The narrator recalls that, in the First Part, Christian’s wife and children refused to join him on his pilgrimage. Some time after Christian’s story ended, the narrator happened to be near the City of Destruction once again. While sleeping in a nearby wood, he had another dream. In the dream, he was walking along with an old man named Mr. Sagacity. He asks Mr. Sagacity about Christian. Mr. Sagacity reports that Christian’s pilgrimage is admired nowadays, even though people called him a fool while he was alive. It’s even rumored that someday, the Prince of the Celestial City will come back and demand to know why Christian’s neighbors once mocked and mistreated him so, regarding these as insults to himself.
The narrator establishes the setting for the second part, returning to the City of Destruction and the widowed Christiana. (The novel doesn’t make it clear how much time has passed since Christian’s departure.) It turns out that, though Christian was mocked for going on pilgrimage, people’s perspective has since changed. In any case, the mockery of Christian will be avenged by God someday: insults to pilgrims are considered to be insults to Christ as well, because pilgrims are spiritually united to Christ.
The narrator asks about Christiana and her sons, and Mr. Sagacity explains that although they resisted Christian at first, they have since had second thoughts and followed him. He offers to tell their story. After Christian passed over the River of Death, Christiana grieved her loss. She also began to reconsider her unkindness toward her husband before he left. She began to feel guilty and to perceive that Christian was not mentally ill, but might actually have had light from God which she lacks. She and her sons weep together.
Christian’s death forced Christiana to rethink her attitude about his pilgrimage. She and her sons had initially mocked him for being foolish and irrational, but his perseverance and faith impress her, even though she is not yet a believer herself.
The next night, Christiana dreamed that she saw a record of all her sins and some hellish creatures plotting to deceive her. Later, she dreamed of Christian’s happiness in the Celestial City. The next morning, a man named Secret visits Christiana. Secret comes with assurance of God’s mercy toward Christiana if she repents, and his welcome if she chooses to follow Christian. He hands her a sweet-smelling letter written in gold, from the King of the Celestial City, urging her to do as her husband has done.
Christiana has a series of dreams contrasting Christian’s fate with her own possible fate. Then she receives a direct invitation from Heaven itself. Though Christian is the family’s first pilgrim and Christiana must follow in his footsteps, she also must do so by her own choice and through her own efforts. In other words, no pilgrim can complete their pilgrimage on another’s behalf.
Christiana eagerly begs Secret to take her and her children to the Celestial City, but he explains that, like Christian, she must pass through many troubles in order to reach it. He advises her to pass through the Wicket-gate, carrying the King’s letter with her. So Christiana gathers her sons and confesses her past hard-heartedness toward their father. She says they must prepare to follow Christian to the Celestial City. Christiana’s sons cry for joy and do as she says.
As the book has already shown, there is no shortcut to the Celestial City. Anyone who desires to follow Christ, in other words, must endure life’s sufferings instead of going straight to Heaven. Yet there’s only one authorized entrance to the pilgrim’s life: the Wicket-gate, or Christ himself.
Before Christiana leaves, two of her neighbors knock at the door. They are puzzled to hear her say, “If you come in God’s name, come in.” They enter and ask what Christiana is doing. Weeping, Christiana explains her journey to Mrs. Timorous (Timorous’s daughter) and begs her neighbors to come along. She reads them her letter. But Mrs. Timorous says this is madness, and she reminds Christiana of some of Christian’s hardships. If he had such a difficult time, then what will she, “a poor woman,” face?
Christiana’s neighbors aren’t accustomed to hearing her speak of God. One neighbor reacts poorly to her friend’s decision to go on pilgrimage, citing the common “worldly” objection that pilgrimage is dangerous. She also suggests that those dangers are more threatening for a woman, an assumption that will be challenged somewhat as the story goes on.
Christiana tells Mrs. Timorous to leave rather than tempting her. But the other neighbor, named Mercy, longs both to help Christiana and to consider her own soul’s well-being, so she stays. Mrs. Timorous, meanwhile, visits other neighbors and tells them about Christiana’s impending departure. One neighbor, Mrs. Bat’s-eyes, calls Christiana a fool for not heeding Christian’s struggles on his journey. Mrs. Inconsiderate hopes that Christiana will leave, because she will surely become a tiresome neighbor. Mrs. Light-mind tries to distract them all with gossip.
As she prepares to go on her pilgrimage, Christiana faces opposition just like her husband did, suggesting that this is the common lot of pilgrims, whether they’re men or women. In contrast to Mrs. Timorous and the other gossiping neighbors, though, Mercy (befitting her name) is sympathetic and concerned.
Meanwhile, Christiana begins her pilgrimage. She invites Mercy to come along as her companion and servant. Mercy is eager to comply but fears she won’t be accepted at the Wicket-gate. Christiana promises to make inquiries when they get there. So they set out together, though Mercy weeps for those left behind. Christiana says that God caused Christian’s tears to benefit her, so she trusts that Mercy’s tears will benefit her loved ones someday. Mercy sings as they go.
Not everyone’s journey starts the same way, as this passage illustrates. Though Christiana received a direct invitation, Mercy joins her primarily because of friendship; this, too, is considered to be a valid motivation. Pilgrims’ prayers and grief on behalf of their loved ones are considered to be powerful.