Great Expectations appears to be simply the story of Pip from his early childhood to his early adulthood, and a recollection of the events and people that Pip encounters throughout his life. In other words, it is a well written story of a young man’s life growing up in England in the early nineteenth century. At first glance, it may appear this way, an interesting narrative of youth, love, success and failure, all of which are the makings of an entertaining novel. However, Great Expectations is much more.
Pip’s story is not simply a recollection of the events of his past. The recollection of his past is important in that it is essential in his development throughout the novel, until the very end. The experiences that Pip has as a young boy are important in his maturation into young adulthood. These elements are crucial to the structure and development of Great Expectations: Pip’s maturation and development from child to man are important characteristics of the genre to which Great Expectations belongs. In structure, Pip’s story, Great Expectations, is a Bildungsroman, a novel of development.
The Bildungsroman traces the development of a protagonist from his early beginnings–from his education to his first venture into the big city–following his experiences there, and his ultimate self-knowledge and maturation. Upon the further examination of the characteristics of the Bildungsroman as presented here it is clear that Great Expectations, in part, conforms to the general characteristics of the English Bildungsroman. However, there are aspects of this genre from which Dickens departs in Great Expectations.
It is these departures that speak to what is most important in Pip’s development, what ultimately makes him a gentleman, and what determines his status as a gentleman. In Pip’s case, it is not throwing off the shackles of provincial life and having a lot of money. Wealth is not what makes Pip a gentleman. If that were the case, the novel would be over the moment that Pip received his “expectations” and headed off for London. Nevertheless, that event, the one that so greatly detours from the formula of the Bildungsroman, is merely the beginning of Pip’s development.
It is ultimately the fact that Pip recognizes that he is good, not simply because of whom he is within the hierarchy of the English class system. Pip becomes good when he rejects the selfish worldly desires of money, property, and social standing, although he could have them, for the benefit of someone else. He also reaches his maturation when he recognizes the importance of his socially undesirable upbringing. This is the importance of the Bildungsroman and Great Expectations. Great Expectations is an autobiographical novel, as many Bildungsromane are.
This is not to say that it is Dickens’ autobiography, it is actually the autobiography of a fictional character: Pip. Some of the experiences are indeed taken from Dickens’ own history. In fact, Dickens was aware of the autobiographical nature of Great Expectations. Fred Kaplan reports that “From the start, [Dickens] had no doubt that [Great Expectations] would be autobiographical, and he soon reread David Copperfield to avoid repetition” (432). Dickens also establishes it as a Bildungsroman or a novel of apprenticeship.
Kaplan quotes Dickens from the time that he was writing Great Expectations that Pip was ” ‘to be a boy-child, like David[Copperfield]. Then he will be an apprentice'” (432). It is tempting, with this confirmation from Dickens that Great Expectations is autobiographical, for a reader to assume it is strictly Dickens’ autobiography. The fact that Dickens looked over David Copperfield again shows that he did not want to rewrite his life over and over. He simply extracted certain events or places to facilitate the believability of the plot and the protagonist’s development.
In the Bildungsroman, the early, formative years of the young protagonist are important in his development. Usually the child grows up in a small, provincial town where he is relegated to a certain lot in life, as either a tradesman or other such occupation that he finds limiting and undesirable (Buckley 17). In Pip’s case, he grows up on the marshes of the Thames, outside of London, in a town which historians have determined is most likely a town based on the real town of Rochester (Kaplan 25). Here Pip lives with his sister and her husband, Joe Gargery.
Joe is a blacksmith by trade, and it is assumed that Pip will follow in his footsteps and apprentice to Joe, with the expectation that he will take over the forge one day. These issues of home and position are crucial to Pip’s development throughout the novel. Pip’s family status is important in the novel’s classification as a Bildungsroman. From the very inception of Pip’s story, it is made clear that he has no father or mother. That Pip is an orphan is characteristic of the English Bildungsroman. Buckley writes, “the growing child, as he appears in these novels, more often than not will be orphaned” (19).
He sees this as important in that the father figure who would be the strongest force in the boy’s development, is absent and therefore a formative force is gone (19), but Pip’s lack of an immediate family (Mrs. Joe is his sister, but at least twenty years older than him) is also a major point of Great Expectations as a Bildungsroman. Joe, the closest thing to a father that Pip has, is not a true father figure. He is more of a friend. Joe does care for Pip much like a father: “[Joe] always aided and comforted me when he could, in some way of his own, and he always did so at dinner-time by giving me gravy” (43-44; ch. ). Pip knows that Joe cares for him, but his only evidence is Joe giving him gravy. Usually a father is seen as someone strong and significant, yet Pip associates Joe with something as insignificant as the gravy. Pip even remarks that “Joe’s station and influence were something feebler (if possible) when there was company” (43; ch. 4).
