The Bible is the most-read book in the world. It is the the one book that has sold more copies than any other book. It is the one book that has been cherished for centuries by people all over the world. And John Bunyan's book The Pilgrim's Progress, published in February 1678, comes in second. Within the first ten years of its publication, it was translated into at least ten different languages and had been revised/edited numerous times. It was the most loved book next to the Bible for decades. And for some, it still is. But for me, not so much.
The Pilgrim's Progress is categorized as speculative fiction. But it is most easily categorized as an allegory. It was written in old English and translated into over 200 languages and has never been out of print. So what is it that makes this such a loved, popular piece of literature? Is it the poetic writing style? Is it the allegory genre? Is it the strong connections to and use of Scripture? Is it the storyline? Is it the characters? What is it? I'm just not sure.
John Bunyan writes his story as though he was in a dream. He tells the story of Christian and later of Christiana (Christian's wife). There are two journeys making up two parts/editions of the book telling the story of these two characters as they journey to the Celestial City (heaven). The journeys include hardships that are pictures of the Christian life. Hardships such as people to discourage you (Obstinate and Giant Despair), places to distract you (Slough of Despond and Vanity Fair), evils to scare you (lions and giants) and even beatings, imprisonments and deaths to stop you from following the Way. But there are also good blessings that find their way into the journey. Blessings such as scrolls and messages to remind you of the Good King, faithful people to walk the journey with you (Faithful and Hopeful), places of rest and encouragement so you can keep going (Palace Beautiful). The whole story was focused on this journey. The journey from a life of evil, sin, darkness and destruction to a life of joy, freedom, light and life.
While I (like many readers before me) loved the idea behind the story, the idea and images of what it means to live a Christian life, it was so hard to read at times. The old English. The allegory genre. The poetry added at different points. The constant movement. It was hard to keep track of the story. Especially because the copy I was reading wasn't broken up into chapters or small sections. It was just the first part (Christian's journey) and the second part (Christiana's journey). Because of that I felt like I had to just sit and read it without taking a break. There were no clear breaks or good places to stop to take a break without losing track of some of the details. I read it in a little less than a week (5 days I think) and I was glad when I finished it. Not just because I could say that I had read Bunyan's most popular work, but also because I had actually finished it.
I am proud to say that it was Classic #10 of 70 from my Classics Club list. And while it wasn't my favorite, it was definitely worth it. Especially since it gave me a glimpse into why it has been so loved and cherished the last 300+ years. I am now moving onto some Jane Austen books and am looking forward to that since she is definitely on my list of top 5 favorite authors.
So for now... I am out of here and going back to my books.