Many regard Langland’s work as a variation on the classic ‘Pilgrim’s progress’s tory for the fourteenth-century Christian. The poem is often called a spiritual autobiography; but this is a simp liste description, the ironical result of the very vividness of Langland’s presentation of his dreamer. The poet records a spiritual crisis that he experienced after a disputation with friars in later years. The poem, like Dante’s, is certainly in one sense a Pilgrim’s Progress — but hardly in Bunyan’s sense; it describes not so much a spiritual journey (and journey was the dominant sense of ‘progress’ in Bunyan’s day) as an unfolding, a development, stage by stage, passus by passus.
The form of the poem is that of dream vision, a form in which the author presents the story under the guise of having dreamt it, which was common in medieval literature. The dominant features of dream vision were of love and also of spiritual or religious themes, and Chaucer’s first three major pieces were dream visions. The dreamer and narrator is the same person, which gives the poem an intensely personal edge, even though the personality is fictional. The dream vision involves allegory, not only because when one dreams we expect the unrealistic and fanciful, for example events taking place which would not be feasible in normal life, but also because of the common suspicion that dreams portray the truth in disguised form, and are therefore natural allegories.
... induces the reader to reflect upon the meaning of "a dream deferred," preparing them for ... a dream deferred" is a questioning one that begins a search for definition. This mood, which will develop as each poem progresses, ... of respect for their dreams. The final poem that utilizes the " dream deferred" theme is " Island." This poem describes an island located ...
Langland’s use of the dream as a format for his narration allows the reader to gain better understanding of the unusual journey the protagonist Will takes, and the characters he meets along the way. The use of personifications in the poem gives it a surreal edge, for example the characters of Truth and Death. When we study the piece it is clear that although many aspects are realistic there is a general undertone of the farcical and surreal. The entire work confirms to the notion that Will was a man who was educated to enter the church but who, through marriage and lack of preferment, was reduced to poverty, and it could well be that he may have wandered in his youth like the ‘hermits’ he scornfully describes in the prologue. The main themes of the poem are that of criticism of religion and / or institutions within the church, and also social criticism; Langland seems to be against any kind of social movement. He muses in the poem that the King of the land is only so because he has been granted the right by God and no one else, and also that the power granted upon him could be abused; any king has the capability to be a tyrant.
Therefore the king should use his power to impose law and justice on the land as God’s aid to keep the world right. He celebrates the idea that the ‘poor’ man will be the rich man’s superior in Heaven. The character of Lady Meed represents corruption personified. She seems to embody both the dynamic of a reward-based society and its common currency of material gifts and money. There is a common proverb suggesting that ‘money is the root of all evil’, and the very essence of Meed verifies this statement. The fact she embodies an antithetical social order to that of Lady Holy Church and represents a lower social class are interpretations which depend on whose version of Meed is represented at any particular time in Will’s vision.
Her changing form, from illegitimate rich maid to legitimate ‘moliere’ to common whore, is an index of the contested definition of her proper name. We can see the effect that Meed has on the usually sober church clerks. Money and status are the incentives for the clerks to perform their duties, and when one is asked to entertain her (“The king called a clerk o (I know not his name) /To take Meed the Maid o and make her at ease.” ), the result is a scrabble for attention, for which they are richly rewarded by Meed (“Mildly Meed then o thanked them all /For their great goodness o and gave them each one /Cups of clean gold o and cups of silver, /Rings also with rubies o and rich things many”) This is displayed fully by the character of the friar, who absolves her sins knowing she will return the favour by paying for his church to be repaired. He treats confession as a commodity, and uses his status for his own means under the guise of spirituality, which is ironic as by doing so he is going against all he preaches. Lady Meed is in no way reformed after her confession, in no way contrite for her actions. Lady Holy Church emphasizes that the Dreamer’s vision is socially determined yet fictional; as is her representation within it.
... this time period. As a result of a clearly church dominated society, the level of economic growth was stopped. While there was ... learning and intellectuality. As a result, the church was responsible for ... the population with little compassion, the church, and the related nobility did little to quell social problems, and even less to foster ...
The ‘real’ Church is not female, nor perfected; any more than ‘real’ Christians are likely to find their salvation by merely dreaming. The poet describes fourteenth-century English society in terms of its failure to represent an ideal society living in accord with Christian principles: Society’s failure is attributable in part to the corruption of the church and ecclesiastics, and whenever he considers clerical corruption, he pours our savagely indignant satire. The failure of the wealthy laity — untaught by the church to practice charity — to alleviate the sufferings of the poor. The poem reflects the actualities of Christian experience, the tension of an intensely serious and disturbed intelligence, rooted firmly in orthodox belief and practice yet alive to the disruption facing feudal society, and troubled by the failure of the Church and the religious orders to meet the crisis. If the poem is not spiritual autobiography, it does reflect the struggle and aspiration of the poet to provide some light in the darkness for his fellow Christians.
And at the close the reader has come to share, through the intermediacy of the Dreamer, his moods, his meditations and his exaltation’s.
... in concordance with the Christian faith. As with the Shakers, admission into the membership of the Harmony Society was contingent upon ... the future success of the church.It was he who "established the first eleven Shaker societies on a basis of independent ... class "constitutes what is called the church order or church relation." They enter into the church after long deliberation, as their membership ...