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The Pilgrim's Regress Paperback – January 10, 1992
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-- Chicago Tribune
"An excellent book. In its sharp imagery, its clever inferences, its suspense, its characterization, and its occasional grotesque humor, it stands favorable comparison with its great model by John Bunyan."
-- New York Times
"The allegorical characters are not just abstractions. They are, in every instance, people objectively real and subjectively true to the inner meaning. The language throughout is plain, straightforward and leanly significant. To many it will seem like a fresh wind blowing across arid wastes."
About the Author
(1898-1963) He held the chair of Medieval and Renaissance English Literature at Cambridge University in England. Among his many famous works are Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, the Chronicles of Narnia series, Miracles, The Abolition of Man, The Great Divorce, The Problem of Pain, and Surprised by Joy.
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We read this for my book club with mixed results. A few readers loved it, and most others found it too difficult and dry to be very enjoyable or thought-provoking. We had a difficult time even having a discussion about it, and no questions were available anywhere online. I believe that I got much more out of the Pilgrim's Progress, ancient as it may be, than The Pilgrim's Regress. I would probably not recommend this book.
The book is partly autobiographical, documenting Lewis's own faith journey but Lewis said it was not entirely so. He used the book in part to engage the ideas prevalent at the time it was written around 1932. I very much enjoy this book but it isn't what you're looking for if ideas are not your thing. It is a book filled with ideas and how they contrast to one another.
This obviously seems to be influenced by John Bunyan's religious and political tract, The Pilgrim's Progress. Just like Bunyan narrating the story in the form of a "dream" he had, so Lewis narrates this story the same way.
I will say that this story is both easier and harder for me to judge. Lewis does have a much greater ability to write and tell stories than Bunyan did, and doesn't go off into sermonizing the same way as Bunyan. Well, he does in other books, but he got good at it by then *coughPerelandracough*. So these elements were easy for me to judge well.
What makes it hard to judge is if Bunyan wasn't writing what was justified for him given his life experiences and if his penchant for violence disturbing me didn't bias me towards favoring Lewis. Plus Lewis is a huge influence on my life.
All of this is because, whether I like it or not, comparisons of the two completely different works (though Bunyan obviously influencing Lewis) are inevitable given that very influence and the corresponding narrative and so on similarities in said works.
I will say that while Lewis did not take such savage aim at his pet peeves and those who disagreed with him as Bunyan did, he does reveal in the afterword that he had been ill-tempered and maybe unfair to those who disagrees with. I didn't notice personally, but as Lewis said it was there, it was.
Moreover, this is a book that seems to show that the Truth is in the middle of the extremes (not in terms of belief in the Bible, but philosophy) that men and women go towards. As such, many of the names and places are of writers, philosophers, philosophical positions, so on.
I did enjoy the book quite more this time than the first time around. Now, whether that was because I took it more piece-meal, or because my patience for somewhat slow narratives or quite obvious allegory is greater, I don't know. I don't quite like some of the references that sound kinda racist if not taken in context. Not because I think Lewis was a racist (I think the evidence was against this) or so on, but because it is just so cringe-inducing to read those sections, that I can't imagine what it would be like to discuss them. For the fictional world that John (Lewis' author avatar) is from the albino like Pale Men and the beautiful Brown Girls are extremes that can lead one astray from the truth.
I do think that, if in Heaven he is thinking it over now, he might have written it over again to avoid unfortunate implications that he didn't really believe.
In general, if one can get over the wierdness of certain elements and realize that Lewis was a good man trying to make a point, and not at all any type of bad man, and can have patience with the very in your face allegory, one will greatly enjoy this book.
Rating: 3 1/2 Stars.
Most of the time, I was quite unclear about the images and symbols Lewis was using in the book, so I was happy to learn that later in life, he regretted the "needless obscurity" with which he wrote this book (p. 200). As a result, I really appreciated the little "summary statements" which are found at the top of each page to explain what is going on. Without these, I would have been hopelessly lost. Lewis said he added these later to compensate for how difficult the plot and images are to follow.
Of course, not all is negative. Lewis does write with keen insight and clear logic, and shows that much of what modern people chase after in religion, politics, society, and philosophy, is empty and pointless. That alone makes this book worth reading.