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Bunyan's Vanity Fair

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Bunyan’s Intentions in Vanity Fair As a devout Puritan, John Bunyan was heavily influenced by his religion throughout his life. This becomes extremely apparent upon reading his most notable work, Vanity Fair. Mr. Bunyan was not well educated. He was a man that lived an unprivileged lifestyle and he wanted to reach the common people in his message. This is why he wrote Vanity Fair as an allegory. Almost every event in the story has a meaning and each meaning leads back to Bunyan’s main purposes for writing this story. His message was that if you avoid vanity and sin in life and give yourself to God, you will be saved. However, he also makes claims against the Catholic Church in an attempt to drive people toward the message of Puritanism. Bunyan’s opening into Vanity Fair clearly shows his position against vanity. He described Beelzebub, Apolloyon, and Legion as the founders of the Fair and nothing that a demon starts will be viewed as good for mankind. He then describes what is sold at the fair, “houses, lands, trades, places, honors, preferments, titles, countries, kingdoms, lusts, pleasures, and delights of all sorts”,(534). All in all, Bunyan has described human longing and greed as well as condemning the Catholic Church and many countries for awarding positions of power in return for something, be it political favor or otherwise. As Bunyan goes further into describing the fair he depicts each row as a different country. Then he describes the fairs favorite commodity as “the ware of Rome”,(534) and that “her merchandise is greatly promoted in this fair”,(534). This is another condemnation of the Catholic Church. Bunyan is saying that the Catholic Church uses to ornate of cathedral and is too obsessed with money to help people live righteously. In this first section Bunyan has depicted the evils of vanity and the evils of the Catholic Church. The next thing Bunyan does is describe how a righteous person should behave when being tempted by vanity. He depicts Christ’s temptation in the wilderness as a trip to Vanity Fair and when Christ is tempted by Beelzebub he “left the town without laying so much as one farthing upon these vanities”,(535). Christian and Faithful, the two pilgrims in this story behave much the same way. When they first enter the Fair they are a strange sight to the fairgoers. They speak Hebrew, the language of the Promised Land, and dressed very differently. This indicates that they haven’t had many dealings with sin and have lived good lives. When they are asked what they will buy at the Fair they reply “We buy the truth”,(535). The fair goers are astounded by this and anger at Christian and faithful grows but they don’t give in to vanity. This is Bunyan’s view of what a good Christian should do when confronted with sin. The fairgoers take issue with the pairs answer and what follows is Bunyan’s beliefs on what a person should do if their faith is tested. After a heated exchange Christian and faithful are locked up in prison but they win men over to righteousness. For this they are put on trial to die. Each juror is made to represent a sinful behavior by Bunyan, such as Mr. Love-lust and Mr. Liar. Each of these jurors is biased against living righteously, such as in Mr. Live-loose’s condemnation of the Faithful, saying “Nor I, (could ever endure him) for he would always be condemning my way”,(537). Bunyan uses this to illustrate the nature of the sinful and to condemn the use of biased juries in the real world. After the trial, Faithful is tortured and then torched at the stake but because he was a good man he ascends to Heaven. Faithful could be considered a Christ figure because of the torture he endured and for dying for what he believed in. God then helps Christian escape from his prison and he goes on his way. Bunyan is saying to his Puritan counterparts that even if they are persecuted god will help them and they will rise to heaven for their godliness. In this text John Bunyan expresses his Puritan beliefs in an attempt to convert people to Puritanism and push away what he sees as a corrupt Catholic Church. He wants to encourage people to live for the glory of God. He does this by condemning vanity and hypocrisy in this story.

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