The Pilgrim's Progress was written by a man named John Bunyan. When he was young, he learned how to read and write and loved to read the stories about Saint George and the dragon. He was taught how to be a tinker and probably used some personalities of the people he met in his book. The story about Saint George fighting the monstrous dragon most likely inspired him to write about the fight between Christian and the monstrous evil Apollyon. All the characters in the story represent traits that can either help a Christian on his way to Heaven or impede him. They are all metaphors. The whole story is an allegory of the journey of faith in each Christian's life.
Part 1, Christian's Journey
In section one of The Pilgrim's Progress, a man named Christian runs away from his sin: filled city to go to the Celestial City (Heaven). He passes through the Slough of Despondency and through the Village of Morality, where he is entreated to stay. However, he continues on towards the Wicket Gate, the entrance to the path leading to the Celestial City. On the way there, he meets various people who either help (Evangelist, Help) or try to impede his progress (Mr. Wordly Wisdom, and some neighbors from The City of Destruction)
Some metaphors used in the first section are the characters.
Christian is a metaphor for a man who is looking for the way to Heaven (the Celestial City).
Pliant (easily bent, flexible) is a metaphor for a man who is open to the idea of going to a better place, but at the first hardship turns back. The opposite of Pliant, Obstinate is not open to change.
Mr. Worldly Wiseman is a metaphor for human wisdom, he sends Christian to his village, The Village of Morality (a metaphor for a moral life without belief in Jesus). The opposite of Mr. Worldly Wiseman is the Evangelist, a metaphor for heavenly wisdom. He sends Christian back towards the wicket gate (a metaphor for Jesus).
In section two of The Pilgrim's Progress, Christian arrives at the small wicket gate and enters. The path takes him to the house of a man named Interpreter, where he is shown many; he is shown a dusty room which is cleansed (a heart cleansed of sin and prepared to accept Jesus), two boys named Passion (wanting everything here and now) and Patience (willing to wait until he goes to heaven for his reward). Christian is also shown, a man in the cage of despair who was punished for sinning against the Holy Spirit. The Interpreter's house is a metaphor for the teaching of the Bible, and the Interpreter is a metaphor for the Holy Spirit.
Some metaphors used in the second section are the characters.
Goodwill is the gatekeeper of the Wicket Gate, which is a metaphor for Jesus, the only way to heaven. The opposite of Goodwill is Beelzebub in his castle, shooting arrows at Christians trying to go to heaven.
The Interpreter, a metaphor for the Holy Spirit, takes Christian on a tour of his house and shows him many things.
Passion is a metaphor for the part of the Christian who wants everything here and now. The opposite of Passion is Patience, a metaphor for a part of the Christian who is willing to wait until he goes to heaven for his rewards.
In section three of The Pilgrim's Progress, Christian gets to a hill with a cross at the top (a metaphor for Golgotha where Jesus died for everyone's sins) and his burden (sin) falls off his back into an open grave. Three angels appear and clothe him in shining garments (righteousness), tell him that his sins were forgiven, and give him a scroll (the New Testament).
He continues on his way and crosses the path of three other pilgrims who went to sleep named Simple, Sloth, and Presumption (lazy people). Christian wakes them up and informs them that where they were sleeping, it was very possible for a person prowling like a lion (the devil) to attack them, but they do not care.
He meets Formalist and Hypocrisy, a metaphor for people who try to enter heaven by other ways instead of through Jesus. They went with him until the three men arrived at the hill named Difficulty (symbolizes persecution, sickness, etc…). There, Formalist and Hypocrisy went their separate ways.
Christian is presented with three paths and goes on the narrow path, which was the most difficult one. Halfway to the top, he arrives at a place of rest prepared by the Lord and goes to sleep.
He is awoken by someone (the Holy Spirit) who convicts him of laziness, and he runs to the top of the hill. Christian then meets two pilgrims running back on the path, Timorous and Mistrust (metaphors for believers who turn back at some difficulty), and is warned about some lions (the devil) ahead.
