Last Updated 07 Dec 2022

Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress and Swift’s A Tale of a Tub

Category Christianity, Pilgrim
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Although the two pieces express different themes, the allegory entitled The Pilgrim’s Progress, written in 1678 by John Bunyan, and the work A Tale of a Tub, published in 1704, but written earlier by Jonathan Swift have some striking similarities. The most notable similarity is the theme of a journey through life and through Christianity, and the many aspects of the lives of the protagonists. The Pilgrim’s Progress chronicles the adventures of Christian, as he tries to find his way from the city of destruction (the world) to the celestial city, where everything is perfect (heaven), which rests atop Mount Zion.

This piece expresses themes of Christianity, and how certain aspects of the religion may help to overcome particular temptations and troubles in the world. Christian, as he travels, has a great burden, which weighs him down, because he had read “the book in his hand,” (the Bible) which helped keep him out of Tophet, the miserable place (hell). Particular characters that Christian encounters after he has set out play different roles, and some try to get him to remain sinful, and adopt the ways of the city of destruction (such as the two men he encountered just after setting out on his journey, named Obstinate and Pliable.

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These men of the world, the city of destruction, represent the weaker qualities of Christian, who is always somewhat tempted to stay in the city of destruction, and forego the path to the celestial city. Through Christian’s travels, which undoubtedly represent the righteous path of life, everyone he encounters offers some form of temptation, whether it be good- leading him to the wicket gate, or bad, trying to keep him in the city of destruction. At the end of his story, Christian arrives in the celestial city.

The second part of The Pilgrim’s Progress details the story of his wife, Christiana, and their sons, who have similar, worldly experiences. Also in her story are metaphorically named characters who seek to persuade Christiana one way or another, and they represent the evils of the world and the righteousness of heaven. Jonathan Swift’s A Tale of a Tub also chronicles the lives of Christians (three brothers, who represent main branches of Christianity) but it must be said that the work is quite satirical.

In the story are three brothers named Peter (who represents the saint of the same name), Martin (named for Martin Luther), and Jack (who represents John Calvin). Peter’s story marks the chronicles of the Roman Catholic Church, while Martin represents the Church of England, and Jack, the major Protestant sects. In the story, each brother inherited a coat, that had certain features on it, representing features of their religion, and they were told not to alter the coats, but all they do is change them.

This represents people who have altered the church or its practices for personal gain. The brothers in the story represent a basic theme that was prevalent in society at the time, which was the celebration of modernization and secularism over classic religion. And this is what connects the two pieces. In each work, the protagonists are provided with temptations that seek to alter or even minimize classic religion, for the sake of different individuals’ worldly gains.

But in each allegory were numerous other metaphors and allusions, which represented myths or other stories that helped to explain the writer’s direction in each story. “A considerable, but by no means the largest or ablest, portion of the work is occupied by an account of the quarrels of the churches, told in the famous story of three brothers, Peter, Martin and Jack,” says an exert from The Cambridge History of English and American Literature.

“representing Roman Catholics, Anglicans and puritans; of the coat bequeathed to them by their father, whose will, explaining the proper mode of wearing it, they first interpreted each in his own way, and then, after many ingenious evasions of it, locked up in a strong box; and of their subsequent quarrels concerning the will and its significance. Throughout, the brothers act in accordance with the doctrine that beings which the world calls clothes are, in reality, rational creatures or men, and that, in short, we see nothing but the clothes and hear nothing but them.

” Swift also included in the work the superficial nature of many religious figures. The clothes the characters wore were always being altered, representing manmade changes in the religions, but they also demonstrate that people may show their religion to others first (by “wearing,” or sporting it) without even being faithful or an obedient participant in the religion. In the satire, Swift seems to side with the original Martin Luther, who was infuriated with the church as it sold “forgiveness” to sinners. This feature of the church was acquired, and not historically or cardinally supported.

It only served to improve monetary gain for men of the church, which is much of what happens in A Tale of a Tub. And in Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, the temptations and worldly desires that the characters are confronted with represent the world’s secular impact on the church. The church was always changing, as men of the church felt they could utilize it, and exploit its sovereignty for personal gain, which is what the various metaphorically-named characters that Christian and Christiana encountered were trying to do.

