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In this first section of the work, the author John Bunyan speaks directly to his readership and informs them that the story to be told is from a dream. In this very brief introduction, he at once commands attention from his readers and credibility for his story. He does this by revealing two things: the story is his dream, and he wants to share his dream with others. It is not a story he once heard, or a legend he wants to repeat. In such a way, he offers the reader incentive for listening and reveals his own interest in narrating this dream. Having quickly established himself as the author and as the dreamer, Bunyan then plunges into the dream and focuses his attention on its main character, a poor man seeking knowledge and salvation in the form of relief from his burdens. The man reads a book, which is the Bible. His burden, a visible load on his back, represents his sins and misdeeds. From the beginning, the symbolism that will characterize The Pilgrim's Progress as a great allegory is apparent.
Some common Themes of the Christian religion are taken up in this first section, not the least of which is the name of the Pilgrim: Christian. In keeping with Christian Themes, Christian, the Pilgrim, makes his decision to seek salvation at any cost. In light of the objections of his wife and children to his quest, Christian abandons them and leaves on his own. Followers of Christ are urged to give up everything and follow him. Everything includes wealth, position, even family. Salvation must be the primary goal of the sinner; nothing should come between a man and God-even family. Historians are able to pinpoint similar moments in the author's life that probably influenced his "dream." Once, before he was first jailed, John Bunyan was told he would not be imprisoned if he would give up his preaching. Despite the fact that he had a wife and children who needed him desperately, Bunyan refused to quit preaching and consequently spent twelve years in prison, leaving his family destitute. The author made the choice to forsake family for his own salvation, and the Pilgrim in his dream does the same. This is a repeated theme in the work.
The Slough of Despond is a self-titled pitfall in the quest for salvation. It represents those situations that cause any seeker to despair of ever reaching his goal. Pliable capitulates to despair. Christian, at his lowest moment in the Slough of Despond, receives unexpected aid from Help.
Christian's meeting with Mr. Worldly Wise is interesting because of its ambiguity. Mr. Worldy Wise is not a villain or even a bad character. In fact, he is a good solid man with advice and friendliness. He thinks the village of Morality will be a good place for Christian, since he can bring his family and live in relative comfort. But Christian is not supposed to settle for good; he is to aim for the best. His moment of weakness is a sin because he nearly gives up the goal the Evangelist has given him. Morality, while comfortable, will never completely ease him of his burdens in the way that the Celestial City will.
The mentioned character Legality represents people who obscure the truth of Christianity in mere obedience to laws. The Evangelist encourages Christian to see comfort in heartfelt ideas, not blind obedience to arbitrary laws.