The Pilgrim's Progress

Rating: -

John Bunyan

This book falls in the category of something that I felt I ought to read, so I bought it used and had it staring at me, making me guilty for years before I got around to read it. I finally picked it up in a bout of insomnia, thinking that at worst it might help me fall asleep. Insomnia won out, and I read the whole thing, and I rather wish I hadn't bothered. The book is an allegory for a Christian's path to salvation - literally, it is about the Christian's journey to the City of Zion. The allegory is anything but subtle.

I'm not a big fan of Christian allegories to start with, but I figured I'd try to suspend that reading this book (after all, I liked the Narnia series a lot). But this book is awful. It's badly written. When there is dialog, the speaker is indicated by their name being given at the front of the line like in a play, but the line will also end with something like "Christian said." That was really distracting. There is no need to think about what Bunyan is trying to communicate with his characters; there isn't a lot to wonder about what he thinks of a character called "Hypocrisy" or a place called "Doubting Castle"....

The book was written in two parts. The first half is about Christian's journey to Celestial Country. He meets with people who try to lead him astray, the journey is difficult, and at least some of the major moral pitfalls that people run into are covered. The second half is about his wife, Christiana, and his sons following after him. Very little happens. Christiana follows because she realizes that she should not have abandoned her husband. She's become a good wife, so she gets an escort and her major activities along the way are teaching her sons how to be good Christians and then finding them wives. She isn't really faced with any moral dilemmas; once she decided to follow her husband, she just goes and has a collection of male escorts who deal with all of the difficulties for her. I know, I can't expect much better than that, given the time period, but it still make me grumpy.

About the only cool thing was that it was written back in the mid-1600s and the author kept getting thrown in jail for criticizing the church. Both half of the books start with a big author's preface justifying him actually writing fiction and arguing why this isn't a sinful and blasphemous act. It's too bad that there wasn't more to the stories that he was getting into so much trouble for writing.

This book gets a definite '-' from me. I have no idea how it could be so popular. And I think less well of Little Women, now that I know what the book that the girls kept pretending to be in had in it.


Review written February 2000.


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