Many themes arise throughout the novel Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem. One of the main themes which arise is the theme of Bildungsroman, which shows a sense of growth and development. It is a genre that depicts a youth who struggles toward maturity, forming a worldview or philosophy of life and leaving behind the concerns of adolescence. There is a clear sense that the character takes a series of formative steps towards adulthood and some kind of achievement. This can clearly be associated with the protagonist of the novel Lionel Essrog.
Lionel Essrog tries to find his true identity and place in society through past lifetime experiences that occurred. Lionel’s underlying conquest is to find where he belongs in society and that he is able to be as reliable as any other person even though he tries to find his identity by searching for his biological parents. As an orphan, Lionel did not have his own identity. He spent his life in St. Vincent’s home for boys without any family members. The closest people to family members that he had were Tony, Gilbert, and Danny, other orphans at the home. As soon as the boys entered the moving company business, Lionel’s identity was created by Frank Minna. They began working for him for a few years before Frank had to leave with his brother Gerard. Before Frank left, he gave Lionel a book called Understanding Tourette's. After he read the book, Lionel sought medical attention from the homes once-weekly visiting nurse to get help with his Tourette's. Lionel says that “The chemicals slowed my brain down to a morose crawl, where a boot on my wheel of self. I might outsmart….to twilight.”(pg 83). Taking away his Tourettic symptoms also took away from his true identity. Although Minna encouraged Lionel to dwindle his symptoms, he helped Lionel become a person well accepted in society where he could control some outbursts and tics. After being labeled a Minna man, Lionel was looked at as intimidating and when he had...
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