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In Part I, the protagonist is Christian. He is an ordinary pilgrim who has decided to seek salvation by making a journey to the Celestial City, where God dwells. Christian is imperfect, as all sinners are. He fails many times by taking wrong paths, forgetting his ways, and following poor advice. But through it all, his belief in the Lord and his conviction about the presence of the Celestial City does not deteriorate. He overcomes all obstacles in his path to reach the Celestial City and be admitted.
In the second part, Christian's wife Christiana becomes the protagonist. Though in Part I she opposed her husband and tried to come between him and salvation, Part II shows her coming to the same decision to seek salvation. She decides to take her children and follow in the path her husband set. Her journey seems less difficult and strenuous than Christian's, but that could probably because of Great-heart, who guards her throughout. Still, like Christian, she is dedicated and perseveres through all obstacles.
There are several antagonistic characters in both the parts of the book, all of whom have the same goal: to keep the pilgrims from entering the Celestial City and attaining salvation. The antagonists take on many forms: discouraging neighbors, Apollyon, the Enchanted Ground, Flatterer, Hate-good and the villagers of Vanity, even Giant Despair. These antagonists try their level best to stop the pilgrims from reaching their journey's end, but faith and trust the pilgrims have in God eventually helps them reach their destination safely.
Both Parts I and II are based on a series of climactic moments that are quickly followed by moments of peace. Still, Part I has a final climax that occurs in the Dark River, where Christian suffers from a devastating lack of faith. He nearly drowns, but is supported at the last moment by Hopeful. In Part II, Christiana suffers nothing as dramatic. Rather, she is constantly exceeding Christian in both faith and strength. When she reaches Beulah, she crosses the Dark River with ease. Her climax, then, is less dramatic.
The outcome for Christian is that he is carried by Hopeful's faith. The two enter the gates of the Celestial City and are surrounded by the glory they have earned. The outcome for Christiana is that she, too, is taken into Heaven. But her children will stay behind and populate the world with young Christians who will lead the way for others to the Celestial City.
A sidebar to Christian's journey is that Ignorance is carried to the gates of Hell. Good intentions and faith are not enough; rather, one must learn and persevere. Christian will live as an n example to other pilgrims. For Ignorance, this is a climax; for the author, the readership, and Christian, it is the sad outcome of misdirected beliefs.