The Pilgrim’s Progress

The Pilgrim’s Progress

by

John Bunyan

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Pilgrim’s Progress can help.

The Pilgrim’s Progress: Part 2: At the Porter’s House Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Next the group arrives at the Porter’s Lodge, and though the women and the youngest son, James, beg Great-heart to stay with them, he must return to his Lord for the night. He will return to them if he can. Meanwhile, the porter, Mr. Watchful, invites them inside, and a girl named Humble-mind shares the joyful news that Christian’s wife has arrived. The rest of Humble-mind’s family gathers around to greet them. After supper and prayer, Christiana and Mercy are housed in Christian’s old room, and they hear joyful music as they fall asleep.
The Lord wants his people to ask him for their needs, showing their constant dependence on him; this is why Great-heart goes away and must be summoned again later.The Porter’s House, meanwhile, is a foretaste of Heaven, a place where pilgrims can be refreshed in the company of fellow believers.
Themes
Obstacles on the Journey Theme Icon
Women as Pilgrims Theme Icon
The next morning, Christiana says that Mercy laughed in her sleep last night. Mercy shares her dream. In it, she was grieving her hardness of heart, while others mocked her. Then, an angel comforted her and led her to a golden gate. Within, Mercy was welcomed by a man on a throne, and she thought she saw Christian there. Christiana agrees that this was a good and true dream, and that God can speak to the heart even when a person is asleep.
Bunyan seems to place a lot of stock in dreams as meaningful in the course of the Christian life. Not only is the story told through the framing device of dreams, but characters receive confirmation of their spiritual state through dreams—like Mercy’s joy in this case.
Themes
The Burden of Sin and Salvation through Christ Theme Icon
Women as Pilgrims Theme Icon
After Christiana and Mercy get up, the women of the house, Prudence, Piety, and Charity, invite them to stay at the Porter’s Lodge for a while. They agree, staying there for about a month. Prudence wants to see how Christiana has raised her sons, so she asks permission to catechize the boys. Christiana agrees, so Prudence begins with the youngest, James.
The women receive more noteworthy hospitality than Christian did. Notably, too, this extended stay isn’t just for leisure’s sake—it’s for the sake of spiritual instruction. Catechisms are religious teaching tools in a call-and-response form that were especially important in the Protestant communities of Bunyan’s day.
Themes
Women as Pilgrims Theme Icon
Prudence asks James who created him and who saves him. James answers both these questions by naming “God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost.” Prudence also asks him how each person of the Trinity contributes to his salvation. When James again answers correctly, Prudence commends Christiana for teaching her children so well.
Catechisms are question-and-answer documents that train students to memorize basic doctrines. James’s success in answering these questions reflects well on Christiana, reflecting the important role of mothers are religious teachers in Bunyan’s day.
Themes
The Burden of Sin and Salvation through Christ Theme Icon
Women as Pilgrims Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Get the entire The Pilgrim’s Progress LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Pilgrim’s Progress PDF
Prudence next catechizes the second youngest, Joseph, asking him questions about human nature, what salvation is, and how it occurs. Then she catechizes Samuel, asking him about Heaven and Hell. Finally, she catechizes the eldest, Matthew, asking him questions about God’s nature, the Bible, and the resurrection of the dead. Pleased with the results, Prudence exhorts the boys to continue learning from their mother and also to study the Bible for themselves.
Each of Christiana’s four sons is catechized, and each successfully demonstrates his sound spiritual upbringing. Prudence also emphasizes that memorizing catechism questions is just a beginning; the boys should begin to take responsibility for their own spiritual studies.
Themes
The Centrality of the Bible Theme Icon
Women as Pilgrims Theme Icon
About a week after the pilgrims first arrived at the Porter’s, a suitor named Mr. Brisk begins visiting Mercy. Mr. Brisk is well-to-do and pretends to be religious, but he cares more about the world than spiritual matters. For her part, Mercy spends most of her time making clothes for the poor. At first, this makes Mr. Brisk think Mercy would make a good housewife. But Mercy finds out that Mr. Brisk isn’t religious, and she loses interest in him.
Mercy’s name reflects what’s most important to her: caring for others. This value is a deterrent to Mercy’s potential suitor, who selfishly hopes that Mercy would spend her time caring for him. The portrayal of Mercy suggests that, in Bunyan’s view, women should be concerned about spiritual duties and not just marriage opportunities.
Themes
The World vs. Christianity Theme Icon
Women as Pilgrims Theme Icon
The next time Mr. Brisk comes to visit and discovers that Mercy spends all her time making clothes for the poor, he is disappointed and decides that she wouldn’t make a good wife after all. In fact, he even tells others that though Mercy is pretty, she is a troubled person. Mercy is unbothered by this. She tells Prudence that she might have been married before now, but that men don’t like her preoccupation with the poor. Since it’s her nature to care for the poor, she is content to die unmarried.
Even when Mr. Brisk spreads unkind rumors about Mercy, she takes the rejection in stride. She is content in her calling to care for the poor, and marriage is a secondary consideration. Again, this suggests that according to Bunyan, women should make their duties to God their primary focus in life—not marriage.
Themes
The World vs. Christianity Theme Icon
Women as Pilgrims Theme Icon