The Alchemist - a Pilgrim's Progress

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  • Topic: The Pilgrim's Progress, John Bunyan, Slough of Despond
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  • Published : March 1, 2013
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INTRDUCTION

Allegory is a representation of an abstract or spiritual meaning through concrete or

material forms, figurative treatment of one subject under the guise of another. In other words

allegory is a story in words or prose, with double meaning. It has a primary or a surface

meaning and it has got a secondary or under the surface meaning. One of the best known

allegory in English language, is John Bunyan’s “The Pilgrim’s Progress”.

The Pilgrim’s Progress is an allegory of a Christian’s salvation. The most succinct

summary of the action in The Pilgrim’s Progress is probably the extended title of the work:

“The Pilgrim’s Progress from this World to that which is to Come: Delivered under a

Similitude of a Dream”. The novel contains life of Christian written in the manner of a man’s

journey from his native city, The City of Destruction to the Celestial City. The various people

that Christian meets, even the things that happen along the way are the allegorical

representation of the experience of a person who seeks for his eternal salvation. Christian is

any man who leaves everything of his old life behind and starts on his journey.

‘The Pilgrims Progress’ is a masterpiece by the Puritan writer John Bunyan. The work

renders personal and spiritual experience of his earlier work ‘Grace Abounding’ into the more

objective form of universal myths, where all Christians who seek the truth are embodied with

the figure of a solitary man pursuing his pilgrimage. John Bunyan was born in 1628 at Elstow

near Bedford. At a young age (1650 - 54) he went through a spiritual crisis for years. He was

very much attracted to puritan teachings. The spiritual crisis he under went is described in his

‘Grace Abounding’.

With the resolution to convert others and help them in their spiritual problem, Bunyan

joined the nonconformist church in Bedford, in 1653 where he came into contact with the

Quakers against whom he published his first writings, ‘Some Gospel Truths Opened’ (1656)

and ‘A Vindication’ (1657). In November 1660, he was arrested while preaching in the fields.

He refused to cease preaching and spent most of the next twelve years in Bedford goal. During

the first half of this period, he wrote nine books and among them were ‘The Holy City’ or ‘The

New Jerusalem’ (1665), which was inspired by a passage in the book of Revelation, and his

most well known book in this period, ‘Grace Abounding to the Chief of sinners’(1666). His

spiritual autobiography. During the latter years of his imprisonment, Bunyan also began the

‘Pilgrims Progress’, the work for which he is the most famous. In 1672, after his release from

prison, he became pastor of the Bedford separatist church, but was imprisoned again in 1676

for a shorter period of about six months during which he probably finished the first part of ‘The

Pilgrim’s Progress’, which was published in 1678.

The second part of ‘The pilgrim’s Progress’ was written six years after the first (1684)

and is really an independent work. It doesn’t consist any of the life and death struggles of the

first part. The work is not a forced sequel: it is a different book, a bursting social novel. The

interest has been shifted from the lonely epic of the individual to the problems of the small

urban community of nonconformist: problems of mixed marriages, the need for cohesion and

the difficulty certain members have (fearing, feeble mind) in fitting into the life of the church.

Here Bunyan has passed from an autobiographical first novel to an external, more calculated

subject.

The second part together with the whole work was published in 1684. John Bunyan’s

other works include ‘The Life and Death of Mr. Badman’ (1680) and ‘The Holy War’ (1682).

He died just when the period of religious persecution was coming to an end...
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