Places: The Pilgrim’s Progress

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: part 1, 1678; part 2, 1684

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Allegory

Time of work: Any time since Christ

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places DiscussedDen

Den. Pilgrim’s Progress, ThePlace where the narrator lies down and begins to dream the story of Christian at the beginning of part 1. Bunyan was undoubtedly remembering the jail on Bedford Bridge where he was confined for preaching illegally, thus putting his religious convictions ahead of his family responsibilities, just as Christian does when he leaves his wife and children behind.

City of Destruction

City of Destruction. Christian’s home until he becomes convinced that because they have not accepted Christ, all the residents of the city are damned. When he leaves the city in part 1, his wife refuses to follow him. However, after having a change of heart in part 2, she and her four sons take the same road on which Christian has previously traveled.

Slough of Despond

Slough of Despond (sloo). Bog into which Christian falls, based on the notorious sloughs on the road to Hockley, Bedfordshire. The Slough of Despond symbolizes the paralyzing depression experienced by pilgrims when they realize that they deserve to be damned for their sins. God sends a spiritual guide named Help to point out the steps that lead out of the Slough of Despond.

*Mount Sinai

*Mount Sinai (SI-ni). Mountain in the Holy Land identified in the Bible as the place where Moses received the Ten Commandments. In The Pilgrim’s Progress, Mount Sinai lies near a town named Morality, where Mr. Worldly Wiseman tells Christian that he can learn how to reach Heaven simply by following a set of rules. Thus Bunyan voices his objection to the Church of England, which takes a more formal approach to religion than his highly emotional sect. When Mount Sinai flashes fire, Christian knows that he is being warned away from Morality and returns to the right road.

House of the Interpreter

House of the Interpreter. Way station where both Christian and Christiana receive both hospitality and instruction. This is one of a number of places on their road where Bunyan’s travelers are strengthened in body and in spirit. It is significant that his description of this house matches that of the rectory of St. John Baptist in Bedford, where Bunyan himself sought counsel on religious matters from William Gifford, a dissenting minister who lived there for a time.

House Beautiful

House Beautiful. Place where both Christian and Christiana are armed both mentally and physically for the difficult road ahead. Bunyan’s House Beautiful is clearly a composite of two country houses, Elstow Place and Houghton Manor House, the latter a well-known showplace because of the treasures it contained. By contrast, Bunyan’s House Beautiful, while described as equally elegant, is filled only with spiritual gifts.

Valley of Humiliation

Valley of Humiliation. Deep valley where Christian is attacked by Apollyon, a satanic figure described in the New Testament’s Book of Revelation as dominating the bottomless pit, or Hell. By defeating Apollyon, Christian makes it easier for those who follow, including his own family, to pass down the dangerous road of life. Thus Bunyan stresses how important every triumph over evil is, not just to the individual but to the Christian community as a whole.

Valley of the Shadow of Death

Valley of the Shadow of Death. Phrase from the Twenty-third Psalm used by Bunyan to denote another valley through which pilgrims must pass. There, the road becomes a narrow path, punctuated with pits and traps, with a ditch on one side of it, a quagmire on the other, and at one spot, the mouth of Hell yawning beside it. Although Christiana’s guide protects her from a lion and a giant, darkness brings the Shadow of Death. As in the psalm, the travelers turn to God for help, and he sends light to deliver them from their fears and show them the way.

Vanity Fair

Vanity Fair. Never-ending fair at the town of Vanity, probably inspired by England’s largest fair, held annually at Stourbridge. Vanity Fair offers every kind of pleasure; it is a place where everything and everyone is for sale. When Christian and his companion Faithful reject the life of pleasure, they are attacked by the ruffians who frequent the fair. Christian escapes, but Faithful is killed. Later, Christiana passes through without difficulty, evidently because the inhabitants are ashamed of their earlier actions.

