In literary criticism, a Bildungsroman (German: "formation novel") or coming-of-age story is a literary genre that focuses on the psychological and moral growth of the protagonist from youth to adulthood (coming of age), and in which change of character is thus extremely important. German novelists typically concentrate on the internal struggle of the hero. The protagonist’s adventures can be seen as a quest for the meaning of life or as a vehicle for the author’s social and moral opinions as demonstrated through the protagonist.
As opposed to the social novel, a bildungsroman (a novel of education or a novel of educational formation) focuses on its hero's education toward a meaningful idea of himself and his role in the world. Other characters are clearly subordinated to this process. The various temptations and obstacles he has to surmount on his bildungsreise (educational journey) bring out his character and faculties, gradually leading him toward greater self-awareness.
Although The History of Agathon, written by Wieland in 1766–1767, may be the first known example, it was Johann Wolfgang Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship, written in 1795, took the form from philosophical to personal development and gave celebrity to the genre. Thomas Carlyle translated Goethe’s novel into English, and after its publication in 1824, many British authors wrote novels being inspired by it. Keller's Der Grüne Heinrich (1855) and Stifter's Nachsommer(1857) rank as the best representatives of the genre in the nineteenth century. Though written considerably later, Hesse's novels are also in the vein of the nineteenth-century Bildungsroman like Glasperlenspiel. Thomas Mann’s Magic Mountain which is another example of Bildungsroman. In France, Flaubert’s L’ Education Sentimentale is an instance. Novels in English that may be put into this category are Defoe’s Moll...
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