  • Gaius's inn, a rest stop in the Second Part
  • Vanity and Vanity Fair, a city through which the King's Highway passes and the yearlong fair that is held there.
  • Plain Ease, a pleasant area traversed by the pilgrims.
  • Hill Lucre, location of a reputed silver mine that proves to be the place where By-Ends and his companions are lost.
  • The Pillar of Salt, which was Lot's wife, who was turned into a pillar of salt when Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed. The pilgrim's note that its location near the Hill Lucre is a fitting warning to those who are tempted by Demas to go into the Lucre silver mine.
  • River of God or River of the Water of Life, a place of solace for the pilgrims. It flows through a meadow, green all year long and filled with lush fruit trees. In the Second Part the Good Shepherd is found there to whom Christiana's grandchildren are entrusted.
  • By-Path Meadow, the place leading to the grounds of Doubting Castle.
  • Doubting Castle, the home of Giant Despair and his wife; only one key could open its doors and gates, the key Promise.
  • The Delectable Mountains, known as "Immanuel's Land." Lush country from whose heights one can see many delights and curiosities. It is inhabited by sheep and their shepherds, and from Mount Clear one can see the Celestial City.
  • The Enchanted Ground, an area through which the King's Highway passes that has air that makes pilgrims want to stop to sleep. If one goes to sleep in this place, one never wakes up. The shepherds of the Delectable Mountains warn pilgrims about this.
  • The Land of Beulah, a lush garden area just this side of the River of Death.
  • The River of Death, the dreadful river that surrounds Mount Zion, deeper or shallower depending on the faith of the one traversing it.
  • The Celestial City, the "Desired Country" of pilgrims, heaven, the dwelling place of the "Lord of the Hill", God. It is situated on Mount Zion.

Geographical and topographical features behind the fictional places

Scholars have pointed out that he may have been influenced in the creation of places in The Pilgrim's Progress by his own surrounding environment. Albert Foster describes the natural features of Bedfordshire that apparently turn up in The Pilgrim's Progress. Vera Brittain in her thoroughly researched biography of Bunyan, identifies seven locations that appear in the allegory. Other connections are suggested in books not directly associated with either John Bunyan or The Pilgrim's Progress.

At least twenty-one natural or man-made geographical or topographical features from The Pilgrim's Progress have been identified—places and structures John Bunyan regularly would have seen in his travels on foot or horseback. The entire journey from The City of Destruction to the Celestial City may have been based on Bunyan's own usual journey from Bedford, on the main road that runs less than a mile behind his Elstow cottage, through Ampthill, Dunstable and St Albans, to London.

In the same sequence as these subjects appear in the The Pilgrim's Progress, the geographical realities are as follows:

  1. The plain (across which Christian fled) is Bedford Plain, which is fifteen miles wide with the town of Bedford in the middle and the river Ouse meandering through the northern half;
  2. The "Slough of Despond" (a major obstacle for Christian and Pliable: "a very miry slough") is the large deposits of gray clay, which supplied London Brick's works in Stewartby, which was closed in 2008. On either side of the Bedford to Ampthill road these deposits match Bunyan's description exactly. Presumably, the road was built on the "twenty thousand cart loads" of fill mentioned in The Pilgrim's Progress;
  3. "Mount Sinai," the high hill on the way to the village of Morality, whose side "that was next the way side, did hang so much over," is the red, sandy, cliffs just north of Ridgmont (i.e. "Rouge Mont");
  4. The "Wicket Gate" is the wooden gate at the entrance to the Elstow parish church;
  5. The castle from which arrows were shot at those who would enter the Wicket Gate is the stand-alone tower, the remnant of an abbey that stood beside the church.
  6. The "House of the Interpreter" is the rectory of St John's church in the south end of Bedford, where Bunyan was mentored by the pastor John Gifford;
  7. The wall "Salvation" that fenced in the King's Highway coming after the House of the Interpreter is the red brick wall, over four miles long, beside the Ridgmont to Woburn road, marking the boundary of the Duke of Bedford's estate;
  8. The "place somewhat ascending ... [with] a cross ... and a sepulchre" is the village cross and well that stands by the church at opposite ends of the sloping main street of Stevington, a small village five miles west of Bedford. Bunyan would often preach in a wood by the River Ouse just outside the village.
  9. The "Hill Difficulty" is Ampthill Hill, on the main Bedford road, the steepest hill in the county. A sandy range of hills stretches across Bedfordshire from Woburn through Ampthill to Potton. These hills are characterized by dark, dense and dismal woods reminiscent of the byways "Danger" and "Destruction," the alternatives to the way "Difficulty" that goes up the hill;
  10. The pleasant arbour on the way up the Hill Difficulty is a small "lay-by", part way up Ampthill Hill, on the east side. A photo, taken in 1908, shows a cyclist resting there;
  11. The "very narrow passage" to the "Palace Beautiful" is an entrance cut into the high bank by the roadside to the east at the top of Ampthill Hill;
  12. The "Palace Beautiful" is Houghton (formerly Ampthill) House, built in 1621 but a ruin since 1800. The house faced north; and, because of the dramatic view over the Bedford plain, it was a popular picnic site during the first half of the twentieth century when many families could not travel far afield;. The tradesman's entrance was on the south side looking out over the town of Ampthill and towards the Chilterns, the model of "The Delectable Mountains";
  13. The "Valley of the Shadow of Death" is Millbrook gorge to the west of Ampthill;
  14. "Vanity Fair" is Stourbridge Fair, held in Cambridge during late August and early September. It fits John Bunyan's account of the fair's antiquity and its vast variety of goods sold. Other suggested markets or fairs, such as Bedford, Elstow or Ampthill, were much too modest to match the description in The Pilgrim's Progress. Sermons were preached each Sunday during Stourbridge Fair in an area called the "Dodderey." John Bunyan preached often in Toft, just four miles west of Cambridge, and there is a place known as "Bunyan's Barn" in Toft. It is surmised that Bunyan visited the notable Stourbridge Fair;
  15. The "pillar of salt," Lot's wife, is a weather-beaten statue that looks much like person-sized salt pillar. It is located on small island in the river Ouse just north of Turvey bridge, eight miles west of Bedford near Stevington;
  16. The "River of the Water of Life," with trees along each bank is the river Ouse east of Bedford, where John Bunyan as a boy would fish with his sister Margaret. It might also be the valley of river Flit, flowing through Flitton and Flitwick south of Ampthill;
  17. "Doubting Castle" is Ampthill Castle, built in the early 15th century and often visited by King Henry VIII as a hunting lodge. Henry, corpulent and dour, may have been considered by Bunyan to be a model for Giant Despair. Amphill Castle was used for the "house arrest" of Queen Catherine of Aragon and her retinue in 1535-36 before she was taken to Kimbolton. The castle was dismantled soon after 1660, so Bunyan would have seen its towers in the 1650s and known of the empty castle plateau in the 1670s Giant Despair was killed and Doubting Castle was demolished in the second part of The Pilgrim's Progress.
  18. The "Delectable Mountains" are the Chiltern Hills that can be seen from the second floor of Houghton House. "Chalk hills, stretching fifty miles from the Thames to Dunstable Downs, have beautiful blue flowers and butterflies, with glorious beech trees." Reminiscent of the possibility of seeing the Celestial City from Mount Clear, on a clear day one can see London's buildings from Dunstable Downs near Whipsnade Zoo;
  19. The "Land of Beulah" is Middlesex county north and west of London, which had pretty villages, market gardens, and estates containing beautiful parks and gardens): "woods of Islington to the green hills of Hampstead & Highgate";
  20. The "very deep river" is the River Thames, one thousand feet wide at high tide; however, in keeping with Bunyan's route to London, the river would be to the north of the city;
  21. The "Celestial City" is London, centre of John Bunyan's world—most of his neighbours never travelled that far. In the 1670s, after the Great Fire of 1666, London sported a new, gleaming, city centre with forty churches . In the last decade of Bunyan's life (1678–1688) some of his best Christian friends lived in London, including a Lord Mayor.