The phrase “if possible” indicates that Pip sees Joe as weak, not typically characteristic of a father. Joe also confirms his standing as Pip’s friend. He tells Pip clearly that “you and me is always friends” (31; ch. ). Pip, from his eventual desire to escape his common trade, rejects Joe as a substitute father. Since he has no immediate family ties, he is freer than the average individual to pursue his development and his dreams of becoming a gentleman. Another aspect of the Bildungsroman present in Great Expectations is education. Although Pip’s education is meager, it opens up the proposition of new opportunities. He is sent to Mr. Wopsle’s aunt’s school. He does not receive the best of educations from Mr. Wopsle’s great-aunt.
Pip says that “she was a ridiculous old woman of limited means and unlimited infirmity, who used to go to sleep from six to seven every evening in the society of youth who paid twopence per week each, for the improving opportunity of seeing her do it” (59; ch 7). In other words, Mr. Wopsle’s great-aunt does more sleeping than teaching. After all, this is an “evening school” designed for rural children who must work at home during the day and get some semblance of an education in the evenings. The fact that she went to sleep between six and seven negates any actual teaching on her part.
However, Pip does get the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic from Mr. Wopsle’s great-aunt’s granddaughter, Biddy. “Much of my unassisted self, and more by the help of Biddy than of Mr. Wopsle’s great-aunt, I struggled through the alphabet . . . . After that, I fell among those thieves, the nine figures . . . . [A]t last I began, in a purblind groping way, to read, write, and cipher” (59-60; ch. 7). Pip himself deems his education as minor in the scheme of things, but it does instill in Pip a desire to learn and enables him to read and write.
Regarding the Bildungsroman, this is phase one of Pip’s education and development as well as a stepping stone that assists him in his eventual goal of becoming a gentleman. Pip’s education also fulfills another of the characteristics of the English Bildungsroman in that he is “unassisted. ” He is self-educated aside from his sessions with Biddy. Buckley writes that the protagonist of a Bildungsroman often creates “new ideas from unprescribed reading” (17). Education is important in the Bildungsroman, and it is not always academic.
In Great Expectations, another part of Pip’s education stems from his experiences at Satis House with Miss Havisham and Estella. Here, Pip receives an educational glimpse of the importance of class distinction. It is here that Pip first becomes aware of the fact that he belongs to a specific class, the working class. The very first time that Pip is called to Satis House, he meets Estella. Miss Havisham tells Estella to play cards with Pip and her immediate reaction is: “With this boy! Why, he is a common labouring-boy! ” (73; ch 8).
Even later while they are playing, Estella comments on the elements of Pip’s appearance and demeanor that indicate his social standing: “He calls the knaves, Jacks, this boy! . . . And what coarse hands he has. And what thick boots! ” (73; ch 8) Pip has never encountered such observations in his little world. He also has never had a close encounter with people of the upper class, like Estella and Miss Havisham, who are aware of the distinction, because Pip (at least in Estella’s eyes) is the equivalent to any servant they may have working in the house.
Pip’s world does not include these class distinctions. This is obvious from Pip’s comment that “I had never thought of being ashamed of my hands before; but I began to consider them a very indifferent pair. Her contempt was so strong, that it became infectious, and I caught it” (73; ch. 8). Pip learns a great lesson from Estella. He is humiliated by her rebuff and instilled with the knowledge that he knowledge of his lower place in society. He also, despite her “contempt,” begins to fall in love with Estella. From this love, he develops a desire to win Estella over.
However, since he realizes that she sees him as below her because of his class, he consciously begins his journey toward adulthood and the life of a “gentleman. ” This is generally the goal of the protagonist in a Bildungsroman. He tells Biddy about Estella, “the beautiful young lady at Miss Havisham’s [who is] more beautiful than anybody ever was, and I admire her dreadfully and I want to be a gentleman on her account” (133; ch. 17). His desire to become a gentleman makes Pip unsatisfied with the proposed life in the forge with Joe.
