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5.0 out of 5 stars The modern Pilgrim's Progress, 11 April 2013
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This review is from: Pippa's Progress (Paperback)
If John Bunyan had written Pilgrim's Progress today, how much would it resemble Simon Parke's Pippa's Progress?
Most of Bunyan's readers would have shared a concept of heaven and professed a faith. Christianity was important enough to be striven over and factionalized as Bunyan's imprisonment winessed. Belief today is embattled by secularism and indifference, and the prevailing idea of heaven is in the here and now and through self-fulfilment. Pippa's pilgrimage is to lead to her facing and accepting her true self before she can understand that 'Heaven is exactly where we are standing'.
Pippa has to negotiate the lure of Con the consultant's 'solution-based scenario' of heaven and Glossy Mags' offer of 'body heaven' before she has even reached the wicket gate - as in Bunyan - which leads to the path Yortether, which will test her endurance and lead eventually to heaven. Will Good, the Christ figure with his scarred hands, initiating her journey, told Pippa to 'trust the path'. This leads her to let go of her usual props and accept the guidance of the rat Veronica, which Pippa finds so irritating.
Pippa/Pilgrim progresses through seventeen stages on her way to heaven - moving through Headspin's Hallucinatory Mental Circus - representing all the delusions of ephemeral satisfactions, and meeting Happy the Clown who tells her that everyone makes their own journey to heaven 'separate but gladly relating'. Passing through the town of Social Meja she encounters Dee Straction, simultaneously operating four electronic devices and holding what passes for a conversation.
At each stage Pippa comes closer to awareness of the false self-image she has created but resists facing this truth fully, even after surviving the Sands of Self Pity (Bunyan's Slough of Despond) and being helped through the Rock of Hidden Self by Grace (personified). Visiting Home Fires at the House of Joy, Pippa scorns Veronica's prediction that she will turn back rather than face self-truth.
By the fifteenth and subsequent stages the Christian imagery becomes more overt, with Pippa fulfilling Veronica's prophecy and echoing St Peter. Then comes the death of Veronica and the eagle Jesse 'crucified on the Plain of False Assumption', after Pippa attacks him, thinking to defend Veronica. This moving passage continues with her diary entry 'I have killed Will Good' and echoes the famous phrase: 'It is finished'.
After Pippa's drowning of her false self-image comes the resurrection of Will Good, and Pippa becomes reconciled to her true self, embodied in the young Pippa.
Pilgrim/Pippa returns home completely changed by her complete self-knowledge and awareness that 'Heaven is exactly where we are standing'.
Whatever the difference of style and presentation, the ultimate message of Pippa's Progress that a wounded soul is the gateway to heaven would certainly have resonated with Bunyan.
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