How well does the novel Great Expectations fit into the Bildungsroman Genre?

Essay by jonnylitCollege, Undergraduate July 2004

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The term Bildungsroman is generally applied to a novel about education (in the wide sense), and all round self-development. Most of the best examples of Bildungsroman genre are German. Wieland's Agathan (1765) was the first novel to be classed under the Bildungsroman Genre.

A bildungsroman generally relates to the protagonist in a story who goes on a journey away from home due to a feeling of discontent or loss.

As the plot of the novel unfolds, a process of the protagonist's development can be identified.

The protagonist generally goes through an arduous battle from within, towards maturity. The desires and dreams of the protagonist tend to go against the ways of a rigid social system.

At the end of the story the protagonist matures and starts to fit into the system. The protagonist goes through self-reflection and self-assessment.

Taking into consideration the general aspects of what classifies a novel as Bildungsroman, Great Expectations fits in a number of ways.

Pip, the Protagonist in Great Expectations, has a strong desire and ambition to become an educated gentleman. Pip find out that he has a secret benefactor that sends him away from his home and true friends to London to be educated, and trained as a gentleman. As the story develops we witness a number of dramatic changes in Pip's personality. He goes through a number of battles with his conscience. Pip desires to be a gentleman go against his inner feelings. He realizes that wealth and social advancement don't always bring happiness. At the end of Great Expectations we see Pip in a completely different light. Pips story is about self-development, but not in the way that Pip originally planned. Pip's development is moral. He learns the importance of affection, loyalty and friendship. He also realizes how...