You must have come across this word a “bildungsroman” somewhere while reading books or literature. It is a German term which denotes a “novel of education”. The term was first coined by Johann Carl Simon Morgenstern. Slowly and gradually, it came on the surface during the German Enlightenment. Now, these days, the authors present the moral, psychological, and social shaping of the personality of a young main character.
There are some of the features you’ll learn in this article that will help you understand what the term bildungsroman stands for in literature.
There are certain features which are always present in a bildungsroman:
1. The protagonist or character undergoes a development phase from child to adult.
2. The protagonist or character has a particular reason that urges him or her to embark upon a journey. At an early stage, there has to be a loss or some discontent with the protagonist that compels him or her away from the home.
3. The process of the character’s maturation is normally long, gradual and arduous. This development process involves frequent clashes between the protagonist’s wants and desires imposed by a rigid social order.
4. The values of the social order become noticeable in the protagonist, who is finally incorporated into the society.
5. The novel normally ends with the protagonist’s self-discovery, his assessment of himself and his place in the society. In other words, it’s all about the protagonist’s self-discovery and how he is rooted into the society.
In short, bildungsroman is a novel about the early years of a person’s life, or about a person’s psychological or moral growth. The well-known novels of this type are David Copperfield (1849-1850), and in which Charles Dickens depicts David’s life from childhood misery to worldly success, and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916), in which James Joyce sketches Stephen Dedalus’s growht as a man and an artist.
Similarly, American author Paule Marshall in Brown Girl, Brownstones (1959) describes Selina Boyce growing up in Brooklyn, New York as the child of migrants from Barbados. Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses (1992) is a tale of 16-year-old John Grady Cole and two companions who travel from Texas to Mexico where their adventures turn into rites of passage to manhood.
So, you can keep these features in your mind while reading literary work or novel which is called a bildungsroman or a novel of education.