BOOKS: Pilgrim's Progress

I first heard of this book while reading Little Women. I thought it sounded really interesting, so I bought a copy today.
I was just wondering if anyone here has read it and what their opinions are on the book.


I love it so much that several years ago, I wrote a musical based on this book, and produced it with a 48 member children’s choir. I’m sure that compared with Andrew Lloyd Webber and Rodgers and Hammerstein, my musical stinks, but the kids loved it and learned so much. I remember during one of the rehearsals, some of the younger children were goofing around, and two of the older boys (5th graders) said, “Hey, stop goofing around! This stuff is serious!” Heartwarming moment for me and the other adults present at the time.

I am blown away by your post, because JUST THIS MORNING, someone sent me some information about a musical festival in New York City that accepts and produces 12 new musicals every fall, and I am considering getting out my old PP musical, tightening it up, and sending it off for next year’s competition! Maybe your post is a sign that I should do it!

**Anyway, you should be aware that John Bunyan was extremely anti-Catholic, and this does come out in the book. But it is a very minimal part of the book, and it certainly doesn’t diminish the overall good that the book offers to the reader. **

Also be aware that he wrote this book while he was in prison (for preaching without a license). He was so trusted by the jailors that he was allowed to leave at night and go home to his wife and children, and every morning he would return to prison and be locked up again.

One of his daughters was dying, and he wrote the stories of Pilgrim’s Progress to comfort and amuse her as she lay ill. He worked on the stories during the day while he was in prison, and read them to her at night when he went home.

So Pilgrim’s Progress is a CHILDREN’S story. Therefore it would be improper to use it to teach heavy-duty theology. It is an allegory, much like The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. However, because it was written centuries earlier (1628-1688), the language is more archaic and difficult for most modern children to understand.

There is a sequel to Pilgrim’s Progress that tells the story of Christiana, Christian’s wife. It is very similiar to the first book.

I read PP several times as a Protestant, and I love it even more now that I am Catholic because it makes the concept of a “journey” to heaven REAL. That’s what PP is all about --Christian’s “pilgrimage” to heaven.

Along the way on his journey, he meets all kinds of obstacles that are personified as people; e.g., Obstinate and Pliable, Worldly Wisemen, Legality and Civility, Simple, Sloth, and Presumption, etc. Yes, they all sound like comedy teams, don’t they?

As you know from reading Little Women, his most fiercesome foe is Apollyon and the hobgoblins, whom he battles.

He also meets good people, such as the Shining Ones (another Alcottism–remember when Beth dies?), Goodwill, Watchful, Discretion, Prudence, Piety, and Charity, and of course, his dearest friend, Faithful (yet ANOTHER Alcottism–remember the chapter called “Little Faithful?”).

He also passes through many places: The City of Destruction, the Slough of Despond, The Hill of Difficulty, The Valley of Humiliation, the Vanity Fair, and of course, the good places: The Wall of Salvation, the Palace Beautiful, and the Celestial City.

You will recognize all these names from Little Women. Alcott brilliantly uses PP in her March Family Trilogy–make sure you read Little Men and Jo’s Boys, where she carries through the PP themes.

(In case you’re wondering, my musical uses the same Little Women setting for PP.)

The analogies are wonderful–you will recognize your own struggles in many of the stories. I especially like Legality and Civility! Every Christian who reads this book will find themselves walking along the same road with Christian.

Again, just ignore the few anti-Catholicisms in the book. Remember the times when John Bunyan lived–Puritanism was at its height, and he was a Puritan of Puritans. He was following his conscience. Google his name and Catholic, and you can read all kinds of not-so-good stuff about Bunyan and his anti-Catholicism. But this does NOT negate the goodness that is Pilgrim’s Progress.

I recommend that tyou don’t buy a “modern” version. The old version is not that difficult to understand. If you were able to understand Little Women, you will have no trouble with Pilgrim’s Progress.

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I agree with Cat, (and Cat, I think you ought to send your musical to New York too).:thumbsup: (or somewhere where we can all hear it).
Pilgrim’s Progress was a required read when I was in a Catholic High School many moons ago. You’ll love it.

I’ve just been rereading it because I participated in a dramatic version of it (selected scenes from Part 2, to be precise) this past weekend. The occasion was a conference in honor of C. S. Lewis and related writers. One of those related writers was George MacDonald, a 19th-century writer whose family performed Pilgrim’s Progress to earn money. The version that they performed (adapted by George’s wife Louisa), is still in existence, and a MacDonald scholar from England directed several of us in a “Reader’s Theater” performance of it. I got the part of “Mr. Brisk,” whom I barely remembered from the book, so I decided that I should reread the book since clearly my memory of it was faint! (Turns out that it wasn’t entirely my fault–the scene was considerably expanded from the brief mention in the book.)

I agree that while Bunyan was anti-Catholic, modern Catholics can actually get a lot out of the book. I think the group most likely to be disturbed by it are comfortable, lukewarm Christians of any sort (it certainly disturbs those aspects of me!). And hey, dissenters like Bunyan were being persecuted by the Church of England, just as Catholics were!


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