Literature Study GuidesPilgrims ProgressPart 2 Authors Way Of Sending Forth His Second Part Of The Pilgrim Summary

Pilgrim's Progress | Study Guide

John Bunyan

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Pilgrim's Progress | Part 2, Author's Way of Sending Forth His Second Part of the Pilgrim | Summary

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Summary

As with Part 1, John Bunyan begins the second part of The Pilgrim's Progress with a poem, in which he anticipates and answers some possible criticisms. This time, the imagined critics are those who did not like Part 1 or who do not see the need for a Part 2. Bunyan structures most of the poem as a series of "objects" (i.e., objections) and "answers."

The first objection is: How will people know this is an authentic sequel, since so many counterfeited books get published? Bunyan's answer is that he will testify on the book's behalf if people doubt its authenticity. Objection number two is: What about all the people who hated Part 1? Here, Bunyan engages in a bit of self-promotion by answering that his first book has been extremely well received among men, women, and children, both in Europe and in America. Thus, those with a bad opinion of Part 1 are a small minority.

A third objection is related to the second: some people say Bunyan's method of storytelling is too "dark" (i.e., obscure). Bunyan defends his use of allegory the same way he did at the beginning of Part 1. "Similes" and "similitudes," he argues, are an appropriate tools for religious literature because they capture people's attention and imaginations in a way that dry, nonfiction prose cannot. The final objection—that The Pilgrim's Progress is unserious "romance" literature—is answered with the written equivalent of a shrug: there's no accounting for taste, Bunyan admits. The poem closes with a short overview of the plot and characters of Part 2, which concerns the pilgrimage of Christian's wife, Christiana, and their children.

Analysis

Bunyan's apparent paranoia about counterfeit Pilgrims is, historically speaking, quite understandable. There were not any legal safeguards against copyright infractions in England until 1844, although the United States had enacted legislation in 1790. The Pilgrim's Progress, Part 1 was a tremendous success, running to eight editions during its first four years in print (1678–82). No wonder, then, that some enterprising but unscrupulous writers set about writing their own unofficial sequels that were fraudulently marketed under Bunyan's name. The most important of these spurious works—the 1682 Second Part—was, however, never explicitly described as Bunyan's: it is left to a careful reader to deduce that Bunyan's work has been continued by another. The author of this Second Part, thought to be the Baptist Thomas Sheridan, appreciated the popular appeal of Bunyan's allegory but evidently disagreed with him on some theological points, which he therefore attempted to correct in a "Supplyment" or sequel. Many other Christian writers through the ages have taken a similar tack, preserving the general outline of The Pilgrim's Progress while conforming its contents to their specific beliefs.

Despite Bunyan's protestations, the parade of false sequels did not stop when the authentic Part 2 was published in 1684. An anonymous Third Part appeared in 1693, five years after Bunyan's death, with a new protagonist named Tender-Conscience tracing a similar route to that taken by Christian and Christiana. The authenticity of this work was questioned as early as 1708, and a 21st-century reader will quickly find that the style differs noticeably from Bunyan's. If early modern readers shared these doubts, however, they were evidently either ignored or suppressed: the Third Part continued to be printed alongside the authentic Parts 1 and 2 until 1852.

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