Cultural Influence

The frontispiece and title-page from an edition printed in England in 1778

The allegory of this book has antecedents in a large number of Christian devotional works that speak of the soul's path to Heaven, from the Lyke-Wake Dirge forward. Bunyan's allegory stands out above his predecessors because of his simple and effective, prose style, steeped in Biblical texts and cadences. He confesses his own naïveté in the verse prologue to the book:

". . . I did not think
To shew to all the World my Pen and Ink
In such a mode; I only thought to make
I knew not what: nor did I undertake
Thereby to please my Neighbour; no not I;
I did it mine own self to gratifie."

John Bunyan himself wrote a popular hymn that encourages a hearer to become a pilgrim-like Christian: All Who Would Valiant Be.

Because of the widespread longtime popularity of "The Pilgrim's Progress", Christian's hazards — whether originally from Bunyan or borrowed by him from the Bible — the "Slough of Despond", the "Hill Difficulty", "Valley of the Shadow of Death", "Doubting Castle", and the "Enchanted Ground", his temptations (the wares of "Vanity Fair" and the pleasantness of "By-Path Meadow"), his foes ("Apollyon" and "Giant Despair"), and the helpful stopping places he visits (the "House of the Interpreter", the "House Beautiful", the "Delectable Mountains", and the "Land of Beulah") have become commonly used phrases proverbial in English. For example, "One has one's own Slough of Despond to trudge through."

Context in Christendom

The explicit Protestant theology of The Pilgrim's Progress made it much more popular than its predecessors. Bunyan's plain style breathes life into the abstractions of the anthropomorphized temptations and abstractions that Christian encounters and with whom he converses on his course to Heaven. Samuel Johnson said that "this is the great merit of the book, that the most cultivated man cannot find anything to praise more highly, and the child knows nothing more amusing." Three years after its publication (1681), it was reprinted in colonial America, and was widely read in the Puritan colonies.

Because of its explicit English Protestant theology The Pilgrim's Progress shares the then popular English antipathy toward the Roman Catholic Church. It was published over the years of the Popish Plot (1678–1681) and ten years before the Glorious Revolution of 1688, and it shows the influence of John Foxe's Acts and Monuments. Bunyan presents a decrepit and harmless giant to confront Christian at the end of the Valley of the Shadow of Death that is explicitly named "Pope":

Now I saw in my Dream, that at the end of this Valley lay blood, bones, ashes, and mangled bodies of men, even of Pilgrims that had gone this way formerly: And while I was musing what should be the reason, I espied a little before me a Cave, where two Giants, Pope and Pagan, dwelt in old times, by whose Power and Tyranny the Men whose bones, blood ashes, &c. lay there, were cruelly put to death. But by this place Christian went without much danger, whereat I somewhat wondered; but I have learnt since, that Pagan has been dead many a day; and as for the other, though he be yet alive, he is by reason of age, and also of the many shrewd brushes that he met with in his younger dayes, grown so crazy and stiff in his joynts, that he can now do little more than sit in his Caves mouth, grinning at Pilgrims as they go by, and biting his nails, because he cannot come at them.

When Christian and Faithful travel through Vanity Fair, Bunyan adds the editorial comment:

But as in other fairs, some one Commodity is as the chief of all the fair, so the Ware of Rome and her Merchandize is greatly promoted in this fair: Only our English Nation, with some others, have taken a dislike thereat.