Christian finds out that his scroll was gone, and he starts searching for it. He goes back to where he slept and finds it, then continues on the narrow way.
Christian sees a palace called Beautiful (a metaphor for church) in the distance and approaches it. On the path towards it, he sees two lions (the devil).
Prudence, Piety, and Charity (metaphors for qualities of the believers in a church) come out of the palace and greet him and take him into their home so that they can speak with him.
They listen to Christian's story about his journey and ask him why he was going on the narrow path. Christian tells them about his experience at the cross and answers a few more questions until supper was ready and they ate together.
The next morning, they show him the records (the Gospels) of the Lord of the hill (Jesus).
The day after that, they showed him an armory and equipped him with the armor of God, such as the sword of the Spirit (a metaphor for the Bible, the word of God), the shield of faith (a metaphor for faith in Jesus), and the helmet of salvation (a metaphor for salvation from sin offered to us by Jesus).
They take him to the top of the house, where they show him the Delectable Mountains; his destination.
After leaving the palace called Beautiful, Christian goes into the valley of humiliation where he is met by a monster named Apollyon (a metaphor for the Devil who tries to stop Christians from going to Heaven) who was the false god of the City of Destruction. This evil being asks him where he is from and tells him to go back, but Christian is determined to go onwards.
Apollyon tries to persuade him to go back by telling him that his past sins would not let him into Heaven, but Christian knows the truth that he was forgiven by Jesus, so he fights the evil beast.
After a long and fierce battle in which he is wounded many times, Christian uses his sword (a metaphor for the word of God) to stab Apollyon and the beast flies away. Christian is healed of his wounds (the emotional pain inflicted by the devil) by some leaves from the tree of life.
The pilgrim then goes on his way through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. The author uses a quote from Jeremiah 2:6 to describe it “A land of deserts and pits, in a land of drought and deep darkness, in a land that none passes through, where no man dwells” (a time in a Christian's life when they are tempted).
While halfway through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, he arrives at the mouth of Hell and covers himself with All-prayer (a metaphor f0r prayers), a weapon that keeps him safe. While walking, he considers turning back, but up ahead he hears someone shouting “Though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me!”
He continues on his way and arrives at the end of the first section of the valley. He gives thanks to God for being with him so far, then continues on his way. In the second part of the valley, Christian encounters many traps and snares. At the exit, he sees a giant named Pope (a metaphor for the corrupt leader of the Catholic Church) grinning at him.
Christian meets the man whom he had heard shouting in the Valley of The Shadow of Death. This man was one of his neighbors from the City of Destruction, named Faithful. They decide to go together down the narrow path.
Faithful tells Christian his story of how he got to that point. Faithful's story was different from Christian's. He left the City of Destruction and went around the Slough of Despondency and met a woman named Wanton (a metaphor for lust), who was very flattering and offered him “all carnal and fleshly content,” but he averted his eyes and continued on his way.'
At the bottom of Difficulty Hill, he was stopped by Adam (the first man who sinned), who offered him a “good life” and one or more of his three daughters, Lust of the Flesh, Lust of the Eyes, and Pride of Life (metaphors for sins tied to lust), for wives, but Faithful did not accept his offer.
While going up the hill, Faithful was knocked over by Moses, who was punishing him for breaking the Mosaic Law. He keeps knocking the pilgrim on the ground but is stopped by Jesus. This symbolizes the belief of Christians that Jesus can save us from our sins and not our obedience to the Mosaic Law.
Faithful then went past the palace of Beautiful and into the valley of Humiliation, where he met a man named Discontent, who tried to convince him to go back so that he would not offend Pride, Arrogancy, Self-Conceit, and Worldly Glory (sins tied to glorifying self), some of his friends.
Faithful then meets a man named Shame (a metaphor for public contempt), who tries to turn him back by making him feel shameful about believing in God. The pilgrim tells us that only with God's help he shook off shame.
