The Pilgrim’s Progress

The Pilgrim’s Progress

by

John Bunyan

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The Pilgrim’s Progress: Part 1: Hill Difficulty and Palace Beautiful Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Christian comes to the Hill Difficulty. The narrow way proceeds directly over it; at its base, other paths diverge to the hill’s right and left, named Danger and Destruction. Christian refreshes himself at a spring and then climbs the hill. Formality and Hypocrisy take the other paths, assuming these routes are easier and are bound for the same place. Neither is seen again.
As Christian was warned, the narrow way crosses paths with tempting divergent paths. These paths might appear to be easier, but this is a deception. Formalist and Hypocrisy don’t hesitate to take the easier-looking paths—their lack of discernment hints that they’re not genuine pilgrims to begin with.
Themes
Obstacles on the Journey Theme Icon
Christian scrambles up the Hill Difficulty on his hands and knees. Halfway up, he stops at an Arbor which the Lord of the Hill has placed there for travelers’ refreshment. While there, he studies his roll and admires the garment that was given to him at the Cross. Soon, he falls asleep. While he’s sleeping, his roll falls from his hand. After being wakened by the words, “Go to the Ant, thou sluggard,” Christian jumps up and hurries on his way.
God builds opportunities for rest into a pilgrim’s route, suggesting his kindness. However, it’s still the pilgrim’s responsibility to stay alert to danger. When Christian falls asleep, he loses the symbol of his assurance of salvation. The quote “Go to the ant” is from the biblical Book of Proverbs, contrasting the slothful person with the industrious insect.
Themes
Obstacles on the Journey Theme Icon
The Centrality of the Bible Theme Icon
At the top of the Hill Difficulty, Christian encounters two men named Timorous and Mistrust, running in the opposite direction. They explain that they encountered a couple of lions blocking their way and immediately fled back in fear. The two men continue down the hill, but Christian decides that certain death lies that way, whereas the way forward promises eternal life. As he continues forward, he fumbles for his roll but is distressed to discover it missing. Sorrowfully, he retraces his steps to the spot where he’d fallen asleep. He chides himself for napping instead of just pausing for rest; his failure has made his journey longer and more difficult.
Christian is committed to reaching the Celestial City—to such a degree that even if he must face down lions, he won’t be turned aside from his path. However, the loss of his roll, which has given him a lot of reassurance until now, symbolizes the loss of confidence in God’s promised salvation. This loss forces Christian to retrace his steps, wasting time and energy. In other words, a Christian’s loss of assurance results in needless stagnation and hardship.
Themes
The Burden of Sin and Salvation through Christ Theme Icon
Obstacles on the Journey Theme Icon
Christian finds his roll where he’d left it, thanks God, and heads back up the hill joyfully and quickly. However, it’s getting dark. Just as he is beginning to worry about the lions he’d been warned about, Christian looks up and sees the Palace Beautiful beside the road in the distance. He also sees two lions in his path and doesn’t realize they are chained. The Porter of the Palace’s lodge spots Christian and shouts encouragement, promising him that the lions are there to test people’s faith, and that as long as he stays in the middle of the path, he’ll come to no harm.
Rediscovering his roll, or assurance in God’s promised salvation, makes Christian’s journey faster and easier. Even when faced with the lions, he discovers that they are not the threat he had feared—suggesting that an obstacle’s first appearance is sometimes more ominous than its reality, so a pilgrim must persevere.
Themes
Obstacles on the Journey Theme Icon
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Christian obeys the Porter, and though the lions roar at him, they don’t hurt him. Reaching the Palace, he identifies himself to the Porter and explains why he’s arriving after sundown. The Porter summons a beautiful girl named Discretion to decide if Christian is welcome or not. After interviewing Christian, Discretion invites him inside to meet other members of her family. Three girls named Piety, Prudence, and Charity talk with Christian while they await supper.
Christian is welcomed to another place of rest and refreshment on his journey. He also finds the company of figures representing religious virtues (piety is religious reverence, prudence is good judgment, and charity is love). Implicitly, the girls’ characteristics will strength Christian for his journey.
Themes
Obstacles on the Journey Theme Icon
Piety asks Christian why he became a pilgrim, and Christian explains how he fled his city’s destruction and found his way to the Wicket-gate with Evangelist’s help. He also talks about the wonderful things he saw at the Interpreter’s House and the loss of his burden at the Cross.
Christian recounts his journey thus far, proving the audience with a chance to review the important stages and spiritual lessons up to this point.
Themes
The Burden of Sin and Salvation through Christ Theme Icon
Obstacles on the Journey Theme Icon
After Christian finishes describing his journey thus far, Prudence asks him if he ever misses his home country or thinks about what he left behind. Christian replies that remembering his past only brings him grief. However, when he thinks about the Cross, or his garment, or his roll, former things don’t trouble him. He further explains that he is journeying to Mount Zion so that he can be rid of his remaining grief and live with Christ and with others who worship Christ.
Bunyan isn’t literally suggesting that a Christian will sever all attachments with their earlier life. Instead, he is making another contrast between the concerns of the Christian and those of the world, which are ultimately incompatible. And when a Christian is troubled by worldly attachments, reminders of Heaven should help them refocus.
Themes
The World vs. Christianity Theme Icon
Obstacles on the Journey Theme Icon
Then Charity asks Christian about his family. Christian weeps as he recalls his wife and four children, who mocked Christian’s fears and refused to come with him. During supper, Christian and his companions at the Palace talk about the Lord of the Hill, a “great warrior” who out of love for pilgrims shed his blood and vanquished the power of death. Christian sleeps peacefully that night.
Though Christian understands the priority of Heaven over the world (showing his prudence, or good judgment), he still cares about those left behind (showing his charity, or love). Bunyan likens Christ to a self-sacrificing warrior who has power over the ultimate enemy of death.
Themes
The Burden of Sin and Salvation through Christ Theme Icon
The World vs. Christianity Theme Icon
Before Christian leaves the Palace, he is shown some “rarities” kept there. These include ancient records of the Lord’s lineage; more complete records of his acts; and lists of his servants and their deeds. The day after that, Christian is taken into an armory, where he is shown various items from Bible stories, such as the sling and stone with which David slew Goliath. When it’s finally time for Christian to leave, his companions show him the Delectable Mountains in the distance, and they outfit him with a sword and armor. The Porter tells Christian that Faithful, who’s also from the City of Destruction, has just passed by.
The Palace “rarities” are documents of the lives of Christ and his followers, presumably expanding on those in the Bible. These, and the biblical artifacts, remind Christian that he is part of the biblical lineage, too, carrying on an ancient story through his pilgrimage. The Delectable Mountains were probably inspired by the Chiltern Hills of Bunyan’s native Bedfordshire.
Themes
The Centrality of the Bible Theme Icon
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