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

Summary
The pilgrims pause to celebrate their victory over Maul
at the spot where Christian first met Faithful. Traveling onward,
they meet an old pilgrim named Old Honest asleep under a tree. Old
Honest wakes up scared, mistaking Christiana’s group for thieves.
Learning that Christiana is the wife of Christian, he calms down.
Great-heart asks Old Honest if he knew a pilgrim named
Fearing, and Old Honest says that Fearing was his former companion. Great-heart
explains that he guided Fearing to the gate of the Celestial City
and tells of their journey. Fearing boldly faced the challenges
that terrify others but feared hell, because he was unsure of his
commitment to the Celestial City. Christiana, the boys, and Old Honest
discuss how fear is a spur to goodness and the love of God if it
is used properly. Old Honest tells of another wayward pilgrim named
Self-will, who did whatever he pleased. The pilgrims express their
disapproval. After recapping both stories, Old Honest adds that
many who consider themselves pilgrims fail in some basic way.
The three robbers who robbed Little-Faith in Part I approach
the group. The pilgrims take refuge in the house of Gaius, who says
he opens his doors only for pilgrims. Gaius invites them to eat
and talks at length about various religious matters. He delivers
a long defense of women, arguing that although sin came into being
through a woman, so too did salvation when Mary mothered Christ.
After the meal, Gaius proposes that they all go out to find a giant
named Slay-good that has been ravaging pilgrims lately. The pilgrims
find Slay-good in a cave about to devour Feeble-mind, a weak pilgrim.
They defeat Slay-good and free Feeble-mind.
During the month spent with Gaius, Christiana’s eldest
son, Matthew, marries Mercy, and her youngest son, James, gets engaged to
Phebe, Gaius’s daughter. As the time for departure nears, Great-heart
invites Feeble-mind to accompany them. Feeble-mind resists, saying
he is too ignorant for pilgrimage. Great-heart insists that he is obligated
to help the feeble-minded. A handicapped pilgrim named Ready-to-halt
also joins them. On the road, Old Honest and Great-heart discuss
many characters that Christian met on his pilgrimage, including
Faithful and Hopeful.
They lodge at the home of Mnason, who invites them to
dine with his various friends, including Contrite. Contrite says
that the locals feel a burden of guilt after the unjust execution
of Christian’s friend Faithful and have since become more moderate.
The pilgrims spend a long time with Mnason. During this time, Mnason’s
daughter Grace marries Christiana’s son Samuel, and his daughter
Martha marries Christiana son’s Joseph. A fierce dragon with seven
heads emerges from the woods and frightens the pilgrims. The dragon menaces
the children of the village. Great-heart joins forces with Mnason’s
friends to subdue the monster.
The pilgrims climb the hill called Lucre where Demas tempted Christian
with silver. They find a man who cares for the children of pilgrims,
and Christiana, now a grandmother, tells her four daughters-in-law
to hand over their babies to him. The group proceeds onward. Great-heart,
Old Honest, and Christiana’s sons decide to slay Giant Despair.
After killing him, they spend seven days demolishing his castle.
The group rescues the prisoners Despondent and his daughter Much-afraid,
who are nearly starved.
Arriving in the Delectable Mountains, the pilgrims meet
shepherds who show them Mount Innocent and Mount Charity. The shepherds
take them to a palace where Mercy takes a fancy to a mirror hung
in the dining room. She begs Christiana to buy it for her, saying
she fears she will miscarry if she doesn’t get it. The mirror reflects
the face of Christ back to any gazer. The shepherds give it to Mercy
in thanks for the pilgrims killing Giant Despair.
Analysis
Old Honest’s story about Fearing shows an important distinction among
different types of fear. Curiously, the pilgrim Fearing was actually
quite fearless in some ways, as Old Honest explains. Fearing courageously
faced the lions that terrified Christiana’s group. His courage was
misdirected, since he had not enough fear of God and therefore not
enough assurance that he would make it to the Celestial City. Despite
his timidness, he still made it to the Celestial City. In the end,
Fearing basically feared himself and his own insufficient faith.
Old Honest explains that good fear, like the fear of God, is necessary
because it spurs the pilgrim onward to higher achievement. Fearing’s
fear of himself, however, raises obstacles for a pilgrim.
The marrying of Christiana’s sons emphasizes how much
time has passed on the pilgrimage. At the beginning of the pilgrimage they
were young boys. At the opening of Part II, Bunyan portrays Christiana
as a young mother. By showing her sons now as young adults of marriageable
age, Bunyan displays that the pilgrims’ journey is their life itself.
Children grow up and generations shift. By the end of these chapters,
Christiana has become a grandmother several times over. The marriage
of two of Christiana’s sons to Gaius’s two daughters also emphasizes
the marriage of classical and Christian marriage themes with The
Pilgrim’s Progress. Gaius is a Roman name and therefore
not an obvious description like other characters’ names. Yet Bunyan
portrays Gaius as strong a Christian as Christiana, and he implies
that Gaius’s contribution to the book is just as important as the
other pilgrims.
Christiana’s handing over of her grandchildren to the
childcare facility is controversial, considering the pilgrim’s belief
that religious devotion runs counter to child abandonment. However, Christiana’s
abandonment of the babies has some good reasons behind it. First,
the pilgrims have a hard enough time with their physical travel
over hills, down valleys, and through rivers, even without babies
to tote. Second, babies cannot go on pilgrimages because they are
not mature enough to understand the meaning. Since pilgrimage is
more than mere travel and requires understanding too, only young
adults like Christiana’s sons can be pilgrims.
The killing of Giant Despair displays the heroic effectiveness
of Christiana’s group. In Part I, Christian, for all his fortitude,
did not slay Giant Despair but was nearly killed by the monster.
Christiana’s pilgrimage is in this way more successful overall than
Christian’s, and Bunyan emphasize this point throughout Part II.
Part of Christiana’s success is owed to her capacity for encouraging
teamwork. Christian was more or less a loner, rarely accompanied
by more than one fellow pilgrim at a time. In contrast, Christiana
has a huge group. Wherever she goes, her group multiplies. At dinner
with Gaius and Mnason, the host invites along his friends, who join Christiana’s
group. Her example shows that spirituality must be private, but
pilgrimage can be social.
The joining of Feeble-mind and Ready-to-halt on the pilgrimage emphasizes
an expansion in the definition of pilgrimage. Bunyan portrays this
difference when he shows Old Honest and Great-heart discussing Christian
and Hopeful traveling together. They have this conversation right
after the two disabled pilgrims have joined their ranks. The contrast
is clear: Christian’s cohorts were as strong as he, or stronger,
and Christiana’s cohorts may be physically or mentally weaker, yet
they are still deemed fit companions. Therefore Part II emphasizes
charity toward the weak. When Feeble-mind and Ready-to-halt are
assessed as worthy pilgrims, it is understood that pilgrimage is
about more than physical fitness and traditionally male virtues
like strength and aggression.
Bunyan’s depiction of the mirror episode demonstrates
the generous attitude toward women that runs throughout ThePilgrim’s Progress. In
another book, a pregnant woman gripped by an irrational desire for
a mirror could be an accumulation of many negative stereotypes,
including female vanity, emotionalism, and a general tendency to
cause trouble. Yet Bunyan gives the scene a positive ring and portrays
Mercy’s desire as religious and commendable. The mirror does not
play into human vanity, since it reflects the image of Christ back
to the viewer. And the shepherds are delighted to give it to her,
implying that the mirror is a worthy possession.