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October Books 17) Pilgrim's Progress

17) The Pilgrim's Progress From this World to that which is to come, by John Bunyan

Huckleberry Finn says of this book that "The statements was interesting, but tough", which I think is fair. Several things struck me - the unattractiveness of the main character, Christian, who wilfully abandons his family, and having lost his first travelling companion Faithful by gruesome means then becomes a know-all to his new friend Hopeful; the fact that the metaphors and allegory are about as subtle as a brick (actually, a brick is more subtle - perhaps "as subtle as a Vogon Constructor Fleet" is the simile I am looking for); the fact that when you think you're finished the book it then turns out that his wife Christiana and four sons are going to do the same journey; the repeated use of prisons (as Anne said, write about what you know) and capital punishment; and the fact that the main characters are happy to drink wine without threat of eternal damnation, something that many of the book's greatest fans today would probably disagree with.

I don't think many people actually do finish the book. Perhaps its most best known image is the Slough of Despond, which is actually described in less than a page in its first appearance (page 31 in my edition). Vanity Fair, while a great name for a town, seems to change out of all recognition between Christian's visit and Christiana's. And their children get married off with rather indecent haste.

Two final thoughts. First, the opening poem says some interesting and almost charming things about writing (as well as of course reflecting the writer's views on other matters); I think it's rather nice.
When at the first I took my pen in hand
Thus for to write, I did not understand
That I at all should make a little book
In such a mode; nay, I had undertook
To make another; which, when almost done,
Before I was aware, I this begun.

[...]

Well, so I did; but yet I did not think
To shew to all the world my pen and ink
In such a mode; I only thought to make
I knew not what; nor did I undertake
Thereby to please my neighbour: no, not I;
I did it my own self to gratify.
And my second, much naughtier final thought is this: I kept on reading the dialogues between Christian and Hopeful/Faithful, and wondering what a skilled fic-writer like daegaer or cygny or aramuin could make of that relationship. Ladies, if any of you chooses to try this one, I look forward to finding out...

Comments

( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
communicator
Oct. 26th, 2004 11:20 am (UTC)
nor did I undertake
Thereby to please my neighbour: no, not I;
I did it my own self to gratify


Suddenly I like him much more
aramuin
Oct. 26th, 2004 01:35 pm (UTC)
Where would such a book be listed?
nwhyte
Oct. 26th, 2004 09:15 pm (UTC)
No urgency - but it's one of the "great classics" of English Literature, so should be readily available, eg here.
aramuin
Oct. 28th, 2004 03:17 pm (UTC)
Be careful what you wish for, you might regret it.
Be careful what you wish for, you might get it
cygny
Oct. 26th, 2004 02:59 pm (UTC)
I second Alarielle's question. Where could we find this book, so we can get inspired ;) Although with November coming up, it won't be before December surely.
nwhyte
Oct. 26th, 2004 09:15 pm (UTC)
No urgency - but it's one of the "great classics" of English Literature, so should be readily available, eg here.
(Anonymous)
Aug. 8th, 2006 04:08 pm (UTC)
abandonment
Nicholas:
I was just reading your post, and thought the following observation might be worthwhile: Christian doesn't willfully abandon his family, because the road that he "leaves home" to travel is not a physical road going to some other geographic location; it's his life on his way to heaven. Hence the idea is not that he willfully abandons his family; rather, it is that the very fact that he is now a Christian has set him (willy-nilly) on a different "path"--one that they cannot (presently) share because they are not Christians.

Best wishes,
Cameron Riviere
Pittsburgh, Pa.
camr@ri.cmu.edu
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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