What is an epic? What does a piece of literature need in order to be considered an epic? An epic is a journey that the protagonist takes in order to find who they are themselves. A Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan and Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad are two pieces of literature in which this appears. However, A Pilgrim’s Progress: Part One is more of a dream journey while Heart of Darkness is an actual physical journey. Both of these novels however follow the standard pattern of an epic in how they are both journey’s in which the person comes to an understanding of themselves which sometimes and sometimes does not end up saving him.
A Pilgrim’s Progress: Part One is a novel that follows the structure of an epic in many different ways. For one, as even stated in the novel, Christian’s journey is a dream journey. Another way is how at the beginning of the novel the protagonist Christian has a large burden on his back that he can not take off. This burden causes him to have the conviction that he has many sins and is therefore in need of saving so he goes on a pilgrimage in order to be saved. This follows the epic structure of being a young, naive man who goes on a journey in order to obtain an understanding of himself. Throughout Christian’s journey he faces many challenges but also is helped by various people too.
Another part of the epic structure is the young man’s journey through the underworld or hell. This is shown in A Pilgrim’s Progress through Christian’s journey through places called the Slough of Despond, the Valley of Humiliation, the Valley of the Shadow of Death, Vanity Fair, and the city of Destruction. These places could be seen as a sort of hell because all of them have some sort of trial that Christian must face and defeat. For example, in the Valley of Humiliation, Christian is fights a dragon named Apollyon who he strikes down. Then he must face and pass through the Valley of the Shadow of Death which is not unlike a desert. Then he must pass through the town of Vanity, where there is a fair which is described as a wicked place which stresses the pleasures of the flesh. There, he goes to prison for his faith but luckily escapes. All of these places make up a sort of hell that Christian must pass through and resist the temptations in, before he reaches the Celestial city. However, during his journey through this culminated hell, Christian is guided by a character named the Evangelist. This character can be seen as the true seer of the epic because he is wise and has knowledge that he conveys to Christian in order to help him complete his journey.
The last part of the epic structure is whether or not the young man’s understanding of himself saves him or does not save him. In Christian’s case, his understanding and faith save him because he reaches the Celestial City and is let in. This was his end goal and it saves him from falling back into temptation and sin and regaining the burden of sins that he had at the...