What They Expect Is What They Get: The Modern Day Bildungsroman

What is a Bildungsroman?

The Bildungsroman, also known as the coming-of-age novel, is a type of novel typically set during adolescence and young adulthood. The protagonist undergoes an educational process, often facing challenges and making significant personal growth along the way. This format has been popularized by the works of German authors such as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Johannes Brahms, Erich Maria Remarque, and Thomas Mann.

The Elements of a Bildungsroman

The Bildungsroman has been a dominant literary genre in English for over a century and has its roots in the classical novel. The Bildungsroman is a story about a young person’s journey to maturity and independence. It typically follows the protagonist from early childhood through their twenties and thirties, and often explores important themes such as self-knowledge, self-discovery, and coming into one’s own.

In general, there are four elements that are essential to the Bildungsroman: 1) A protagonist who undergoes an important transformation 2) A setting that provides opportunities for growth 3) Challenging experiences 4) A mentor or guide who helps the protagonist navigate these challenges.

Some of the most famous examples of the Bildungsroman include J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey, and John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. Each of these novels tells the story of a young man or woman who goes through significant changes during their adolescence and early adulthood. These changes can be physical (like falling out of favor with society or developing puberty), emotional (like experiencing loss or discovering new passions), or intellectual (like gaining mastery over new skills).

While all four elements are necessary for a good Bildungsroman, none is more important than the others. A well-written story will balance challenging experiences with opportunities for growth, provide a compelling setting that allows for

The Importance of Education in a Bildungsroman

One of the most important themes in any Bildungsroman is education. In order for the protagonist to grow and learn, they must go to school and learn from their teachers. This is often a time when the protagonist makes connections with other people and begins to develop their own personality. These novels are often about the search for identity, so it’s important that the protagonist finds their place in society and learns what they need to do to achieve success.

In many cases, these novels also focus on relationships. The protagonist will usually form close ties with their teachers and classmates, which can help them in later life. These relationships can be helpful or harmful, but they’re always important in a Bildungsroman. If the protagonist doesn’t have any strong relationships during their school years, it’ll be hard for them to build them after they graduate.

So, while education is an essential part of a Bildungsroman, it’s also very important that the author creates believable characters and scenes. If readers don’t believe that the characters are going through the experiences described in the novel, then it won’t be as engaging or exciting.

Why the Modern Day Bildungsroman is Important

The modern day Bildungsroman is one of the most popular and enduring genres of fiction. This type of novel follows a protagonist from youth to adulthood, often chronicling their journey from innocence to experience. These stories are extraordinarily important for society because they provide readers with a look into the lives of others and help us to understand our own.

The development of the Bildungsroman can be traced back to the 18th century German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. His novel Wilhelm Meister Eliezer depicts a young man’s journey from poverty to success. The popularity of this book led publishers to create similar stories, which became known as Bildungsromane or “formation novels.”

Bildungsromane typically take place in Germany, but they have been adapted for other countries and languages over the years. Some well-known examples include J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.

The purpose of the Bildungsroman is not simply entertainment; it is also educational. By following the lives of fictional characters, readers learn about life, love, relationships, and moral values. Through these books, we can better understand our own experiences and relate them to those of others.


In today’s society, we are constantly told to chase after the “perfect” life. We’re told that if we want something, we need to work hard for it and be completely dedicated to achieving our goals. But is this really what the modern day Bildungsroman leads to? In a world where expectations are always high, is it really possible to find satisfaction in anything? If not, what does that mean for the future of our generation?

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