The two travelers meet a man named Talkative who likes to talk about anything and everything. Faithful and this man start talking, but Faithful notices that Christian is not taking part in the conversation.
Christian tells Faithful that he knows Talkative, and that he is not a good companion because, even though Talkative was speaking about the works of God, he did not practice what he preached. “So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.” (Matt. 23:3).
After talking for a long time, Talkative left because he was exposed by Faithful as being a wicked person who was causing others to stumble in their faith because he was talking about godly things but living like a pagan.
They then meet the Evangelist, who asks them about their journey and warns them of the dangers up ahead. He tells them that they will be persecuted for their faith.
They then arrive at Vanity Fair (a metaphor for the “pleasures” of life that can be bought). The narrator tells us that the fair was originally built by Apollyon, Beelzebub, and Legion (the devil and his demons) to distract pilgrims from entering the Celestial City (Heaven).
Upon entering the city, there was a hubbub because the Pilgrims were dressed in clothes that were unusual in that town because they spoke a different language, and because they did not buy anything from any of the merchants.
The people of the city started mocking them, and finally, they were taken into custody where they were tried. The two men were put into a cage and taken before a judge named Lord Hate-good (a metaphor for the sinful nature of people) who found them guilty because “they were enemies to, and disturbers of, the trade; that they had made commotions and divisions in the town!”
Christian's companion says that they are not guilty and that he defied their king, Beelzebub, who was the enemy of the true God. The judge brings three witnesses against them named Envy (a metaphor for envy), Superstition (a metaphor for superstition), and Pickthank (a metaphor for flattery) who testify against them.
Faithful defends himself against the false testimonies of the witnesses, and the Jury is called in. The Jury finds fault against Faithful and sentences him to death by torture and fire.
After Faithful is killed and goes to Heaven, Christian escapes prison and goes off singing about Faithful.
Christian meets a man named Hopeful (a metaphor for Christians whose belief in Jesus is sparked by the testimonies of other Christians) that joins him in his journey to the Celestial City after hearing the two pilgrims' testimonies in the Fair. Hopeful tells him that many others from the fair would follow them in time.
They overtake a man named By-Ends (a metaphor for a secret motive of worldly gain out of belief in Jesus), who was going to the Celestial City from his home of Fair-speech.
Christian tells him that on the road ahead of them he would have to abandon the idea that his faith journey would always be easy and give him worldly gain, but By-Ends leaves them not wanting to change and is approached by three other travelers who were former schoolmates of his who had the same principles.
These four travelers discuss what Christian had told By-Ends and finally decide that he was mistaken. They catch up with the two pilgrims and tell Christian their reasons for their beliefs, but the faithful pilgrim gives them examples from the Bible (like Judas following Jesus for money) that condemn their purposes for going on the pilgrimage (riches, security, popularity, etc…), and he leaves them speechless.
The two pilgrims arrived at a plain called Ease (life being easy) that was very enjoyable, but it soon ended, and they arrived at a hill called Lucre (ill-gotten money) which had a mine in it that often got people off the narrow path and into slaving after money.
There was a man there, Demas (mentioned in one of Paul's letters as a man who sought after money instead of after godly things) who tried to convince them to follow him. Hopeful says that they should, but is warned by Christian that they would die if they followed him, so the two men leave, rebuking Demas.
They pass Lucre and arrive at Lot's Wife, who was turned into a pillar of salt. Christian says that if they had followed Demas they would probably have perished like her. Then they head on to the River of the Water of Life (a metaphor for the provision of God in the lives of believers).
When arriving at this river, they have a splendid time and enjoy themselves, often stopping to drink out of the cool crystalline waters of this mighty river.
They go off the rough path into a side meadow named By-path (a deceivingly easy path that diverts you from the way to Heaven) where they meet a man named Vain Confidence who says he is going to the Celestial Gate. They fall behind him, and he falls into a pit.
