Pilgrims Progress Term Paper

  • Length: 8 pages
  • Subject: Literature
  • Type: Term Paper
  • Paper: #44308154

Excerpt from Term Paper :


Teaching and preaching have always been considered cornerstones of Christian beliefs. For devout Christians, teaching others about various things of value is what their entire religion is based upon as Gospel of Matthew mentions that Jesus is believed to have instructed his disciples to "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the World" (Matthew 28: 19-20). Teaching has thus been considered an important part of religious beliefs and it is one responsibility that Christians must shoulder. For this prominent Christian figures with authority over the subject have also upheld the responsibility of teaching. Saint Augustine for example maintained that it was the duty of an "expositor and teacher of the Divine Scripture" to turn listeners into learners. He further explained:

If those who hear are to be taught, exposition must be composed, if it is needed, that they may become acquainted with the subject at hand. In order that those things which are doubtful may be made certain, they must be reasoned out with the use of evidence. But if those who hear are to be moved rather than taught, so that they may fully accept those things which they acknowledge to be true, there is need for greater powers of speaking. Here entreaties and reproofs, exhortations and rebukes, and whatever devices are necessary to move minds must be used (121).

John Bunyan was a significant Christian authority. He was deeply motivated by the responsibility to teach and since he was also a great writer, he used his writing skills to undertake the task of teaching. This element of teaching is found in the Pilgrim's Progress as well. Bunyan himself was not very well educated as far as formal schooling was concerned. Whatever he learned was primarily due to his own efforts to educate himself. In his autobiography, Grace Abounding, Bunyan mentioned that it had been a blessing that God had put it in parents' mind "to put me to school, to learn both to read and write" (5). But while he did manage to learn to read and write, he soon forgot most of what else he had learned at school. Olga Winslow in her biography of the author writes: "It was probably poor enough, for at that date village schoolmasters were often incompetent in their teaching and unscrupulous in their discipline, making it so severe as hardly to instill a desire to learn, much less a love of learning for its own sake" (13).

Since Bunyan knew how to read, he further polished his skills by reading whatever he could get his hands on. And that how he read a copy of the King

James Bible, one book that was available even in almost every house in those days. This version of Bible with "its poetry and sound and stalwart English did more to influence English speech than any other book." (Nelson) The language later used by Bunyan in his book Pilgrim's Progress was largely influenced by this version of Bible because in those days, there was no other model available to him and this appeared to have had the desired effect on the readers. The language and instruction style used in The Pilgrim's Progress is thus greatly influenced by the Bible and chivalric romances of the time. His teaching style was thus dominantly parallel to the instruction mode found in literature of the time mainly the Bible and Christian sermons. This Elizabethan preacher closely followed the instruction model followed by writers of Puritan documents in the 17th century. William Perkins explained the main characteristics of this model:

1. To reade the Text distinctly out of the Canonicall Scriptures.

2. To give the sense and understanding of its being read, by the Scripture it selfe.

3. To collect a few and profitable points of doctrine out of the naturall sense.

4. To apply (if we have the gift) the doctrines rightly collected, to the life and manner of men, in a simple and plaine speech. (Quoted in Batson, p. 104)

A formal structure is found in Bunyan's style of teaching that appears in the Pilgrim's Progress. This form was essential in the literature of his time but it was also inspired by the belief that Creator had organized everything according to a specific structure and order. These Christian beliefs were dominant in his organization of text especially his sermons that we find in the book. Batson observes: "A study of John Bunyan's imaginative works clearly indicates that his obvious preoccupation with moral and theological teaching does not erase his concern for literary art. His writings show his interest in structure, generic form, and other features of imaginative literature." (148).

The imaginative style that Bunyan employed along with a specific structure was ideally suited to his teaching model since it produced the desired effect on his audiences. It was while in prison that he began working on the Pilgrim's Progress, starting with story of Christian. But he was not particularly interested in producing an allegorical masterpiece, instead Bunyan wanted to write something that he knew he would want to read. The result was thus "a hybrid of religious allegory, the early novel, the moral dialogue, the romance, the folk story, the picaresque novel, the epic, the dream-vision, and the fairy tale" (Sadler 54).

The reason imagination along with order worked was because imagination alone would've never had the right impact on the Puritan audience of his time and form alone would have never worked for later generations of readers. Thus we can say that Bunyan knew that to stimulate the minds of his audience, he needed a technique that would have the most dramatic and lasting impact. He managed to produce that in his book as James Forrest writes: "An intense awareness of the reader and the need to stimulate his mind adequately underlie the artistic procedure of all Bunyan's imaginative works" (106). In the book, The Pilgrim's Progress, the author employs an interesting model where he simultaneously becomes a guide and a friend. This instruction style keeps the readers engrossed in the book. On some occasions, he speaks like an authority: "Now here Christian was worse put to it then in his fight with Apollyon, as by the sequel you shall see" (50). But on others, he talks like a close friend: "For you must note, that tho the first part of the Valley of the Shadow of Death was dangerous, yet this second part was, if possible, far more dangerous" (53). Fish notes: "The narrator, then, is not our guide, but our fellow. The events of his dream happen to him just as they happen to us and to Christian" (292). Since Bunyan had taken the role of a guide, he was worried about leaving his students stranded and confused. He wanted to make sure he behaved as an actual guide would thus developing, "a pattern explaining and assuring the deliverance of the faithful of all times" (Knott, 461).

In those days, repetition and drilling method was used to sharpen memory and to remind people of some essential values, lessons or Puritanical teachings. The same memory instruction method was used by Bunyan too in order to remind his audiences of Scripture. This was done by alluding to different references as Sadler identifies a passage where "Christian recalls the key of Promise and the frequent misadventures resulting from failure to remember the 'note of the way' or the warning against the flatterer" and views it as an instance of memory work (63). Fish also recognizes this preoccupation with memory as he writes: "Every crisis in The Pilgrim's Progress is a crisis of memory" (282).

Form was a main characteristic found in Bunyan's style of teaching and writing in the Pilgrim's Progress. There is proper listing of emotions, feelings and views which may irritate new readers but made sense to Puritanical audiences. For example, in one scene we see Christian recalling a verse from the Twenty-third Psalm and then he feels happy. The reasons for his happiness are listed like this:

First, because he gathered from thence, that some who feared God were in this Valley as well as himself.

Secondly, For that he perceived, God was with them, though in that dark and dismal state . . .

Thirdly, For that he hoped . . . To have company by and by. (53)

These reasons may sometimes appear unnecessary to list but this worked with the audience at that time and thus the learner/teacher relationship was more firmly established. For example when Christian and Faithful enter Vanity Fair, the author divides the inhabitants into four categories according to dress, purpose, speech and money. Faithful's response to Mr. Envy, Mr. Superstition, and Mr. Pickthank are also listed to make them…

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