In my last few posts I have discussed two of the three questions that must be answered to better understand the narrative of the book. These two questions are: 1) the importance of the burden on Christian’s back and 2) the “roll” or certificate that he receives and safeguards until relinquishing it at the threshold of happiness.
The third critical question to be answered is: Why did Bunyan break the novel into two parts, the first part regarding Christian, and the second part involving his wife and children. There are two reasons for this bifurcation. Let’s discuss the first reason in this post.
Upon first reading the novel, most readers are shocked that Christian would leave his wife and children to seek his own happiness. And Christian does just that. But Christian is simply following the road to happiness outlined in my book. As mentioned in my book, both Aristotle and Aquinas, two great philosophers, teach that we all seek after our own happiness. And fortunately for Christian’s family and neighbors, he does just that. He seeks after his own happiness.
His search for happiness is his boon or gift to his family and neighbors. He shows them the way to happiness, both in this life as well as the next. His family follows in his footsteps and, without great effort, reaches the same happiness as that of Christian.
By leaving for the pilgrimage, and with the help of the cardinal virtues and the graces of Faith and Hope, Christian reaches happiness in this life as well as the next. This pilgrimage to happiness is his boon, or certificate, which is made available to others who which to use it. And Christiana and her children do use it and with great success.
By breaking the novel into two parts, Bunyan utilizes great artistic creativity to present the importance of seeking one’s own happiness and, if successful, the flourishing of family and friends. While Christian’s leaving of his family to find his own happiness may seem narcissistic, it is just the opposite. It is a noble gesture that aids in moving his family and society closer to happiness.
This is a very revealing message and one that is missed by most readers and critics.
More to come!