It starts raining, and they seek a bit of shelter and go to sleep. They are taken by a giant named Despair (a metaphor for despair that Christians sometimes feel) who puts them in a cell in his castle. After spending a few days and getting beaten by the giant and told to commit suicide, they finally escape using the key of promise (the promises of God to believers in the Bible).
They arrive at the Delectable mountains, where they are met by four shepherds (metaphors for leaders of the Church) named Knowledge, Experience, Watchful, and Sincere (metaphors for the strengths of Church leaders).
These four shepherds show them a hill called Error (an error in beliefs), where people who did not believe in the resurrection fell into a pit and died.
The two pilgrims are then shown the castle of the giant named Despair and told how he had taken out the eyes of some pilgrims and left them to wander around a graveyard.
They are also shown a door that leads to Hell, and they are told that it is a shortcut for all pilgrims who are not truly pilgrims (like Judas, who was a betrayer even though he put on a show of being a follower of Jesus).
Christian and Hopeful meet a man named Ignorance (a metaphor for people who are ignorant about salvation and do not want to learn about it) who, upon being asked where he is going, responds that he was going to the Celestial City. He says that he was a good man who had prayed and gone to church, and he believed that he would be allowed in heaven because he was a “good man”.
They then see Turn-away, a metaphor for a man who left the narrow path, being taken away to Hell by seven Demons, who had tied him up. Christian then tells Hopeful the story of a man named Little-faith (a metaphor for Christians who are afflicted) who was in that very place and was beaten up and lost all his money, but continued on the path nevertheless.
On the path, Hopeful and Christian meet a man named Flatterer (a man who, disguised as a believer, leads others astray with Flattery) who takes them off the path and leads them into a net that snatches them up. An angel comes and asks them what had happened, and they explain that they had forgotten the words of the shepards and had followed Flatterer. He frees them and them spanks them (chastisement, the opposite of flattery) with a whip and lets them go on their way.
They then meet a man named Atheist (a metaphor for a man who did not believe that God is real) who had “searched” for the kingdom but had not found it in thirty years. Christian asks Hopeful if what this man is saying is true, but he gets reminded what happened when they followed Flattery, and they passed on their way.
They then arrive at the Enchanted Grounds (a metaphor for a part in a Christian's life where they feel like lowering their guard) where, to abstain from sleeping, they discuss how they came to believe in Jesus, thus passing the Enchanted Grounds in safety.
They meet Ignorance once again. At first, he would rather not be in their company, and he tells them that he is thinking of good things that give him comfort. He is asked by Hopeful and Christian what he was thinking about, and he says that he was fantasizing about heaven.
They then begin to discuss Ignorance's beliefs, and Christian says that what mattered was not our ideas, but God's word, that is what we should put our trust in. They then leave him and go on their way.
The two men then discuss a man named Temporary (a metaphor for a man who is little by little turns away from his faith) who had turned away from the faith bit by bit. First he stopped withholding from sin, he stopped being in the company of Christians, and ultimately lost his faith.
They then walk through the country of Beulah (the last part of a Christian's life), where they see many wonderful gardens and orchards which were owned by Jesus. They continue on their way and arrive at a river (the dying of our mortal body), after being helped by the steward of the grounds (God).
They get taken by two angels to the river and are told to cross. They begin to cross, but Christian begins sinking (in depression and hopelessness). He is helped along by Hopeful, and they arrive at their destination.
The pilgrims go up the mountain, across the river and enter the Celestial City where they are greeted and allowed to enter.
Ignorance also arrives at the gate, but when he is asked for his certificate he does not have one, so he is thrown into hell.
Part 2, Christiana’s Journey
Christiana (a metaphor for the wife of a Christian) and her maid, Mercy (a metaphor for believers brought to faith by other Christians), leave everything behind to go on the narrow path, following Christian's example. They arrive at the Slough of Despondency and cross.