In the Second Part while Christiana and her group of pilgrims lead by Greatheart stay for some time in Vanity, the city is terrorized by a seven-headed beast which is driven away by Greatheart and other stalwarts. In his endnotes W.R. Owens notes about the woman that governs the beast: "This woman was believed by Protestants to represent Antichrist, the Church of Rome. In a posthumously published treatise, Of Antichrist, and his Ruine (1692), Bunyan gave an extended account of the rise and (shortly expected) fall of Antichrist."

Foreign language versions

African version of Pilgrim's Progress from 1902

Beginning in the 1850s, illustrated versions of The Pilgrim's Progress in Chinese were printed in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Fuzhou and widely distributed by Protestant missionaries. Hong Xiuquan, the quasi-Christian leader of the Taiping Rebellion, declared that the book was his favorite reading.

The "Third Part"

Tender-Conscience, hero of Part Three, awakens from sleep in the palace of Carnal-Security

The Third Part of the Pilgrim's Progress was written by an anonymous author; beginning in 1693, it was published with Bunyan's authentic two parts. It continued to be republished with Bunyan's work until 1852. This third part presented the pilgrimage of Tender-Conscience and his companions.

Musical settings

The book was the basis of an opera by Ralph Vaughan Williams, premiered in 1951; see The Pilgrim's Progress (opera). It was also the basis of a condensed radio adaptation starring John Gielgud, including, as background music, several excerpts from Vaughan Williams's orchestral works. This radio version, originally presented in 1942, was newly recorded by Hyperion Records in 1990, in a performance conducted by Matthew Best. It again starred Gielgud, and featured Richard Pasco and Ursula Howells.

English composer Ernest Austin set the whole story as a huge narrative tone poem for solo organ, with optional 6-part choir and narrator, lasting approximately 2½ hours.

Twin brothers Keith and Kurt Landaas also composed, recorded, and performed a compelling rock opera version of the work in the early 1990s. The first act focused on Christian's journey, the second on that of Christiana, and their teenage son Matthew.

A musical based on the book was presented at the LifeHouse Theatre in Redlands, California, in 2004 and 2008, with book, music and lyrics by Kenneth Wright, with additional text, music and lyrics by Wayne Scott.

In 2007 Cuban based duet Quidam Pilgrim released a musical setting of the book under the name of "Pilgrim" combining elements of alternative rock, Celtic, new age and Cuban folk music. The songs were written in English and Latin, also including one track in Spanish, these were performed on Cuban national television on several occasions receiving a positive audience response.

The Pilgrim's Progress in films, television, and video games, music

British music band Kula Shaker is releasing album "Pilgrim's Progress" on June 28, 2010.

Director Todd Fietkau is making a version of Pilgrim's Progress, scheduled to be released in 2009.

A children's animation series titled The Pilgrim's Progress is set to be produced by Cliff McDowell, scheduled to be released in 2010.

English band Procol Harum released a song titled Pilgrim's Progress on their album A Salty Dog in 1969.

The novel was made into a film, Pilgrim's Progress, in 1912. Another film version was made in 1977 by Ken Anderson films, in which Liam Neeson played the role of Evangelist and other smaller roles like the crucified Christ. Maurice O'Callaghan played Mr. Worldly Wiseman and other "bad" characters that met Christian in his journey. A sequel Christiana followed in 1979. More recently, a version by Danny Carrales was produced in 2008.

In 1985 Yorkshire Television produced a 129-minute 9-part serial presentation of The Pilgrim's Progress with animated stills by Alan Parry and narrated by Paul Copley entitled Dangerous Journey.

In 1950 an hour-long animated version was made by Baptista Films. This version was edited down to 35 minutes and re-released with new music in 1978. As of 2007 the original version is difficult to find, but the 1978 has been released on both VHS and DVD.

A 2006 computer animation version was made, directed and narrated by Scott Cawthon.

