One of the most significant allusions that William Craft utilizes in his narrative is his allusion to John Bunyan’s novel The Pilgrim’s Progress. The Pilgrim’s Progress was published in two parts by John Bunyan. Part 1 was published in 1678 and Part 2 was published in 1684. The Pilgrim’s Progress is an allegory about the idea of Christian salvation. In the novel, Bunyan chronicles the journey of a pilgrim named Christian who travels from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City. Multiple times in his narrative, William Craft alludes to The Pilgrim’s Progress and compares his journey to that of Christian’s.
The first allusion to The Pilgrim’s Progress occurs on page 70, when William is approached by an officer in Philadelphia who is suspicious of William’s intentions. The officer informs William that his master must prove he has a right to bring his slave to Philadelphia, which causes great unease for William and Ellen. However, William states, “We knew it would never do to turn back to the “City of Destruction,” like Bunyan’s Mistrust and Timorous, because they saw lions in the narrow way after ascending the hill Difficulty; but press on, like noble Christian and Hopeful, to the great city in which dwelt a few “shining ones.” (Craft 70). The “City of Destruction” to which Craft refers is the undesirable place of sin where Christian begins his journey. In this allusion, Craft compares the awful and dangerous South to Bunyan’s allegorical City of Destruction. Additionally, he compares his desire to persevere in the face of difficulty to Christian’s desire to continue towards “the great city.”
Craft again alludes to Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress while Craft is travelling on train from Baltimore to Philadelphia. Craft states, “I, like Bunyan’s Christian in the arbour, went to sleep at the wrong time, and took too long a nap” (74). This comparison to Christian further solidifies Craft’s suggestion that his journey from slavery in the South to freedom in the North was very similar to Christian’s journey from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City. This specific reference to sleep emphasizes that both Craft and Christian struggled and were not perfect on their journeys to salvation.
The third allusion to The Pilgrim’s Progress occurs on page 78, when Craft writes, “The sight of those lights and that announcement made me feel almost as happy as Bunyan’s Christian must have felt when he first caught sight of the cross. I, like him, felt that the straps that bound the heavy burden to my back began to pop, and the load to roll off” (78). At this point in Craft’s narrative, Craft knows he has finally reached the north, specifically Philadelphia, which means he is on free land. Upon the realization of his freedom, Craft feels great happiness and relief. The scene with which Craft compares his arrival to Philadelphia is when Christian arrives at the Holy Cross in The Pilgrim’s Progress. When Christian arrives at the Holy Cross, the burden of sin finally leaves him, and he is reenergized for the rest of the journey. While the burden is lifted from William Craft when he arrives in Philadelphia, the burden of sin is lifted from Christian when he arrives at the Holy Cross.
In conclusion, William Craft’s allusion to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress adds significant value to Craft’s narrative by performing various functions. Firstly, the comparison roots Craft’s narrative in Christian theology and compares the Crafts’ escape to the journey of Christian. Additionally, the allusion gives Craft’s narrative additional legitimacy and authority, as The Pilgrim’s Progress is a very significant literary work. Finally, by comparing his escape to that of Christian in The Pilgrim’s Progress, William Craft exposes the blatant hypocrisy that many Christians of the 1800s used to defend and promote slavery.
Keeble, N.H. “The Pilgrim’s Progress: Overview.” Reference Guide to English Literature, edited by D. L. Kirkpatrick, 2nd ed., St. James Press, 1991. Literature Resource Center, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/H1420001219/LitRC?u=unc_main&sid=LitRC&xid=19a3438b. Accessed 28 Jan. 2018.
“Overview: The Pilgrim’s Progress.” Gale Online Encyclopedia, Gale, 2018. Literature Resource Center, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/H1430001552/LitRC?u=unc_main&sid=LitRC&xid=752e3d33. Accessed 28 Jan. 2018.