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A bildungsroman, which means “novel of education” in German, describes one character’s (often the narrator) passage from youth into adulthood. In a bildungsroman, this character begins the book with little understanding of the adult world. They faces a major challenge that tests their understanding of the world and teaches them something important about the society they lives in. To Kill a Mockingbird is a bildungsroman, in that it traces Scout’s development from innocent child to aware member of her community through the experience of witnessing Tom’s trial and being rescued by Boo Radley. Scout learns about racism in her community and in the legal system. While at the beginning of the book she believes that most people in her community are fundamentally good, by the end of the book she has seen violence and cruelty firsthand. As a result, she is wiser and more prepared to enter society. Remember, a bildungsroman does not necessarily mean that the main character is literally an adult by the end of the book. It only means that the character faces a significant life challenge that brings them closer to an adult understanding of the world. Scout is still a child when the book ends, but due to the above reasons, To Kill a Mockingbird is a bildungsroman.
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