Slough of Despond

Slough of Despond

The Slough of Despond is a deep bog in John Bunyan's allegory "The Pilgrim's Progress", into which the character Christian sinks under the weight of his sins and his sense of guilt. "It is the low ground where the scum and filth of a guilty conscience, caused by conviction of sin, continually gather, and for this reason it is called the Slough of Despond." [Pilgrim's Progress in Today's English at 18 (Ed., James H. Thomas 1964)]

It has been referred to frequently in subsequent literature. Nathaniel Hawthorne's tale "The Celestial Railroad" is a satirical contrast between Bunyan's "A Pilgrim's Progress" and Hawthorne's perception of the current state of society. In Emily Brontë's "Wuthering Heights" the character Mr. Heathcliff likens his son's state of depression to having been dropped "into a Slough of Despond". In "Horatio Hornblower: The Even Chance", by C. S. Forester, Midshipman Archie Kennedy describes Hornblower's new home as "His Majesty's ship of the line Justinian, known elsewise among her intimates as the good ship Slough of Despond." In Mary McCarthy's novel "The Group" (1954), "Kay saw that [her husband, Harald] was sinking into a Slough of Despond (they had coined this name for his sudden, Scandinavian fits of depression)…" In Harlan Ellison's short story "I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream" (1967) the last five surviving humans are tortured by a godlike artificial intelligence named AM. The narrator relates how, among other harrowing experiences, "We passed through the Slough of Despond." [ [ Plot summary of "I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream"] on]

An area of wetlands in Canada is named after this fictional construct, located on the Bruce Trail near Big Bay, Ontario, north of Owen Sound.


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • slough of despond — If someone is very depressed or in despair, they re in a slough of despond …   The small dictionary of idiomes

  • Slough of Despond — a place in The Pilgrim’s Progress. It is a slough (= an area of soft, wet ground) that is full of fears and doubts. It is sometimes used to refer to the mental condition of a person with many doubts and fears: While he was in this slough of… …   Universalium

  • slough of despond — Etymology: from the Slough of Despond, deep bog into which Christian falls on the way from the City of Destruction and from which Help saves him in the allegory Pilgrim s Progress (1678) by John Bunyan Date: 1776 a state of extreme depression …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • Slough of Despond — noun A state of despondency. ,2003, Why could Johnson not drag himself out of this slough of despond? Roy Porter, Flesh in the Age of Reason (Penguin 2004, p. 183) …   Wiktionary

  • slough of despond —    If someone is very depressed or in despair, they re in a slough of despond.   (Dorking School Dictionary) …   English Idioms & idiomatic expressions

  • Slough of despond —   If someone is very depressed or in despair, they re in a slough of despond …   Dictionary of English idioms

  • Slough of Despond — Slough of Des|pond, the literary a situation in which you are very unhappy and there seems to be no hope that things will improve. The expression comes from the name of a place in the book ThePilgrim s Progress by John Bunyan …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • SLOUGH OF DESPOND —    a deep bog in the Pilgrim s Progress, into which Christian sinks under the weight of his sins and his sense of their guilt …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

  • slough of despond — deep depression …   English contemporary dictionary

  • slough of despond — noun (formal) extreme depression • Usage Domain: ↑formality • Hypernyms: ↑depression …   Useful english dictionary

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