December 21: This Is The End

Madame Bubble's husband, here seen with a child who was forced into modelling when his parents defaulted on their Henderson, Nev. condo.

So now I know how Pilgrim's Progress ends: everyone dies. It's like Hamlet, but with a gloss in the margin where the author tells you what everything means -- something Shakespeare, for all his brilliance, failed to do. Like, our travelers come upon a guy named Stand-Fast, and they ask him, "Well but Brother, I pray thee tell us what was it that was the cause of thy being upon thy Knees even now?" and the gloss says, like a parent's stage whisper, "They found him at prayer" We wouldn't have guessed.

One of the things that is often implicit in "Pilgrim's Progress," and indeed in Christianity itself, but is quite explicit here, is that death is preferable to life. For almost the whole excerpt, our travellers make their farewell speeches before they cross the river (hint: death), and they all pretty much say the same thing. Here's an example, from Stand-Fast (who, I like to think, had a son who married an Italian girl so that his grandchildren were named Stand-Fast-Vicinanzo):
I left behind me a Wife and five small Children, let me entreat you at your return...that you send to my Family, and let them be acquainted with all that hath and shall happen unto me. Tell them moreover of my happy Arrival to this place, and of the present late blessed condition that I am in... I have little or nothing to send to my Family, except it be Prayers and Tears for them; of which it will suffice if thou acquaint them, if peradventure they may prevail.
Tell my family I feel bad that my afterlife is better than your life. I find this a mite heartless, myself, but if death is preferable to life it makes more sense, although it's still a little unseemly for the husband to gloat about his poor wife raising the five rugrats while he's off on the Eternal Bowling Night.

The Pilgrims also talk about Madame Bubble -- how timely! She hit on Stand-Fast:
Then she made offers again, and said, If I would be ruled by her, she would make me great and happy, for said she, I am the Mistress of the World, and men are made happy by me. Then I asked her name, and she told me it was Madam Bubble. This set me further from her, but she still followed me with Inticements.
With his outsider's perspective Bunyan is onto something here -- the World, or the "real world," as it is also known, is inherently bubblicious. To be getting and spending is to leave yourself open to bubbles -- tulip bulbs, ARMs, what have you.

Bunyan also engages in another classic of the outsider's perspective, ethnic stereotyping:
Hon. Madam Bubble, is she not a tall comely Dame, something of a swarthy Complexion?
Something of a swarthy Complexion, eh? I wonder what he means by that. Greeks, I'm sure.

1 comment:

Lisa Simeone said...

Love this!!

It's 13 degrees here with winds gusting 20-40 mph, so I definitely needed some laughs.

(But help is on the way -- supposed to be near 50 by Wednesday. Thank god.)