The Bildungsroman genre is commonly defined as a novel or story in which the main character experiences personal growth or inner development. The term Bildungsroman was originally brought into the German vernacular due to the effectiveness of its theme, which was the importance of self-discovery towards a successful life. The genre was adapted after the “Enlightenment” which was a period when freedom of expression, individuality and unique ideas all were strongly encouraged. The short story A Sunrise on the Veld is a phenomenal example of the genre because it portrays many of the Bildungsroman traits.
To be defined as Bildungsroman literature, the story must convey a protagonist with the potential of self-development without the assistance from others around them. The story begins when the protagonist has purposefully woken himself up at four in the morning. Already, he possesses the self- development and discipline for a Bildungsroman solely through the action of waking up without the help from his parents. It is apparent that his parents will not be involved in the protagonists self realization, when the narrator describes the parents to be sleeping in the “stuffy blackness” of their room. Even though at this point in the story we are not aware of the conflict, the parent’s unimportance can also be recognized in the quotation, “for fear of waking his parents, who never came to know how early he rose.” This signifies the boy’s independence and also the lack of involvement his parents will likely have in his self-development. Not only does the Bildungsroman genre base an importance on the protagonist’s discovery, it also refers to the protagonist’s eventual understanding of life.
Bildungsroman literature determines the youth of the protagonist to be detrimental towards their initial understanding of life. In order to be classified as a Bildungsroman the main character must undergo a series of events that will eventually lead to a complete understanding towards the main character’s meaning of life. Initially, the protagonist exhibits a seemingly shallow outlook on life when he shouts, “I contain the world.” This ultimately reveals his naivety which has obviously resulted from his youth and lack of life experience. While the boy’s optimistic view on life potentially withholds the ability to give him many successes, it also may set him up for eventual failure. Hence, when one showcases great zealousness towards life, any small failure can cause them to suffer dramatically. When the protagonist showcases this enthusiasm it is evident that he will fail in some way causing him either to suffer for the rest of his life or it may lead him to obtain a more realistic outlook on life which often results in great successes. A candidate for the Bildungsroman genre must withhold this trait because it allows for a stronger inner development.
A final characteristic for Bildungsroman literature is its content of universal themes which makes it a highly popular form of writing. A universal theme is a theme one that surpasses race, gender, religion, sexuality, and creates a theme suitable for all people. A Sunrise on the Veld’s most distinguished theme is the idea that every action has a consequence. When the protagonist is contemplating over the nearly dead buck in the field he questions how such a beautiful animal could end up looking so painful laying lifelessly on the ground covered with ants. Even though earlier he had carelessly shot at the animal, unaware that he was the one who was responsible for the animal’s condition. The protagonist may be reflecting upon his own life with his perception of the buck. In the beginning of the story he finds himself believing he can do anything, which relates to the high regard he places the buck in. Observing the buck in this condition he immediately becomes less naive. Eventually realizing he had killed the animal directly relates to the universal theme of taking responsibility for your actions. The consequence he now faces is the pain of recognizing he had harmed a sinless creature which then leads him to decipher his newly brought conflict. The ability and faith to resolve conflicts is also a quality of the Bildungsroman genre.
A Sunrise on the Veld is an excellent example of the Bildungsroman genre as it clearly illustrates unaided self-development, an eventual understanding of life, and a universal theme. The protagonist eventually moves toward self-development and regardless of his youth develops an understanding of life itself.