At the Wicket Gate, they knock, but they hear a large dog barking. They are afraid to knock again, but at last they overcome their fears and knock. The gatekeeper (Jesus) arrives and asks them what they were doing. Christiana says that she was the wife of Christian and that she was following in his footsteps, and she is let in because she was called by the King.
Mercy is then left outside because she was not called by the king but came on this path being called by Christiana. While Christiana is interceding for her to be allowed to enter, Mercy knocks heartily on the door and is taken inside. They meet the Lord, who speaks with them and comforts them. They ask him about the dog (a fearful obstacle) and are told that it was sent from Satan's castle from across the clearing to scare off travelers.
Christiana, her children, and Mercy go on their way. They arrive at a garden full of fruit-bearing trees (a metaphor for temptations put in the Christian's walk of faith) where the children start picking fruit. The two women are then approached and attacked by two men, but these fiends are driven off by the people at the Wicket gate, who were alerted of their presence by the two women's shouts of “Murder”.
They arrive at the Interpreter's palace, where he shows them what was shown to Christian and a few other things. One of the new things was a tree rotten on the inside that still grew leaves and looked very nice on the outside. He tells the pilgrims that this was a metaphor for the people who look like they worship God, but they do not practice faith in Him.
They then eat supper and go to sleep after being commended by the Interpreter for coming on the righteous path. The next morning, they wash and are given a seal (a metaphor for the Holy Spirit) and white raiment (the righteousness of Jesus).
The next day, the pilgrims head out with Great-heart (a metaphor for a strong and mature Christian who helps other Christians along the walk of faith), a man sent from the interpreter's house to defend them on their journey, who leads them to the Cross. There, Great-heart tells them how Christian's burden of sins was taken off.
They then continue and arrive at Difficulty Hill, where Great-heart takes Christiana, Mercy, and all of Christian's children up the hill to a resting place where they eat some food provided by the Interpreter.
The pilgrims then meet two lions (metaphors for Satan) and a giant called Grim (a metaphor for discouragement and fear) on the path, who try to stop them. Great-heart takes his sword (the word of God) and mutilates the giant and leads the travelers past the lions to the home (a metaphor for the Church who are the Christians) of Prudence, Piety, and Charity (metaphors for qualities that Christians have), where they live for a few months.
After arriving at this house, Great-heart leaves the travelers because he had to get back to his master. While at Prudence's home, Mercy is courted by a man named Mr. Brisk, a gentleman who pretended to be a Christian but was, in fact, after the money he could gain from her skills of making clothes.
A doctor, Mr. Skill, is called to help one of Christiana's children, who had eaten some of Beelzebub's fruits (could be a metaphor for sins).
Christiana sends for Mr. Great-heart, and he answers her plea and comes to defend her and her children on the way to the Celestial City.
The pilgrims then go on their way when Prudence, who was sent to go with Christiana, remembers that she had forgotten something at her home, so she goes back to fetch it, and they wait for her.
While waiting, they hear some beautiful singing that is explained to Christiana as the singing of some birds in the nearby bushes (this is the author's way of saying that all creation worships God in some way).
After Prudence comes back, they pass on their way through the Valley of Humiliation, but they are not attacked by Appolyon. Their passage through this peaceful valley gave them time to think and reflect upon themselves, their journey, and their goal.
They then went through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, but because it was daytime and because they had a guard, they passed through, meeting with only one obstacle, a lion who ran away from Great-heart. At the exit, they meet a giant named Maul who tries to fight them but is defeated by their guide.
The pilgrims pass on and arrive at an oak tree, where they meet a man named Mr. Honest, who hailed from the town of Stupidity. He talks to Great-heart about how he had left his town and begun his journey to the Celestial city.
The guide and the new addition to their group talk about a man named Mr. Fearing (a metaphor for a Christian, who was frightened that he would not be accepted by God, was afraid of Hell, and of sin). Great-heart says that he had a hard time crossing the Slough of Despond and was terrified to knock on the door to the Wicket Gate, but when he did, he was received with open arms by the Lord.
