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The Pilgrim's Progress from This World to That Which Is to Come by John Bunyan (published 1678) is an allegorical novel. Bunyan wrote this book while imprisoned in 1675 for violations of the Conventicle Act which punished people for conducting unauthorised religious services outside of the Church of England. An expanded edition, with additions written after Bunyan was freed, appeared in 1679. The allegory tells of Christian, an Everyman character who must make his way from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City of Zion. During his travel, he must make his way past hazards such as the Slough of Despond, temptations like Vanity Fair, and foes like the Giant Despair. Due to the long popularity of this devotional book, many of these phrases have become proverbial in English. In a second book, his wife and children, who once denounced his ideas, follow his path to the Celestial City.
The allegory of this book has antecedents in a large number of Christian devotional works that speak of the soul's path to Heaven, from the Lyke-Wake Dirge forwards. Bunyan's allegory stands out above his predecessors because of his simple and effective, if somewhat naïve, prose style, steeped in Biblical texts and cadences. He confesses his own naïveté in the verse prologue to the book:
- . . . I did not think
To shew to all the World my Pen and Ink
In such a mode; I only thought to make
I knew not what: nor did I undertake
Thereby to please my Neighbour; no not I;
I did it mine own self to gratifie.
Its explicitly Protestant theology also made it much more popular than its predecessors. Finally, Bunyan's gifts and plain style breathe life into the abstractions of the anthropomorphized temptations and abstractions Christian encounters and converses with on his course to Heaven. Samuel Johnson said that "this is the great merit of the book, that the most cultivated man cannot find anything to praise more highly, and the child knows nothing more amusing." Three years after its publication, it was reprinted in colonial America, and was widely read in the Puritan colonies.
The book was the basis of an opera by Ralph Vaughan Williams, premiered in 1951; see The Pilgrim's Progress (opera) .
Online Editions The original non wiki text available online below - Piligrims Progress
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