Pip muses: “I wished Joe had been rather more genteelly brought up, and then I should have been so too” (75; ch. 8). From this point then, Pip is seeking something better and this search for gentility is what will eventually lead him on the rest of his journey. Since he has now become aware of the social inadequacy of his proposed lot in life, he seeks to escape the forge. Had he never visited Miss Havisham’s, Pip may have been utterly happy within the domain of the forge, but once he believes what Miss Havisham and Estella have taught him he begins to despise that life.
Pip begins his apprenticeship with Joe but quietly wishes to pursue something better for himself. Pip gets his chance to become a gentleman in the next aspect of Great Expectations that is characteristic of the Bildungsroman. In most Bildungsromane, the young man leaves his provincial town for the big city. In Pip’s case, it is London, as is the case in most English Bildungsroman (Buckley 17). This trip to London is a result of an advantage Pip is afforded that most heroes of Bildungsroman are not. Pip is provided with an inheritance, as Mr. Jaggers, the lawyer, says, ” ‘he will come into a handsome property'” (141; ch 18).
A mysterious benefactor has given him this inheritance. According to Jaggers, the benefactor wants Pip “‘immediately removed from his present sphere of life and from this place, [to] be brought up as a gentleman–in a word, as a young fellow of great expectations” (141; ch 18). Pip can now begin that which Buckley calls a “real ‘education'” (17). Pip’s dream of becoming a gentleman, which will (in his mind) win him Estella, has become a reality. So, Pip heads off to London with some of his “handsome property” from his benefactor. Pip believed this benefactor was Miss Havisham. He also elieved she “was going to make my fortune on a grand scale” (141; ch. 18).
Pip’s desires to become a gentleman combined with his desire to inherit the whole of his entitlement are also an important characteristic of the English Bildungsromane. The transformation from poor provincial working class to a true gentleman, monied and cultured, was common in English novels of the Victorian era, especially in Bildungsroman like Great Expectations (Buckley 20-21). This is appropriate for the time when the burgeoning middle class growing out of the Industrial Revolution had more prospects for upward mobility than ever before.
A man could work his way up the social ladder through his employment. The titles of the landed gentry and a university education were no longer required for success. All one needed was money. However, Pip does not earn his money how a protagonist in the traditional Bildungsroman does. In the middle class values of the Bildungsroman, a man must work to become a gentleman and Pip is an example of a boy who becomes a gentleman through his “handsome property,” not a gentleman in the traditional sense. Not only is Pip’s rise to “gentleman” untraditional, the “expectations” provided Pip are a major departure from the formula of the Bildungsroman.
Usually, the adolescent hero strikes out for London on his own. There is no inheritance, no “benefactor. ” This departure is significant in its non-middle class values and that it dictates the rest of Pip’s experiences and “education” in London. The circumstances surrounding Pip’s “great expectations” are fundamental in helping shape the Pip that develops by the end of the novel. One of the first consequences that arise from Pip’s “great expectations” in London is an extension of his social education at Satis House.
Pip immediately feels that he has been raised up above the lower station of his beginnings with Joe. He is no longer the boy with “coarse hands” and “thick boots”. Pip now has a new suit of clothes and new prospects for his future. This occurs shortly after Pip’s learning of his inheritance. He speaks to Biddy of Joe’s education, and his haughtiness shows itself at full force: “. . . he is rather backward in some things. For instance, Biddy, in his learning and his manners” (150; ch 19). Pip implies here that he is so far above Joe as to be able to assess Joe’s abilities and determine that they are inadequate.
Pip is even so bold as to suggest that he will raise Joe above his station: “if I were to remove Joe to a higher sphere, as I shall hope to remove him when I fully come into my property . . . ” (150; ch. 19). Pip gives Joe the final rejection when he refuses to allow Joe to accompany him to the coach for London on the day that he leaves: “I had told Joe that I wished to walk away all alone. I am afraid–sore afraid–that this purpose originated in my sense of the contrast there would be between me and Joe, if we went to the coach together” (159; ch. 9). Clearly, Pip wants to leave his provincial life behind him and step into the world of property and society; he does this by literally leaving his town and ultimately rejecting Joe, who represents Pip’s roots. Pip’s expectations not only cause him to reject his home and only family, they also help to exacerbate the troubles he encounters in London. Pip has never been exposed to such amounts of money, and he ultimately gets himself, and his good friend and roommate, Herbert Pocket, into serious financial problems.
