The Pilgrim’s Progress – Part I: The Fifth Stage, the Sixth Stage, the Seventh Stage

Summary
Christian meets up with his former fellow townsman Faithful,
who fled the City of Destruction shortly after Christian left. Faithful reports
that the townspeople discussed their impending doom, but that few
took it seriously enough to leave. Faithful says that Christian’s
old acquaintance Pliable returned to town and was mocked for the
dirt on his clothing from the Slough of Despond.
Faithful says he himself escaped the Slough but was tempted
by a wanton woman and by an old man named Adam the First, who promised
Faithful any of his three lusty daughters if he would stay. Faithful
reports that he declined the offer, knowing it would be slavery.
Even though he rejected Adam, Moses appeared to strike down Faithful
in punishment, Christian concludes, for secretly being attracted
by Adam’s offer. Faithful reports that shame tried to turn him from
his holy path, attacking religion as unmanly. Christian congratulates
Faithful on his fortitude and then tells him of his own adventures.
Another townsman named Talkative joins the two. Faithful
is initially impressed by Talkative’s devoutness, since Talkative
likes discussing religious topics. Christian sees otherwise and
takes Faithful aside to tell him that Talkative’s faith is all in
words, not in deeds. He knows Talkative from his life before and
knows that he has a fine tongue but little else. Rejoining Talkative,
Christian asks him to explain the difference between speaking out
against sin and abhorring it. Talkative has trouble seeing any difference
between the two, and Christian sets him straight. Irked, Talkative
leaves them.
Emerging from the wilderness, Evangelist meets Christian
and Faithful and congratulates them on overcoming their obstacles. Evangelist
says they will soon enter a powerful enemy city where one of them
will die. The narrator identifies this city as Vanity, home of a
great and ancient festival called Vanity Fair, where tawdry products
are traded and Beelzebub is worshipped. At Vanity Fair, Faithful
and Christian are mocked, smeared with dirt, and thrown in a cage.
Given a chance to repent, they stay true to their righteous hatred
of worldly possessions. They are condemned to death for belittling
Vanity’s false religion. Faithful tries to speak in his own defense
but is burned at the stake and carried off to heaven. Christian
is remanded to prison but escapes later.
Christian continues his journey joined by a new ally,
Hopeful, and a stranger named By-ends, who sees religion as a way
of getting ahead in the world. Christian refuses to let By-ends
accompany them unless he affirms that poverty is an aspect of faith.
By-ends is turned away and joins other religious fortune hunters,
who are stunned when Christian denounces them. Christian and Hopeful enter
the plain of Ease, where a gentlemanly figure named Demas entices
them with buried silver and dreams of wealth. They spurn him, telling
him they will not be nudged from their course by riches. On their
way, they notice the pillar that once was Lot’s wife who made the
mistake of looking back at what she had left behind on her own path
to salvation. Christian and Hopeful vow not to make the same mistake
themselves.
Moving onward, they follow a man who says he knows a shortcut
to the Celestial City. They realize it is not a shortcut after they fall
into a pit. A storm rises, and they nearly drown when the rain floods
their hole. When the rains abate, they come out and continue on.
They find shelter near the Doubting Castle owned by the Giant Despair,
where they sleep. The giant wakes them and says they must be punished
for trespassing. His wife, Diffidence, encourages the harshest punishments.
They are imprisoned and beaten and contemplate suicide, finally
deciding against it as a sin. Christian remembers he has a key called
Promise that will open any door in Despair’s castle. Christian and
Hopeful escape and mount a sign warning future travelers away from
Despair.
Analysis
Any appearance or remembrance of the past threatens to
stall Christian’s spiritual development. The past returns to haunt
Christian in the figure of Faithful, his former neighbor who appears
with gossip about the old hometown. Nostalgia is dangerous. This
point is emphasized later when Christian and Faithful are leaving
the plain of Ease and see the pillar that used to be Lot’s wife.
In the Bible, Lot’s wife was fleeing destruction and was told not
to look back at what she left behind. When she did look back, she
became immobilized and unable to journey to salvation, the very
journey Christian has staked everything on completing. Unlike Lot’s
wife, Christian seems strongly resistant to sentimental memories
of his former friends and family. In fact, he does not even ask
about his family’s welfare. Only when asked at the Palace Beautiful
does Christian shed some tears over his family. This reminds the
reader that Christian has feelings and misses his family. Yet when
setting out on his pilgrimage, Christian knows there is no turning
back, and he does not wish to. His previous life was full of townsfolk
who thought he was crazy and did not understand his reason for leaving.
Christian realizes this and therefore has little concern for life
back home. Christian has not been proven right yet about the wrath
of heaven falling on the town because no disaster has fallen. The
townsfolk’s earlier contempt for Christian’s religious folly continues
at present, so there can be no going back to save them.
The town of Vanity also fits the idea of dangers of nostalgia
in these chapters of the book, since it is the first large-scale
community Christian visits after leaving his hometown. Vanity is
an echo of the City of Destruction in its irreligious attitudes,
its bustling business that leaves no time for spiritual introspection,
and its collective opposition to anyone who sees things differently.
Christian flees from disaster in the City of Destruction, and he
barely escapes disaster in the city of Vanity too. The evil of Vanity
suggests that communities are dangerous places and that the safest
path to salvation lies in solitude. Later, cities will appear godly
and good, but for now risk lurks in them.
Faithful’s report of his encounter with the wanton woman
and Adam’s three lusty daughters brings an unusually open sexual
reference for the book’s time. The Pilgrim’s Progress contains
so little sex that when lust is even mentioned, it carries great
weight. Interestingly, none of Christian’s own adventures involve
even a hint of sex, even when he spends the night with four beautiful
women in the Palace Beautiful. Everyone’s path to salvation is unique,
and Faithful is more prone to the temptations of the flesh. Of course
Faithful resists those temptations. Still, when Moses punishes Faithful
for even considering them, it is clear how dangerous sex is thought
to be. Adam offers marriage to one of his daughters, but even wedded
sex is evidently off limits to a pilgrim. Adam represents “natural
man,” or humans without revelation or religion. His state is not
neutral but sinful. To be natural in The Pilgrim’s Progress is
to dwell on sexual desires, and to be sexual is to be a sinner.
The episode in the Doubting Castle demonstrates Bunyan’s
style of inner and outer allegory. Allegories conjure up characters
to represent abstract states or qualities, as Talkative represents
an outer state of allegory because he is filled with empty chattiness.
When those states or qualities appear as obstacles on the path Christian
is following, they are dangerous outside ideas for him to ward off. Talkativeness
is a danger Christian must stay away from. But allegorical abstractions
can also represent inner states. Giant Despair
is a perfect example of an inner quality of Christian represented
as something outside him. Despair is of course his own despair,
his own suicidal depression. Giant Despair is part of the human
soul, as many obstacles to faith are inside the believer, even though
they are represented outwardly in the allegory.