The Pilgrim’s Progress – Part II: Author’s Introduction, the First Stage

In his introduction, Bunyan addresses his second book,
known as Part II of The Pilgrim’s Progress. He
orders the book to follow in the footsteps of Part I, embarking
on a pilgrimage of its own. Bunyan calls the book by the name of
Christiana and, thereby identifying it with Christian’s wife, Christiana.
Bunyan then imagines Christiana offering him several objections to
the proposed pilgrimage. First, she disagrees that some may not believe
that she is truly authored by the original writer of Christian’s tale.
The author replies that Christiana needs only send for him, and he
will arrive to claim her as his own creation. Second, Christiana says
that some readers might react angrily to the book. Here Bunyan answers
that she should not fear this, since the first book has so many
readers across Europe and America. Third, Christiana objects that
certain people might dislike the use of allegory. Bunyan defends using
fiction to tell what he considers to be religious truths. Finally, Christiana
asks about those readers who call Bunyan’s work mere romance, a
style of heroic prose and verse narrative. Bunyan says that not
everyone can be pleased but reminds Christiana of the long list
of vibrant characters the book contains and reassures her that readers
will love her.
The narrator recounts his follow-up dream about Christian’s wife
and children left behind in the City of Destruction. This time he dreams
of an elderly man named Sagacity, who visits to talk about the City
of Destruction, and asks whether Sagacity has heard of Christian.
Sagacity says that he has and that Christian resides now in the
Celestial City. The narrator also asks Sagacity about Christian’s
wife, Christiana, and their four sons. Sagacity answers that he knows
they packed up and embarked on a journey to find Christian and be
reunited. Sagacity now acts as a narrator and offers to tell the story
of Christiana’s pilgrimage.
At the beginning of Sagacity’s tale, Christiana invites
a fellow townsperson named Mercy to accompany her on the pilgrimage. She
offers to hire Mercy as her servant but says that they will share all
their possessions on the trip as equals. Mercy agrees, and Christiana
is joyful, not only at having a caretaker for her four children on
the journey but also at having urged another human toward salvation.
Mercy feels pity for those whom she will leave behind. Christiana
says that pity befits a pilgrim and that one day those left behind
may choose to follow her.
Christiana, Mercy, and the children cross the Slough of
Despond. They slip several times but do not fall in. At this point,
the narrator says that Sagacity ends his tale, and the narrator
himself falls asleep and follows Christiana’s progress in a dream.
Christiana’s group comes upon the gate to the path that will lead
them the rest of the way to the Celestial City. A frightening dog
barks at them. A gatekeeper appears and demands to know who they
are. Christiana says she is Christian’s wife, and the gatekeeper
expresses admiration for him. He opens the gate and lets in Christiana
and her children, but Mercy remains outside the gate. Terrified,
she remembers a passage from the Gospel of Matthew in which two
women are said to grind at a mill. According to the passage, only
one is saved while the other is turned away. Mercy assumes she will
be turned away but knocks on the door anyway. The gatekeeper demands
to know who she is. Christiana explains. Mercy nearly faints from
fear but is allowed in.
After passing through the gate, Christiana and Mercy express relief
at having been admitted. Christiana remarks how odd it is that such
an ugly and frightening dog should reside with the gatekeeper and
asks the gatekeeper to explain. He says that the dog belongs to a
neighbor and actually performs a useful service by barking so ferociously,
scaring off beggars. By contrast, earnest pilgrims stand up to the
dog. The gatekeeper feeds Christiana and her group and washes their
By calling Part II “Christiana,” Bunyan addresses the
book as if it were a living being. He shows the book fretting with
self-doubts that he must soothe. When he encourages the book Christiana
to follow in the footsteps of Part I, he tells her to trust her
own literary self-worth.
The major difference between the journeys in Parts I and
II is that Part II portrays a female point of view. Aside from the
old man Sagacity who introduces the tale, the main characters are
two women, Christiana and Mercy. Part II shows how a women’s pilgrimage
will be different in important ways from the man’s pilgrimage in
Part I. Bunyan introduces elements into Part II that were absent
from the male-dominated Part I. Christiana and Mercy are two women
who have concerns that would have been stereotypically feminine
in the seventeenth century. Since a woman could not be expected
to travel safely alone, Christiana must hire Mercy as a servant.
This introduces a complication, since pilgrims’ theoretical equality
before God seems contradicted by one working for another. Christiana
aims at equality by promising to share everything on the trip, but
the complication remains when she hires Mercy. Furthermore, a mother
cannot be expected to leave her children behind, even though the
father did so earlier. Since the children must come along, childrearing
will necessarily be a part of this pilgrimage. Boss-employee relations
and family relations thus already figure more largely in Part II
than in Part I.
The Bible figures as importantly in Christiana’s story
as it did in Christian’s. As in Part I, characters in Part II appear
familiar with biblical passages and quote them easily. Even the
servant, Mercy, knows the Bible. She is the first one who makes
a reference to the holy book in when she reaches the gate to the
Celestial City. But interestingly, the Bible makes her afraid, as
it never did Christian. When she is trembling at the gate leading
to the Celestial City, she fearfully recalls a passage from Matthew
that refers to two women, one of whom is turned away from a desired
path. She assumes she will be turned away too, since Christiana
has already entered the gate. Christian quoted the Bible confidently
as a source of truth. When Mercy quotes the Bible, she applies it
wrongly. Thus she faces the possibility of misunderstanding the
holy word.
Bunyan emphasizes personal bonds in Part II. In Part I,
Christian almost always had a companion, but his companions changed often:
Pliable went home, Faithful was killed, and only Hopeful made it
to the Celestial City with him. Christian shows only slight distress
when he loses a travel companion and does not stop to fret about
traveling alone. He is more concerned with his progress toward the
Celestial City and does not want to be detoured from his journey.
In contrast, camaraderie seems necessary with Christiana and Mercy
in Part II. When it appears that Mercy might be shut out of the
gatekeeper’s gate, Christiana steps in to lobby on Mercy’s behalf.
Her bold resolution to help Mercy may be partly selfish since Christiana
needs a servant on her trip. But she values her comrade more urgently
than Christian seemed to value any of his.
The episode of the barking dog suggests how much Bunyan’s style
has evolved in the direction of realism, away from pure allegory.
The dangers in Part I were vivid and often terrifying but usually
fairy-tale-like, such as the frightening Giant Despair in his prison-like
castle. However, the dangers that arise in Part II are portrayed
differently than in Part I. One instance is the barking dog at the
gate leading to the Celestial City. The barking dog is a common danger.
This is an aspect of the everyday life and it is easy to understand
why Christiana and Mercy are afraid. As a result, Christiana and
Mercy in the dog episode appear more like characters in a novel than
Christian did.