These problems arise from Pip’s extravagant spending and the fact that he has not acquired a trade, as most protagonists in the Bildungsroman do once they arrive in London. So Pip is only living off of the allowance provided by his benefactor. Pip says that “Herbert and I went on from bad to worse, in the way of increasing our debts” (268; ch. 36). Pip has trouble because he has not had to work for his money. If Dickens had followed the formula of the Bildungsroman and given Pip a job in London, Pip would have realized the value of money.
Money is valuable for the material wealth that one can gain, but Pip believes that money is the solution to all of his problems. For instance, when he hears of Joe’s impending visit, he does not want to see him because Joe’s presence will remind him of his unreasonable rejection of Joe, the “keen sense of incongruity. If I could have kept him away by paying money, I certainly would have paid money” (209; ch. 27). Pip also desires to buy happiness for Herbert. He knows that Herbert’s ultimate dream is to have part ownership of an import-export business. He wants “gradually to buy him onto some small partnership” (276; ch. 37).
His motives seem to be pure, a desire to help Herbert, but Pip is not happy in his present situation. This donation of a partnership on Pip’s part is to help Herbert, but also to uplift Pip’s spirits: “I did really cry in good earnest when I went to bed, to thing that my expectations had done some good to somebody” (280; ch. 37). Pip also sees this as “the turning point in of my life” (280; ch. 37). Pip overestimates this experience, but he does not know of the actual turning point to come, the truth behind his “benefactor. ” Pip learns that his benefactor is none other than the convict whom he helped in the very first chapter of the novel.
Magwitch shows up to his room, and proceeds to tell him that “Yes, Pip, dear boy, I’ve made a gentleman on you! It’s me wot has done it! I swore that time, sure as ever I earned a guinea, that guinea should go to you” (298; ch. 39). Pip, naturally, is upset and disappointed in the fact of his “expectations. ” This realization is the beginning of a chain of events that unravels all of Pip’s expectations and paves the way to Pip’s self-knowledge and maturity. This first instance of self-focus comes about immediately following Magwitch’s revelation.
Pip wishes “that he had never come! That he had left me at the forge–far from contented, yet, by comparison, happy! ” (299; ch. 39) Pip realizes that the life he had wished so badly to rise above, is not as bad as he had thought it was. In fact, it may have been better for him. Pip’s other realization comes from the fact that Magwitch’s arrival means that Miss Havisham is not Pip’s benefactor, much to his dismay: “Miss Havisham’s intentions towards me, all a mere dream; Estella not designed for me; I only suffered in Satis House as a convenience” (301; ch 39).
Here, Pip’s major motivation for wanting to become a gentleman–his belief that Miss Havisham was his benefactress for the purpose of marrying him off to Estella–is all a lie. Also, Pip has literally hurt himself and feels ” the sharpest and deepest pain of all–it was for the convict, guilty of I knew not what crimes, and liable to be taken out of those rooms where I sat thinking, and hanged at the Old Bailey door, that I had deserted Joe” (301; ch 39). Pip feels the pain of hurting someone he loves, and rejecting Joe for these false “expectations. It is this experience, as well as the ultimate realization, that despite his benefactor’s unsavory background Pip “saw in him a much better man than I had been to Joe” (406; ch 55). Pip does become “a much better man. ” This is, after all, the ultimate goal of the Bildungsroman. He stands by Provis throughout his trial, and recognizes the generosity of both Herbert in his offer of partnership, and Joe in giving Pip the “receipt for the debt and costs on which [he] had been arrested. . . Joe had paid it, and the receipt was in his name” (429; ch. 58).
It is after this that Pip reveals his plight to Joe and Biddy, and ultimately recognizes Biddy’s love over Estella’s and hopes that Biddy “will go through the world with [him]” (429; ch. 58). Pip has matured and realized his mistakes. However, Pip’s marriage is not to be, and here again Dickens departs from the traditional Bildungsroman. Biddy marries Joe. This also contributes to Pip’s development in that it frees him to become a clerk in Herbert’s firm, and ultimately Pip is successful, but not the “success” of which he had always dreamed. He “became third in the Firm” (436; ch. 8) and the firm itself “had a good name, and worked for our profits and did very well” (436; ch 58).
This again is atypical of the Bildungsroman, because Herbert is, in effect, rewarding Pip for the assistance in his success. Pip is not an aristocratic gentleman, nor a “self-made man. ” He has help arriving at his goal, and is a gentleman of moral, not material sensibility. Pip fulfills the ultimate goal of the novel, even though Dickens circumvents the formula. Pip becomes a gentleman in business and in life, but not through his “expectations. Dickens departs from the Bildungsroman in providing Pip with these “expectations” to give Pip an obstacle to overcome on the way to his manhood. Pip’s “handsome property” should be an advantage.
