outline and summary

The following is taken from C. S. Lewis: A Companion & Guide by Walter Hooper: The central character is a kind of 'Everyman' called John who is born on the western side of the Eastern Mountains in Puritania. He grows up in fear of an unseen Landlord who is portrayed as a moral despot. At the same time, the young man has visions of an Island, which is both the cause and the object of his intense longing, or 'Joy'. He makes his first mistake in supposing the Island to be a disguise for Lust. When this deception is unmasked he sets off again to find the Island. Along the way he meets people who are allegorical personifications of ideas and schools of thought Lewis himself had encountered over the years. They include such characters and experiences as Mr Enlightenment (Nineteenth-century Rationalism), the 'Modern' literary movement, and Freudianism. Eventually John is captured by the Spirit of the Age. Those passages dealing with the Pilgrim's imprisonment (III:6-9) are some of the most astute in the book, and most likely to appeal to the modern reader. The Spirit of the Age is portrayed as a Giant whose eyes make everything he looks at transparent. Thus his glance at John makes it possible for the young man to see his own insides (lungs, intestines, etc.). The Giant attempts to convince him that this is all that a man is. John is rescued by Reason, who leads him as far as the Grand Canyon, on the other side of which is the continuation of the Main Road. While wondering how to cross, John meets Mother Kirk (the Church). She gives him an allegorical account of the Sin of Adam (the Grand Canyon), explaining that she is the only one who could carry him across the canyon safely. John decides instead to go a long way around. Because Catholics speak of the Catholic church as 'Mother Church', many assumed that Lewis was using the expression to mean the Catholic Church. But by 'Mother Kirk' Lewis really meant 'Traditional Christianity'. Turning North he meets 'cerebral' men such as Mr Sensible (cultured Worldliness), Mr Neo-Angular and Mr Humanist. These men talk, Lewis explains in the running headlines to the book, as if 'they had "seen through" things they have not even seen' (VI: 3). Finding he cannot get to the Main Road this way, John turns South. There he meets, amongst others, Mr Broad who represents 'a modernizing religion which is friends with the World and goes on no pilgrimage'. Finally John reaches the house of Wisdom, and from him he learns the inadequacy of many of the philosophies Lewis had found attractive at one time: Idealist Philosophy, Materialism, and Hegelianism. Even if the reader never encounters these as living philosophies, he will get some idea of their effect on Lewis and his generation. Upon leaving Wisdom's house, John is helped at one point by a 'Man' (Christ), and from this he learns that he must accept Grace or die. Then, having accepted Grace, John feels bound to acknowledge God's existence. There follows a chapter entitled 'Caught' in which Lewis repeats almost word for word what he gave in the 'Early Prose Joy' as his main reason for not wanting to be a Christian. More than anything, he wanted to call his soul his own. John realizes that in acknowledging the Lord he is 'never to be alone; never the master of his own soul, to have no privacy, no corner whereof you could say to the whole universe: This is my own, here I can do as I please.' Continuing his journey, John stops for a while with History. In the chapter called 'History's Words' we find some of the most valuable ideas in the book. John is told that although not all men have the 'picture' of an Island, such as he has had, to lead them to the Landlord (God), they are nevertheless given 'pictures' which serve the same purpose. 'The best thing of all is to find Mother Kirk at the very beginning,' says History. He then explains that when Pagans don't have the benefit of the Church, the Landlord 'sends them pictures and stirs up sweet desire and so leads them back to Mother Kirk.' In the chapter entitled 'Archetype and Ectype' John asks Wisdom about the thing that had quite terrified Lewis when he realized he would have to obey God. 'I am afraid,' says John, 'that the things the Landlord really intends for me may be utterly unlike the things he has taught me to desire.' 'They will be very unlike the things you imagine,' replies Wisdom. 'But you already know that the objects which your desire imagines are always inadequate to that desire. Until you have it you will not know what you wanted.' John struggles to withdraw, but Reason will not let him, and he returns to Mother Kirk. In the chapter called 'Securus Te Projice' ('Throw yourself away without care') she tells him to dive down to the bottom of a pool of water and come up on the other side. When he replies that he has never learned to dive, Mother Kirk says, 'The art of diving is not to do anything new but simply to cease doing something. you have only to let yourself go.' John at last finds the Island of his dreams, and discovers that it is the other side of the Eastern mountains he had known all his life, the home of God. In the final part of the work, called 'The Regress', John is shown, as Lewis tells us in the running headlines, 'the real shape of the world we live in' and 'How we walk on a knife-edge between Heaven and hell.' The 'regress' consists mainly in un-learning many of the things John had picked up over the years, and in this section Lewis attempts to answer many of the questions which had plagued him, such as the purpose of Hell. The last part of the book also contains most of the earliest, and best, of Lewis's religious poems.

study materials

finding the landlord Finding the Landlord | Book An outstanding guide and source of background information for understanding the many scholarly and esoteric references in this book. Contributes to a better appreciation for Lewis' genius. Scan of Finding the Landlord | PDF Unfortunately, the book above is out of print and extant copies are commanding exorbitant prices. I have scanned the book, but will only make it available to those who email and request a copy. Quotations and Allusions | Web page From Lewisiana. Similar to Lindskoog's book above, but more concise. Very helpful list. Spirits in Bondage | PDF Excerpts from Lewis' first book of poetry showing some of the early influences that appear in Pilgrim's Regress. Lindskoog references these in the Introduction of her study guide. The Aunt and Amabel | Web page A story that shows how emotions can be "short-cutted" by examination. This short story by Edith Nesbit is also a source of inspiration for the Narnia books. Blog posts by James O'Fee | Part 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 Series of four posts on the Impala Publisher's Blog site with a good summary and helpful insights.