The traditional Bildungsroman novel is autobiographical in form and displays similarities with the author's own life, mostly with regard to childhood experiences. The novel displays a single individuals growth and development within the context of a defined social order. In most cases the protagonist is orphaned and experiences some form of loss or discontentment in order to spur them away from the family home or setting. The education of the main character is another aspect, which is crucial to their growth and development within the novel. It states in Todd (1980; 161) 1. that?
'Ideally Bildungsroman heroes, who continue to pursue their own adolescent ideals and inclinations, are expected to conform eventually to a predetermined identity and become integrated with the society whose values are creating and molding them'.
Charles Dickens wrote Great Expectations and described Pips childhood experiences in great detail. It has been argued that most of the child characters Dickens portrayed in his novels resembled that of his own childhood experiences. Like Pip, Dickens received very little in the way of formal education.
Charlotte Bronte uses many similarities in Jane Eyre that could be argued resemble her own experiences. She too like that of Jane was the daughter of a clergyman and was sent to a school called Norwood, which bares many similarities with that of Lowood. She also became a governess and this suggests that her own experience of a middle class working woman fighting to find a place in Victorian society was used to express her own views of life in that of Jane Eyre.
In Great Expectations, Pip is typical of the main character in a Bildungsroman novel, as he is an orphan. Pip is brought up in a working class environment with his older sister and her husband, Joe Gargery. Pip rejects Joe as a substitute father and looks on him as more of a friend. This is evident in the passage when Joe states?'you and me is always friends' (12;ch.2) 2. The absence of a father figure for Pip reinforces the need for him to find some sense of identity and belonging in society.
The possibility of a better life becomes apparent to Pip on his first meeting with Estella and Mrs. Haversham at Satis House. It is at this stage in the novel that Pip realises for the first time that he is of a lower social status. It is evident that Pip is aware of his social status when he says 'I had never thought of being ashamed of my hands before; but I began to consider them a very different pair' (60;ch.8) 3.
In Jane Eyre, once again the main character is typical of the Bildungsroman. Jane is an orphan living with her relatives, the Reeds. However she is brought up in a middle class society but is reminded that she is an outcast. Jane's struggle with her identity and place in society began before she was born, with her mother marrying a poor clergyman, who was considered beneath her by her family.
Jane also experiences conflict within class structures in society. This is evident when the Reeds attempt to bully and suppress Jane at every opportunity they can, reminding her that she has no money that she can rightfully call her own. Jane's struggle is not only to find a place in society but also to find a place in society as a woman. Jane is aware from an early age that she has no power as a female of her social status, while John Reed is fully aware of his importance as a male. Thus Jane's educational growth begins when she is unjustly locked in the red room at Gateshead and is sent away to Lowood to be educated. Once again although Jane receives a formal education, she embarks on her own educational growth in life towards maturity and finding an acceptable place in society.
Jane's struggle and discontentment is evident in the various stages of the novel. Firstly as already stated at Gateshead and again at Lowood, where she was subjected to terrible humiliation and degradation at the hands of the Reverend Brocklehurst. It seems...
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