While recently watching the Netflix series “The Crown” I was delighted to see a segment where Queen Elizabeth, in a Christmas address to the British people, reads a passage from the book “The Pilgrim’s Progress.” The book, written in the 17th century by the Englishman John Bunyan, is a fantastic account of Heaven, written as an allegory.
The main character of my novel, Above the Water, is a young man named Harry. He is drawn to “The Pilgrim’s Progress” thanks to the influence of his grandmother Sarah. Harry takes inspiration from its pages and finds himself thinking of various scenes from Bunyan’s masterwork as he overcomes his own set of travails during his life as a war correspondent and then as a Marine during the Second World War.
In one scene Harry explains Bunyan’s book to Viktoria, a young woman that he has fallen in love with: “In the story there’s a place called the Celestial City. It’s meant to represent paradise—or Heaven. It describes a man’s journey through life, with all its trials and tribulations. My grandmother read it to me every Sunday after church. For some reason, as I listened to the descriptive chapters, I associated the Celestial City with Asia.”
In another scene we learn of Harry’s fascination for Asia that came through association with the book: “As a young boy Harry had dreamt of one day discovering the Celestial City. But being too young to entirely understand Bunyan’s connotations of Heaven, he hoped to find it somewhere on earth. For Harry, the Pagoda [where he lived in Pennsylvania] became synonymous with the Celestial City. Having seen prints of China, India, and Japan, Harry thought perhaps that region of the world would be the best place to begin his search for the Celestial City. Thus, Asia entered his consciousness at a young age.”