Cover image for The pilgrim's progress
The pilgrim's progress
Bunyan, John, 1628-1688.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York, N.Y., U.S.A. : Signet Classic, 1981.
Physical Description:
300 pages ; 18 cm
General Note:
"A Signet classic."
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PR3330 .A1 1981 Adult Mass Market Paperback Reading List

On Order



Too often, Wallace Hettle points out, studies of politics in the nineteenth-century South reinforce a view of the Democratic Party that is frozen in time on the eve of Fort Sumter--a deceptively high point of white racial solidarity. Avoiding such a "Civil War synthesis," The Peculiar Democracy illuminates the link between the Jacksonian political culture that dominated antebellum debate and the notorious infighting of the Confederacy. Hettle shows that war was the greatest test of populist Democratic Party rhetoric that emphasized the shared interests of white men, slaveholder and nonslaveholder alike.

The Peculiar Democracy analyzes antebellum politics in terms of the connections between slavery, manhood, and the legacies of Jefferson and Jackson. It then looks at the secession crisis through the anxieties felt by Democratic politicians who claimed concern for the interests of both slaveholders and nonslaveholders. At the heart of the book is a collective biography of five individuals whose stories highlight the limitations of democratic political culture in a society dominated by the "peculiar institution." Through narratives informed by recent scholarship on gender, honor, class, and the law, Hettle profiles South Carolina's Francis W. Pickens, Georgia's Joseph Brown, Alabama's Jeremiah Clemens, Virginia's John Rutherfoord, and Mississippi's Jefferson Davis.

The Civil War stories presented in The Peculiar Democracy illuminate the political and sometimes personal tragedy of men torn between a political culture based on egalitarian rhetoric and the wartime imperatives to defend slavery.

Author Notes

John Bunyan was born in Elstow, Bedfordshire, England, in 1628. He learned to read and write at the village school and was prepared to follow his father's trade as a brazier when the English Civil War broke out in 1644 and he was drafted into the Parliamentary army. His military service brought him into contact with Oliver Cromwell's Puritan troops.

Beginning in 1648, Bunyan suffered a crisis in religious faith that lasted for several years. He turned to the Nonconformist church in Bedford to sustain him during this period. His first writings were attacks against the Quakers. Then Charles II was restored to the throne and Bunyan was arrested for conducting services not in accordance with the Church of England. He spent 12 years in jail. During this time, he wrote his autobiography, Grace Abounding, in which he described his spiritual struggle and growth.

During his last years in prison, Bunyan began his most famous work, The Pilgrim's Progress, a two-part allegorical tale of the character Christian and his journey to salvation. Part I was published in 1678 and Part II in 1684. The second part deals with the spiritual journey of Christian's wife and sons, as they follow in his footsteps. With its elements of the folktale tradition, The Pilgrim's Progress became popular immediately. Well into the nineteenth century it was a book known to almost every reader in England and New England, second in importance only to the Bible. So great was the book's influence that it even plays a major role in Little Woman by Louisa May Alcott. Such expressions as "the slough of despond" and "vanity fair" have become part of the English language.

Bunyan's other works include The Life and Death of Mr. Badman and The Holy War. He also wrote A Book for Boys and Girls, verses on religious faith for children.

Bunyan died in London on August 31, 1688.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 1

Library Journal Review

In this classic work of allegorical fiction, Christian, a man-or possibly Everyman-battles his way to heaven. The path is strenuous, strewn with both mental temptations and physical struggles. Later, his wife and children follow a similar, although slightly gentler, path. As in Dante's earlier and better known Divine Comedy, the road to heaven described here is both physical and mental, even though Bunyan's Protestant path and language are far more austere than those found in Dante's lush, Catholic work. David Shaw-Parker gives a wonderfully expressive reading of a text that is somewhat complex and archaic to the modern ear. verdict Recommended for individuals with a strong interest in important, pre-19th-century literary classics, allegories, or epics.-I. Pour-El, Ames Jewish Congregation, IA (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



From David Hawkes's Introduction to The Pilgrim's Progress To understand fully The Pilgrim's Progress , we must remember that it was written in prison. Imprisonment is its major theme, and escape from prison is its primary purpose. Although Bunyan was without a doubt incarcerated in the literal, physical sense while he composed his work, he did not believe that he was truly in jail. He was convinced that, as Richard Lovelace had written in "To Althea, from Prison" (1642), "Stone walls do not a prison make, / Nor iron bars a cage," and Bunyan echoed the sentiment in his own "Prison Meditations" (1665; quoted from The Works of John Bunyan , edited by George Offor, vol. 1, p. 64; see "For Further Reading"): I am, indeed, in prison now In body, but my mind Is free to study Christ, and how Unto me he is kind. For though men keep my outward man Within their locks and bars, Yet by the faith of Christ I can Mount higher than the stars. As far as Bunyan was concerned, the real prisoners were outside the walls, in the world. The Pilgrim's Progress aims to establish two deeply counterintuitive propositions: that its author is not in jail, and that its readers are. But while Bunyan argues that the world is the prison of the soul, he also offers us a way to escape from the world. The book's subtitle, From This World to That Which Is to Come , indicates our ultimate destination, but the world "to come" is to be reached by a way not measurable in space or time. The pilgrim's progress is not a literal journey along a physical road, but an exercise in semiotics: a reinterpretation of the world. As Stanley Fish puts it, Bunyan's work teaches us that "the truth about the world is not to be found within its own confines or configurations, but from the vantage point of a perspective that transforms it" ( Self-consuming Artifacts , p. 237). In the course of his journey the hero, named Christian, learns to understand the world as an allegory. He comes to perceive his experience as a series of signs that point toward nonmaterial, spiritual referents, and this constitutes his liberation. But before he can escape from prison, he must become aware that he is in one. The progress toward an allegorical interpretation of reality is simultaneously a process of alienation from the mundane world of experience. The Pilgrim's Progress shows us a man who becomes a stranger to the world, to the extent of rejecting empirical sense perception, as well as the laws, morality, and behavioral standards of society. The first lesson Christian learns after his conversion is that "Mr. Worldly Wiseman is an alien." Allegory has often been described as a suitable mode to represent the alienated, objectified character of worldly experience. This line of reasoning originates with Walter Benjamin's seminal analysis of the genre in The Origin of German Tragic Drama (1928). Benjamin argues that allegory's purpose is to teach us that the experiential world--the "carnal" or "fleshly" dimension, in Bunyan's terms--is fallen into a disharmonious relation with its Creator: "Allegory itself was sown by Christianity. For it was absolutely decisive for this mode of thought that not only transitoriness, but also guilt should seem evidently to have its home in the province of idols and of the flesh" (p. 224). Plato had argued that, because the material world is transitory, it is also illusory, and to take empirical appearances for reality thus constitutes a philosophical error. But Christianity introduced an ethical dimension to this argument. From the Christian perspective, taking appearances for reality is not only erroneous, but also sinful, and in The Pilgrim's Progress , understanding this fact is the first step on the way to redemption. This is a paradoxical operation, however, for the process of understanding that creation is alienated from the Creator simultaneously involves the recognition of another, spiritual, realm to which the carnal world points the way. Excerpted from The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrationsp. xi
Introductionp. xiii
Note on the Textp. xxxix
Select Bibliographyp. xliv
Chronology of Bunyan's Life and Timesp. 1
The Pilgrim's Progress: The First Partp. 1
The Pilgrim's Progress: The Second Partp. 157
Explanatory Notesp. 291
Glossaryp. 320
Indexp. 325