Review: The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan

Title: The Pilgrim's Progress
Author: John Bunyan
Publisher: Oxford World's Classics USA printed 2009. First published Part One in 1678 and Part Two in 1684, in England.
Genre: Fiction
Theme: Allegory of a Christian life
Format: Paperback
Age: Adult
Pages: 400
Rating: 3 1/2-4 Stars
Source: Self-purchase
I joined a reading-a-long from The Classics Club to read this book in August. I began reading it but it was soon put away as my dad died August 18. I did not pick the book up again and finish until December. This is the second time to read it.
Reading other reviews on Goodreads there are three comments most expressed:
  1. "The book is an allegory."
  2. "The book is hard to read."
  3. "I don't get it."
The Pilgrim's Progress is a difficult book to read, and or understand, as it's written in the English of the 1600s, plus it's an allegory. The two together are just too much for some readers and they give up.
A second problem and it's less remarked on is the book is written by a Christian and for the audience of Christians. For an unbeliever to understand and or relate to its message makes for additional difficulty.
John Bunyan had an interesting life. He was born in 1628 in Harrowden, Bedfordshire, England. As a soldier in the English Civil War his life irrevocably changed, afterwards he had a crisis of faith. As a child he'd been taught to read and write, but no higher education. In 1656 he began writing. John was married twice and had a total of six children. His religious beliefs got him in to trouble with King Charles II as he was arrested for not having a license to preach. The king imprisoned John Bunyan for a total of twelve years. Ten years after The Pilgrim's Progress was published (1688) John Bunyan died after a short illness. A total of sixty books and pamphlets were written by him.
Allegory is a means to tell a story through the use of symbolism and unusual imagery in order to teach difficult topics. In the case of The Pilgrim's Progress (book one), the main character Christian leaves his known home-land which is called "City of Destruction." Christian left his family and friends and neighbor's, for a lone journey. Along the journey he meets a variety of people, all of them are given names that define not a true person but a particular place in his spiritual life, for example he meets two little children named "Passion and Patience." Later, he meets a "Man of Despair." "Apollyon" is the arch enemy---the destroyer---the dragon---the devil. Only for "a season" does Christian battle Apollyon, when the season is finished, Christian gives God praise for delivery. Christian's goal throughout his journey is to make it to the Celestial City.
In book two of The Pilgrim's Progress, published in 1684, Christian's wife Christiana and their four son's follow after Christian. The four son's are named: "Matthew, Samuel, James and Joseph." Christiana was plagued in her conscience after Christian left and she made the decision to follow after him in their Pilgrimage to the Celestial City. Her neighbor Timorous tried to persuade her not go on this journey, but Christiana prevailed. On her journey she meets interesting characters, for example: Sloth, Folly, Mercie, Great-heart, Grim; each of them represent her own journey of spiritual growth.
While reading of Christiana and her sons, I wondered when they would find Christian. I felt sorry for her traveling on the long journey as a lone parent. I then realized how often a parent becomes a Christian and alone sits in worship service, or alone reads the Bible, or alone takes children to church activities. 
Although I appreciate the story, it is not a favorite of mine.
If I looked through a lens of perspective of 2013, this is not a great book but a 3-4 star rating.
If I looked through a lens of perspective of 1678 and 1684, this is a brilliant story that came alive in my own walk with Jesus Christ.


Biography: http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/John_Bunyan

Other reviews:
http://janegs.blogspot.com/2012/01/pilgrims-progress.html
http://www.readingtoknow.com/2012/03/pilgrims-progress-by-john-bunyan.html

Free e-copy in various formats:
http://www.ccel.org/ccel/bunyan/pilgrim.html
http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/search/?query=The+Pilgrim%27s+Progress


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