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Pilgrim's Progress | Study Guide

John Bunyan

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Pilgrim's Progress | Part 2, Chapter 6 | Summary



Emerging from the Valley of the Shadow of Death, Christiana and company pause to rest. They spy an old pilgrim sleeping under a tree nearby and decide to wake him up. The old man, whose name is Honest, is initially annoyed but soon agrees to join the party, which now resumes its journey. He and Great-Heart talk awhile about other pilgrims they have known, including Mr. Fearing, whose journey was constantly hampered by his doubts about his own salvation. Mercy, Christiana, and the boys are edified to hear of Fearing's safe arrival at the Celestial City in spite of his fears. Another pilgrim, called Self-will, is discussed as a counterpoint to Fearing. Self-will, Great-Heart says, was excessively self-assured and embraced his sins when he should have rejected them.

Christiana, growing tired, wishes for an inn, and Honest directs her to a nearby one. They are greeted heartily by their host, Gaius, who tells them of the noble line of martyrs from whom Christian is descended. Gaius urges Christiana to find wives for her sons to perpetuate that line. In all, the pilgrims spend a month at Gaius's house, during which time Matthew and Mercy are married. During their stay, Great-Heart leads an expedition to kill the giant Slay-good and rescue his prisoner, a pilgrim named Feeble-mind. Because he is weak and sickly, Feeble-mind worries he will be a burden to the pilgrims, but just as they are about to resume their journey, they meet a man named Ready-to-halt, who walks with the aid of crutches. Able to keep pace with each other, these two men become friends.

The next stop is the town of Vanity, where Christian was imprisoned and Faithful was killed in Part 1. Here, the pilgrims stay with Mnason, one of the few truly good people in the otherwise amoral town. Mnason summons several friends to visit the pilgrims, who are given a chance to recount the story thus far. Great-Heart, having gone almost 10 pages without drawing his sword, leads the townsmen on the hunt for a creature that has been capturing local pilgrims. They succeed in wounding and driving off the unnamed monster.


The story of Mr. Fearing serves as a natural conclusion to a thematic thread begun much earlier in The Pilgrim's Progress. At the beginning of Part 2—and even briefly at the end of Part 1—John Bunyan develops the idea that it is healthy to fear God and, consequently, to fear for the salvation of one's soul. Among the major characters, no one exemplifies this pious fear more than Mercy, who in Part 2, Chapter 1 is afraid even to go on the pilgrimage because she worries she will be rejected. Mercy becomes, among her many other roles, the embodiment of a largely appropriate, in Bunyan's eyes, level of caution and trepidation. At the same time she is also held back by fear from seeing some of the blessings that God would otherwise bestow on her. She nearly fails to knock at the Wicket-Gate, for example, because she is afraid she will not be admitted.

In Fearing, however, Bunyan presents the idea of a holy fear carried to extremes. Fearing responds to every event along the pilgrim's way in terms of how it plays upon his fears—how it either aggravates or assuages them. He gets to the Celestial City at last, but with much more grief and anxiety than are necessary. Moreover, his fears make him a burden to other pilgrims. Compared to Fearing, Mercy seems quite reasonable, a fact she seems to acknowledge as she listens to and comments upon his tale.

The names Gaius and Mnason both come from the New Testament. There, as here, the two men are emblematic of hospitality, in particular, hospitality toward Christians. Gaius is mentioned in the letters of Paul, both 1 Corinthians 1 and Romans 16, as a man who helped to found the Church in Corinth and who hosted Paul when he stayed in that city. His role as innkeeper here is in keeping with his biblical status as a patron or "host" of early Church meetings. The early disciple and Christian convert Mnason appears briefly in the Acts of the Apostles. There, he is described as extending hospitality to Christians traveling to Jerusalem from Caesarea.

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