Saturday, October 25, 2014

Thoughts on the Classics: The Pilgrim's Progress

 Often rated as important as the Bible as a Christian document, this famous story of man's progress through life in search of salvation remains one of the most entertaining allegories of faith ever written. Set against realistic backdrops of town and country, the powerful drama of the pilgrim's trials and temptations follows him in his harrowing journey to the Celestial City.
Along a road filled with monsters and spiritual terrors, Christian confronts such emblematic characters as Worldly Wiseman, Giant Despair, Talkative, Ignorance, and the demons of the Valley of the Shadow of Death. But he is also joined by Hopeful and Faithful.
An enormously influential 17th-century classic, universally known for its simplicity, vigor, and beauty of language, The Pilgrim's Progress remains one of the most widely read books in the English language.


The Pilgrim's Progress
Bunyan, John (1678). 

I have to admit, The Pilgrim's Progress is probably the book I have struggled with the most since I started actively recording my reading. I DNF books with such rarity, but with The Pilgrim's Progress this was my fourth attempt at it! I'm glad to say that this time I made it to the end.

I kept on trying, and to some extent I'm glad I did, because it's one of those books that I felt like I 'should' read. It's a work that's regarded as perhaps the most important work of fiction to the Christian faith - my own personal faith meant that that was reason enough. And I certainly got something out of it. That being said, I probably didn't get as much out of it as one could have hoped.

There is something to be said for the concept of works that are important because 'they were revolutionary in their time.' We read/watch them because of their importance, rather than because they are particularly impactful today. I feel like The Pilgrim's Progress is one of those works. It's a revolutionary allegorical presentation of anthropomorphic temptation (and admittedly, there is something quite nice about the though of cutting down temptation with a sword) and since its publication has impacted many. But now, anthropomorphic representation of temptation is not a new concept by any means, and the prejudices of the day stand out to the modern reader - black men are used more than once as a representation of Satan or other forms of evil. Although I probably personally identified more with the second part of the progress, in which Christina and her children trace the pilgrimage that her husband Christian made before her, it also had problematic aspects from a modern perspective. Christina's womanly faith and the journey she takes from unbeliever to strong shepherdess is to be admired. However, it's also made clear that women do not get to fight their own battles for their beliefs and Christina is placed behind a male saviour type character, Mr Great-Heart.

On the whole? There are parts of The Pilgrim's Progress that may stick with me. But really, I'm just glad it's off my book bucket-list.

The Pilgrim's Progress is another book off my Classics Club list, and it's also a book toward my 2014 TBR challenge list.

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