What would seem at first to be a blessing, becomes a curse, and then finally a blessing again. Pip’s rejection of those things in life that are good and true, like Joe and Biddy, must be reversed in order for him to become a man, and Pip must reject those things that are false, like Miss Havisham and his “expectations. Pip’s rejection illustrates Dickens rejection of the middle class values of marriage and “success,” the values celebrated and elevated by the traditional, middle class genre of the Bildungsroman. Dickens believed that basic moral values such as generosity and kindness were to be elevated; that the material world was irrelevant to a man’s worth. Dickens still creates a novel of development – a Bildungsroman – but the fact that Pip’s development is complete only in Dickens’ rebuff of many of the traditional traits of the Bildungsroman shows what Dickens believed truly made a gentleman: goodness.
Works Cited Buckley, Jerome Hamilton. Season of Youth: The Bildungsroman from Dickens to Golding. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1974. Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. Ed. Janice Carlisle. Boston: Bedford, 1996. Kaplan, Fred. Dickens: A Biography. New York: Morrow, 1988. The English Bildungsroman Rachel Birk The novel has a strong tradition in English literature. In Great Britain, it can trace its roots back to Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe in 1719 (Kroll 23). Since then, the British novel has grown in popularity. It was especially popular in Victorian England.
The type of novel that was particularly popular in Victorian England was the novel of youth. Many authors of the time were producing works focused on the journey from childhood to adulthood: Charlotte Bronte wrote Jane Eyre, George Eliot wrote The Mill on the Floss, and Charles Dickens wrote David Copperfield and Great Expectations. All of these novels trace the growth of a child. In this respect, some of the most popular novels of the nineteenth century were part of the genre called the Bildungsroman. In the simplest sense of the word, a Bildungsroman is a novel of the development of a young man (or in some cases a young woman).
In fact, the Webster’s College Dictionary definition of Bildungsroman is “a novel dealing with the education and development of its protagonist”. The Bildungsroman as a genre has its roots in Germany. Jerome Buckley notes that the word itself is German, with Bildung having a variety of connotations: “portrait,” “picture,” “shaping” and “formation,” all of which give the sense of development or creation (the development of the child can also be seen as the creation of the man) (13-14). Roman simply means “novel. ” The term Bildungsroman emerged as a description of Goethe’s novel Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre.
This was the first Bildungsroman, having been published between 1794 and 1796 (Buckley 9). The word “lehrjahre” can be translated as “apprenticeship” (Buckley 10). “Apprenticeship” has many connotations, most of which deal with education and work. An apprentice goes to work for an experienced worker and learns and develops his trade and also to a greater extent his identity. Similarly, the Bildungsroman is characterized by the growth, education, and development of a character both in the world and ultimately within himself. The Bildungsroman is subcategorized into very specific types of the genre, most often found in German literature.
There is the Entwicklungsroman, which can be defined as “a chronicle of a young man’s general growth rather than his specific quest for self-culture” (Buckley 13). In other words, a story recounting a man’s life rather than focusing on the inner changes that contribute to his maturity. Another form within German literature is the Erziehungsroman; this form is primarily concerned with the protagonist’s actual educational process (Buckley 13). Again, the concern is not the overall development of the main character, but a specific aspect of that character’s life. Finally, there is the Kunstlerroman.
The root Kunstler translates as artist in English. Therefore, this is the development of the artist from childhood until his artistic maturity, focusing on the man as artist rather than the man in general. Dickens’ David Copperfield and James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man are both examples of English Kunstlerroman, as the protagonists of both books are writers (Buckley 13). These categories, while strict within German literature, are more free within English literature. For the most part, it is (within English literature) a more inclusive term.
According to Buckley in his book Seasons of Youth, the Bildungsroman in English literature is “in its broadest sense . . . a convenient synonym for the novel of youth or apprenticeship” (13). Nevertheless, the definition of the Bildungsroman, specifically the English Bildungsroman, is more involved than a simple etymological examination of the roots of the word or a simple historical reference to Goethe. The English Bildungsromane vary from novel to novel. However, they have many aspects in common, all of which are important to the development of the protagonist.
