Let’s Read! : Bildungsroman

Yesterday, we were able to share about the “Coming of Age” day in South Korea. It was celebrated by those who were born in 1992 as they turned 20 this year. The celebration yesterday marked their independence from their families and guardians being the new generation of adults in their country. To commemorate that day, let us explore more about how popular the concept of “coming-of-age” is in different fields such as literature and films.

In literary criticism, the “coming-of-age story is a literary genre that focuses on the psychological and moral growth of the protagonist (main character) from childhood to adulthood. In this kind of story, the focus is the change of the character in all aspects of being a person (emotional, psychological, physical etc.) The birth of this style is usually associated with the publication of The Apprentice of Wilhelm Meister (1795–96) by the German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Thus, this genre is also called as bildungsroman, a German term that means “formation novel.”

From Germany, the “coming-of-age” genre reached and became well-known in other European countries including France and Great Britain. By the end of the 20th century, it has become particularly popular among women writers and other countries around the world. Nowadays, the “coming-of –age” has already become a very common theme for movies and TV dramas. Even the adaptation of classic and modern bildungsroman novels to big screen has become a trend. This just proves how close to each of us this kind of story is – because once in our lives, we have all crossed the line from being a child to an adult.

Here are some examples of bildungsroman novels and films:

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

Anne Shirley book series by Lucy Maud Montgomery

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Dead Poets Society(1989 movie starring Robin Williams)

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

Harry Potter series by Joanne Rowling

The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins




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