Doubting Castle

Doubting Castle. Stronghold of the giant Despair, who seizes Christian and his new companion Hopeful and thrusts them into a dungeon. The giant represents profound depression, which arises out of doubt. Only when Christian remembers that he has a key, God’s promise, is he able to unlock the door and escape. When Christiana arrives, the men with her kill the giant and purge the castle of evil. It is thought that Doubting Castle was modeled on Cainhoe Castle, near which Bunyan’s ancestors once lived.

Delectable Mountains

Delectable Mountains. Another pleasant stop, where shepherds entertain the pilgrims, show them some of those who have fallen by the wayside, and offer them a distant glimpse of the Celestial City. The Delectable Mountains are clearly modeled on the Chiltern Hills of Bedfordshire.

Enchanted Ground

Enchanted Ground. Beautiful area of comfortable seats and arbors, where tired pilgrims are tempted to stop and slumber. However, Christians who sink into a spiritual torpor there will never reach Heaven.

Land of Beulah

Land of Beulah (BYOO-lah). Pleasant country where pilgrims can pause before they cross the River Jordan to the Celestial City.

Celestial City

Celestial City. Heaven, where Christians who have successfully completed their journey will spend eternity.

Sources for Further StudyBunyan, John. Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners. Edited by Roger Sharrock. London: Oxford University Press, 1966. This earlier autobiography (1666) lays the foundation for Bunyan’s allegory.Collmer, Robert G. Bunyan in Our Time. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1989. A collection of distinguished literary criticism and appraisals of Bunyan. Includes essays on his use of language, satire and its biblical sources, and The Pilgrim’s Progress as allegory. Of particular interest are the essays on Marxist perspectives on Bunyan and a comparison between Bunyan’s quest and C. S. Lewis’s quest in The Pilgrim’s Regress (1933).Furlong, Monica. Puritan’s Progress. New York: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, 1975. Although dated, this is an excellent starting point for research. A good summarized discussion of both parts 1 and 2 of Pilgrim’s Progress. Includes a solid introduction to John Bunyan and the life of the Puritans. Excellent bibliography.Hill, Christopher. A Tinker and a Poor Man: John Bunyan and His Church, 1628-1688. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1988. Examines John Bunyan, his writings, his life, and the turbulent times in which he lived. Gives an extensive list of publication dates of all of Bunyan’s work.Horner, Barry E. John’s Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress: Themes and Issues. Vestavia Hills, Ala.: Solid Ground Christian Books, 2003. A study guide, including bibliographical references, index.Johnson, Barbara A. Reading “Piers Plowman” and “The Pilgrim’s Progress”: Reception and the Protestant Reader. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1992. Approaches the works through the history of their readership and critical reception, including both Protestant and Puritan readings. Bibliographical references, index.Luxon, Thomas, H. Literal Figures: Puritan Allegory and the Reformation Crisis in Representation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995. Good discussion of allegory, specifically in relation to Puritanism, and a solid starting point for study. A modern interpretation of Bunyan, his work, and its relation to allegory.Newey, Vincent, ed. “The Pilgrim’s Progress”: Critical and Historical Views. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1980. A wonderful collection of concise essays. Essays cover Bunyan, symbolism, and theology in relation to Pilgrim’s Progress.Newey, Vincent. “The Pilgrim’s Progress”: Critical and Historical Views. Liverpool, England: Liverpool University Press, 1980. Brings together critical essays on The Pilgrim’s Progress to provide fresh, detailed, and varied approaches to this work. Discusses the tension between allegory and naturalism and Bunyan’s handling of the language and values of the people. Indispensable to the serious scholar of this work.Sadler, Lynn Veach. John Bunyan. Boston: Twayne, 1979. Good summation of Bunyan’s life with excellent explanations of Pilgrim’s Progress. Includes an extensive bibliography and chronology of Bunyan’s life.Wakefield, Gordon S. Bunyan the Christian. London: HarperCollinsReligious, 1992. Perhaps the best commentary on the work, addressing stylistic, historical, social, and especially evangelical issues. Bibliographical references, index.
Categories: Places