First of all, the English Bildungsroman is an autobiographical form, which is not to say that Bildungsromane are autobiographies in the literal sense. Buckley quotes author Somerset Maugham speaking about his novel Of Human Bondage (considered to be a Bildungsroman): ” ‘It is not an autobiography, but an autobiographical novel; fact and fiction are inextricably mingled'” (24). Naturally, an author does bring something of his own life into his work, especially in a form in which childhood recollections are so important to the development of the protagonist, and the flow of the novel itself.
However, as Maugham says, “fact mingles with fiction. ” An author may incorporate some autobiographical material, since it is easiest to write about what he already knows, but Great Expectations is not Dickens’ story, it is Pip’s; the main character of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is not James Joyce, but Stephen Dedalus; and Jane Eyre, which is subtitled “An Autobiography” would clearly then be the autobiography of Jane Eyre, not Charlotte Bronte. Ultimately the autobiographical elements contribute to a sense of reality within the Bildungsromane, but the Bildungsromane are novels, and therefore, fiction.
The second common characteristic of the Bildungsroman is the ancestry of the main character. Many of the English Bildungsroman have a protagonist who is often an orphan or a child who has suffered the loss of a father (Buckley 19). This sets the scene for a difficult development, marked by a desire in the protagonist to search for his or her own identity, since there is either none to begin with as an orphan, or no familial identity as a fatherless child. Therefore, the child seeks to gain an identity of its own, and the development begins. Another aspect of the English Bildungsroman is the education of the main character.
This education is crucial, in that it is part of the child’s maturation and preparation for impending adolescence and adulthood. Often, the education is a sticking point of the child’s home life. He is usually from a small provincial town, and often the education expands the child’s mind and “is frustration insofar as it may suggest options not available to him in his present setting” (Buckley 17). These options are important in the development of the protagonist. Part of the development of the child is the desire, as mentioned earlier, to leave home and become “his own man. Both the search for identity and the repression of the small town present motivation for the protagonist to do just that, and often his destination is London. He also travels to London to find his trade or occupation.
This is most appropriate for the English Bildungsroman. After all, London is the largest, most cosmopolitan city in England and therefore presents the most opportunities for the now adolescent child to continue his development, education, and ultimately find his niche within society through his chosen occupation. Buckley points out that this journey is “more importantly . . . is direct experience of urban life” (17). However, this urban experience is not always a pleasant one. However poor the child may have been in his provincial town, there is urban squalor and abject poverty in London, a harsh reality to bear. In this case, London, although it seems like some perfect destination, full of opportunity, is the source of “disenchantment more alarming and decisive than any dissatisfaction with the narrowness of provincial life” (Buckley 20). Therefore, despite the hero’s image of the shining city of hopes and dreams, it is disappointing, and not so much better than the life he had at home.
An aspect of this new life in the city is that of love. It is usually here that the hero has his first experience with love. Buckley writes that there are “at least two love affairs or sexual encounters, one debasing, one exalting” (17). Usually, between the debasement of the one love affair and the disillusionment with the city, the young man takes the final step in his development. He must reconcile “after painful soul-searching, the sort of accommodation to the modern world he can honestly make” (Buckley 17). In other words the inner development and maturity of the protagonist takes place after his “education” in the city.
It is this newfound self-knowledge that signals the ultimate maturity of the hero. With this maturity of course comes success, and often the protagonist marries, a recognition of acceptance and maturity; now that he knows himself he can share his life with someone else. Even if the protagonist does not get married, he returns home to share his successes with his family or fellow townspeople (Buckley 18). Clearly, this is a display of pride in his accomplishments, and more importantly a search for external validation, however ironic it may be that he must return to the place he wanted so desperately to escape to achieve this validation.
It is with this return home, where the reader is reminded of who the protagonist was and where he came from, that his development can most clearly be delineated. Although he has come full circle, the memories of the boy that was are perfectly suited to emphasize the man that he has become. Obviously, this is a basic definition of the English Bildungsroman. There are variations within the genre, and one or more elements may be left out of a particular novel (Buckley 18). However, the basic principles of education and development, and the journey from childhood to adulthood, from small to large, are present within every English Bildungsroman.
It is these differences precisely that make each novel its own story. After all, even though every person’s story is different, they must all go through stages of development in order to reach maturity and find their personal niche within the larger world. The basic formula of the Bildungsroman is universal and especially appropriate to the growing world of the Victorian age where the kind of opportunities presented to the hero of the Bildungsroman echoed the actual experiences of those growing up in that era.