Third Companion Book: The Pilgrim’s Progress (Part 6)

In my last post, I discussed one of the two main reasons that the author, John Bunyan, divided his novel into two parts.  The first reason mentioned was to highlight the benefits to society of individuals pursuing their own happiness.  By Christian leaving his family and friends for his pilgrimage to happiness (in this life and the next), he was able to secure the boon of his quest to be used by others.  It was this seemingly narcissistic pilgrimage that was anything but narcissistic: Christian drew upon his innate cardinal virtues and the graces of God to secure the gift for future use by his family and neighbors.  It was this gift of the correct path to happiness that Christian fought hard to secure for others.

The other main reason for the novel to be divided into two parts was to illustrate that eternal happiness can be found along two paths: the path followed by Christian, and the path followed by his wife and children.

Christian’s eternal happiness was achieved with the help of Faith and Hope.  In fact, both graces are personified in the characters of Faithful and Hopeful.  He loses his burden through Faith, enabling him to begin traveling along the road to happiness.  He is presented with his “roll” or certificate as encouragement for the travel, with the assistance of Hopeful to fight the many battles to secure the boon and reach the threshold of happiness.  It is the love of God at the threshold that welcomes Christian, with his certificate redeemed, to eternal happiness.

Christiana and her children achieve eternal happiness primarily through the grace of Charity.  It is both the charity towards others that she and her children meet along the pilgrimage as well as the charity shown to her and her children by others that are the hallmark of Part 2.  Christiana knew that her husband held the cardinal virtues to find happiness in this life and would surely find the faith and hope to reach happiness in the next life.  She had little doubt about her own pilgrimage since she was following in her husband’s own footsteps and would eventually be with him in Heaven.  Christian had fought the many battles to secure the gift of the correct path to salvation.

The separation of the novel into two parts highlights the roles of the virtues and graces in achieving happiness.  The cardinal virtues gave Christian the strength and guidance to find happiness in this life (presentation of the boon) only to be surpassed by happiness in the next life secured with the graces of Faith and Hope.  However, it is through the grace of Charity that Christiana and her children find happiness in the next life.

The cardinal virtues provide happiness in this life for Christian allowing him to pass along the boon he secured for use by his wife and family.  The graces of Faith and Hope aided Christian in finding happiness in this life as well as the surpassing perfection of the next life.  It was the grace of Charity alone that allowed Christiana and her children to reach eternal happiness with Christian.

There is a reason that this novel has never been out of print for the past 350 years.  Its great gift to all readers is the creativity to express achieving happiness in this life and well as happiness in the next life with memorable artistic elegance.

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