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The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan
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I read this book during my second deployment to Iraq as well and it took me quite a while to finish it. I had seen this book referenced often and I wanted to read it on my own. The overall consensus is that it is a very compelling book and will pull at your soul's emotional strings with its simplicity and candor. But also there were three major hurdles to finishing this book--for me, at least:

It was first published in 1678 so it is not an easy read. The diction is alien to me, but also one does not fall into the parlance of Mr. Bunyan's time as easily as even the made-up language of A Clockwork Orange. Here is an example of the text: "Mercy. Then said Mercy, I confess my ignorance: I spake what I understood not: I acknowledge that thou doest all things well." Yikes. Also, the original was not written like a screenplay so it is at times confusing who is speaking to whom. Luckily, the Penguin Classics version marks all dialog with the speaker as a preface in italics.

Secondly, the allegory is very simple. The characters names are the likes of: "Mr. Great-Heart, Mr. Timorous, Mr. Feeble-Minded, the Giant Despair," etc. The situations that all the characters face are definitely unique, but not so riveting as a result of surprise. This barrier for me though is acceptable: the stark simplicity of the journey actually increases the voracity of Bunyan's words. The story is not for the sake of story-telling; the allegory actually need not be so imaginative in this case.

Finally, and this may seem superficial, but Bunyan's poetry skills are pretty awful. The poem opens with a long bit of rhyming poetry that almost made me quit reading. Ironically, the poem is an apology of Bunyan's allegorical shortcomings. I still didn't enjoy reading the poems. I actually found myself skipping even the shortest attempts at rhyme in the plot by the first 30 pages of the book. I find it interesting that Bunyan's prose can be so powerful that he felt the need to attempt ABAB style poetry in his work. Maybe he felt the need to counter the beautiful epic style of John Milton's Paradise Lost (published first about 12 years before TPP). I don't know, but either way--it is a serious barrier.

Bunyan earns most of his Paul Dollars (approximately worth 5 Shrewt bucks or 1000 Stanley Nickles, for you Office fans) in the transcendence of the story into the heart of the Christian reader. I felt Bunyan's soul guiding Christian through his pilgrimage. At the beginning of the story when Christian tells his plans to his family, they chastise him and mock him--after ignoring him of course. As he finally departs alone, his family and neighbors snub him and hurl curses from both sides of the road. This forces Christian to "put his fingers in his ears" and run as quickly as possible away from the City of Destruction. You can't help but be captivated by Christian's steadfast loyalty to his mission: going to Heaven, or the "land beyond the river that has no bridge."

Here are some examples of Bunyan's greatest words:

"No man can tell what in combat attends us but he that hath been in the battle himself." (Page 113) after he fights the demon Apollyon.

In reply to Christan's query, "tell me particularly what effect this [a vision of Christ) had upon your spirit," Hopeful answers with conviction that almost wrought me with tears:

"It made me greatly ashamed of the vileness of my former life, and confounded me with the sense of mine own ignorance; for there never came thought into mine heart before now that showed me so the beauty of Jesus Christ. It made me love a holy life, and long to do something for the honour and glory of the name of the Lord Jesus. Yea, I thought that had I now a thousand gallons of blood in my body, I could spill it all for the sake of the Lord Jesus." (Page 125)


This book was a good spiritual book for me at this time in my life. I recommend it for anyone who wishes to keep the fire of their faith burning.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
August 1, 2007 – Finished Reading
August 27, 2007 – Shelved

Comments Showing 1-3 of 3 (3 new)

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message 1: by STRONG (new) - added it

STRONG MUHOTI Hello Paul,will you kindly send me the book;The Pilgrims Progress by John Bunyan via email? I can't find it online.My email address is Regards.

Alex Man, great review. You and I feel differently about the book but I love where you're coming from.

message 3: by Mansir (new) - added it

Mansir Great review!

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