The novel is frequently alluded to in the video game Deus Ex: Invisible War. Saman, a significant character, utilizes its allegories to create purpose in his speech; "Young enemy, thy name is Pliable... you bend your ear to the Worldly Wiseman, to continue the archaic analogy.". If the player makes the choice to side with the Templar faction at the end of the game, after the cinematic, the quote appears, taken from both the novel and Proverbs 21:16 - "He that wandereth out of the way of understanding, shall remain in the congregation of the dead." Curiously, the player's actions towards the Templar faction are not entirely unlike the struggle of Christian throughout the Pilgrim's Progress.

In 1993, the popular Christian radio drama, Adventures in Odyssey (produced by Focus on the Family), featured a two-part story, titled "Pilgrim's Progress: Revisited."

In 1989, Orion's Gate, a producer of Biblical/Spiritual audio dramas produced "The Pilgrim's Progress" as a dynamic 6 hour audio dramatization. Samples and more information may be found at This production was followed several years later by "Christiana: Pilgrim's Progress Part II," another dynamic 8 hour audio dramatization.

At the 2009 San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival, the adaptation Pilgrim's Progress: Journey to Heaven received one nomination for best feature length independent film and one nomination for best music score.

The Ocean Blue have a song called "Vanity Fair" on their album Between Something And Nothing about the town in the story.

The family film "The Wylds" was inspired by The Pilgrim's Progress.


  • James Clarke & Co Ltd, 1987, ISBN 0-7188-2164-5
  • Oxford at the Clarendon Press, edited by James Wharey and Roger Sharrock, providing a critical edition of all 13 editions of both parts from the author's lifetime, 1960, ISBN 0-19-811802-3
  • Oxford World's Classics edition, edited by W.R. Owens, Oxford, 2003, ISBN 978-0-19-280361-0
  • Penguin Books, edited with an introduction by Roger Sharrock, London, 1965, ISBN 0-14-043004-0
  • Pocket Books, New York, 1957
  • Altemus Edition, Henry Altemus, 507, 509, 511 and 513 Cherry Street, Philadelphia, 1891

Abridged editions

  • The Children's Pilgrim's Progress. The story taken from the work by John Bunyan. New York: Sheldon and Company, 1866.


  • "The Aussie Pilgrim's Progress" by Kel Richards. Ballarat: Strand Publishing, 2005.
  • John Bunyan's Dream Story: the Pilgrim's Progress retold for children and adapted to school reading by James Baldwin. New York: American Book Co., 1913.
  • John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress as retold by Gary D. Schmidt & illustrated by Barry Moser Published by William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan. Copyright 1994.
  • " The Land of Far-Beyond" by Enid Blyton. Methuen, 1942.
  • Little Pilgrim's Progress-Helen L. Taylor simplifies the vocabulary and concepts for younger readers, while keeping the story line intact. Published by Moody Press, a ministry of Moody Bible Institute, Chicago, Illinois, 1992, 1993.
  • Pilgrim's Progress ( graphic novel by Marvel Comics). Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1993.
  • The Pilgrim's Progress - A 21st Century Re-telling of the John Bunyan Classic - Dry Ice Publishing, 2008 directed by Danny Carrales
  • The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan Every Child Can Read. Edited by Jesse Lyman Hurlbut. Philadelphia: The John C. Winston Co., 1909.
  • Pilgrim's Progress in Today's English - as retold by James H. Thomas (ISBN : ) - Moody Publishers, 1971.
  • The Pilgrim's Progress in Words of One Syllable by Mary Godolphin. London: George Routledge and Sons, 1869.
  • Pilgrim's Progress retold and shortened for modern readers by Mary Godolphin (1884). Drawings by Robert Lawson. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Co., 1939. [a newly illustrated edition of the retelling by Mary Godolphin]
  • The New Amplified Pilgrim's Progress (both book and dramatized audio) - as retold by James Pappas. Published by Orion's Gate (1999). A slightly expanded and highly dramatized version of John Bunyan's original. Large samples of the text are available at
  • "Quest for Celestia: A Reimagining of The Pilgrim's Progress" by Steven James, 2006
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