Swift and Bunyan’s subliminal criticism of the church and its practices, which were always straying from its ideals, is the greatest similarity between the two highly-metaphorical works that seek to criticize the downsides of religious practice. But the two works also encourage the righteous aspects of reverence. They make very obvious the ways in which religion can be exploited for basic secular gains, and in doing so, by having the characters that exhibit those poor traits somehow villains, the authors signify how one is to correctly remain reverent.

In Bunyan’s work, he makes Biblical sin a reality, which physically burdens man when he is righteous enough to recognize that he has erred, and gone against his religion’s teachings. “As I walk'd through the wilderness of this world, I lighted on a certainplace where was a Den, and I laid me down in that place to sleep; and as I slept, I dreamed a Dream,” Bunyan wrote of Christian at the beginning of his allegory. “I dreamed, and behold I saw a Man cloathed with Rags, standing in a certain place, with his face from his own house, a Book in his hand, and a great Burden upon his back.

I looked, and saw him open the Book, and read therein; and as he read, he wept and trembled; and not being able longer to contain, he brake out with a lamentable cry, saying What shall I do? ” This is how he sets the stage for the story about a righteous man who is forced to survive in a land of evils and temptations, which seek to destroy his reverence. “Then Christian fell down at his foot as dead, crying, Wo is me, for I am undone: At the sight of which, Evangelist caught him by the right hand, saying, All manner of sin and blasphemies shall be forgiven unto men; be not faithless, but believing.

Then did Christian again a little revive, and stood up trembling, as at first, before Evangelist,” Bunyan wrote in Pilgrim’s Progress, demonstrating how righteousness and reverence to religion, not necessarily to the secular church, can save man and lead him out of evil. This character, Evangelist, represents a truly righteous man of the church, who in every way demonstrates the how to apply the religion’s teachings, and how to refrain from evil.

“The wits of the present age being so very numerous and penetrating,” Swift writes of his own enterprise in writing A Tale of a Tub in the work’s preface, “it seems the grandees of Church and State begin to fall under horrible apprehensions lest these gentlemen, during the intervals of a long peace, should find leisure to pick holes in the weak sides of religion. ” This notifies his intentions in writing the satire, which was criticizing particular religious practices, which are actually nothing more than exploitations of the original religion.

Swift, throughout the work, openly criticizes any change in the three church’s, represented by the characters of the work, as changes only exist as features of the church that stray from the original teachings of the religion. Although Swift’s and Bunyan’s pieces are different, they both satirically chronicle the adventures of characters who are supposed to (but in Swift’s case, they do not) adhere to religious ideals without falling into sin by realizing religion’s secular adaptation.

Each work makes clear that the church should remain stable, and that people who wish to lead a fulfilling life should adhere to reverent practices, and give up irreverent activities and temptations. And in demonstrating how this is done by chronicling the stories of people who struggle between secular and religious lifestyles, Swift and Bunyan have openly criticized some of the church’s (of their times) exploitations of religious teachings for basic secular gains, and how the different sects of Christianity should be uniform in teachings. Works Cited Bacon, Earnest W. John Bunyan: Pilgrim and Dreamer. Baker Book House: Grand Rapids, MI, 1983.

, p. 65 George, Timothy and Dockery, David S. Baptist Theologians. Broadman Press: Nashville, TN, 1990, p. 26. Sir Walter Scott (ed. ), The works of Jonathan Swift D. D. , Dean of St. Patrick's, Dublin: containing additional letters, tracts, and poems, not hitherto published. With notes, and a life of the author. 19 vols. (Edinburgh: printed for Archibald Constable and Co. ; White, Cochrane, and Co. , and Gale, Curtis, and Fenner, London; and John Cumming, Dublin 1814). Webster, C. M. Swift's Tale of a Tub compared with Earlier Satires of the Puritans. Proceedings of the Modern Language Association 47/1 (March 1932) 171–178.

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