We are then told how he had gone to the Interpreter's house, and again terrified to knock, waited until Great-heart saw him and let him come in. He then was accompanied by Great-heart in his journey.
They are then told how he was not afraid of any obstacles, but about not being allowed into Heaven.
This conversation comforts Christiana and Mercy, who both were like Mr. Fearing in the sense of being afraid of not being accepted.
The conversation switches to a different topic, a man named Mr. Self-will, who was a metaphor for people who believe that sin is good. He believed that if a man went through “the vices as well as the virtues of pilgrims” he would be saved. He is contrasting Mr. Fearing in the sense that instead of fearing and avoiding sin, he welcomed it and taught others to be like him (to welcome sin).
They then go to an inn owned by a man named Gaius where they receive shelter. The pilgrims are entertained until dinner is ready, and they talk about Christian's ancestors, who, according to their host, were persecuted for their faith in the Lord.
Later, the innkeeper and all the men go to fight a giant named Slay-Good (a metaphor for dangerous people and feelings), who was catching and killing travelers on the path to Heaven. The evil giant was currently holding a man named Mr. Feeble-Mind, who was about to be eaten. Great-heart attacks the giant and defeats him, saving the life of Mr. Feeble-Mind (a metaphor for a person who is not strong mentally and has to be helped by other Christians).
Gaius then invites Mr. Feeble-Mind to join them at his inn and stay for a while, to which Feeble-Mind answers that he would come. After some time, the travelers leave, taking Mr. Feeble-Mind with them on the path. Right before leaving Gaius they meet a man named Mr. Ready-to-Halt who kept Mr. Feeble-Mind company at the back of the column of pilgrims.
They arrive at the outskirts of the city of Vanity, where the Vanity Fair was held. They had to come to a conclusion on how they will pass through the city and at last it was decided that they would stop at a house owned by one Mr. Mnason who, according to Great-heart's advice, was a good man.
Mr. Mnason calls his friends over and one of them, Mr. Contrite, says that after the murder of Faithful, the people of the city stopped burning and persecuting Christians because they were ashamed at what they did.
A monster then emerged from the woods and attacked the city, killing many of the inhabitants and taking some of the children away. Greatheart and some of the other Pilgrims attack the beast and made it lame, gaining the respect of most of the people of the city.
The pilgrims then leave the Vanity Fair and arrive at By-path, where Hopeful and Christian left the true path and were attacked by the giant Despair. Great-heart, Honest, and Christiana's boys go to fight with Despair and his wife, killing them and destroying their castle. In the depths of the fortification they find Despondency and his daughter, Much-afraid, who join their group.
They then go to the Delectable Mountains, where they are greeted by the four shepards who had taken care of Christian and Hopeful. They are shown many rarities, including Charity Mountain, the by-way to Hell, and Mount Innocence.
The travelers then meet a man named Mr. Valiant, he tells them where he came from and what happened to him on his journey. He came from Dark-Land, where his parents told him not to go on pilgrimage because they said it was dangerous. They tried to go to the Celestial City, but had turned back because it was a long and dangerous journey. They had to go through the Slough of Despair and past Beelzebub's archers. Mr. Valiant picked up his sword, regardless, and started his journey. He made it to the wicket-gate and ended up where they found him.
The pilgrims were then required to traverse the Enchanted Ground. There they saw two pilgrims asleep and tried to wake them up, but were unable to and then had to leave. Later, they met a man named Standfast, who came with them on their journey.
Soon, the pilgrims arrive in the land of Beulah, where Christiana's sons stay so that they can have kids. Christiana and the others go to the Celestial City, where she meets her husband, and they all live happily ever after.
The Pilgrim's Progress is an allegory. This means that all the characters and places are metaphors for thoughts, feelings, characters in the real world. This entire story is a symbol of what Christians have to go through to get to heaven.