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Both the autobiography and the bildungsroman often stress key transformative moments in an individual's life: these key moments usually follow a predetermined pattern of events that may be dictated by nature as much as nurture (for example, the onset of puberty, first sexual experiences, aging, and so on) or they may have social or historical agency (such as the outbreak of war disrupting an otherwise peaceful life).While immigrant experience narratives are often written using these two genres, they also develop them in distinctive ways, in particular through the fact that the formation of new immigrant identities usually takes place not only through formative experiences and the construction of the new, but also involving the deconstruction or dismantling of the old identity belonging to the country and/or nationality of origin.There is no doubt that many immigrants would in time achieve great success, but for many more, the immigrant experience was a long, hard process of work in primary industries and ‘sweat shops,’ often a process which eventually saw success with the next generation, through the education of the children who would not have to live by manual labor alone.
What the autobiography and bildungsroman clearly have in common is a focus upon life-experience, education (either formal or through more subjective means), character formation and a sense of identity.
One form (autobiography) purports to be factual, documenting actual life experiences, the other form (bildungsroman) purports to be fictional, but may have some basis in the author's own life.
that is the central fact about housing in the industrial areas: not that the houses are poky and ugly, and insanitary and comfortless, or that they are distributed in incredibly filthy slums around belching foundries and stinking canals and slag-heaps that deluge them with sulphurous smoke …
but simply that there are not enough houses to go round.” Industrialization in European countries may have lead to higher wages, but not necessarily an improved standard of living; in Britain, for example, the various Enclosures Acts meant that many people were forced from the land into the cities and it was this loss of lifestyle that lead to deprivation; even in the previous poverty of rural life, access to freshly grown food or illegally hunted game, for example, was sometimes to be had.
The industries of late nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century America needed a vast labor force who would work for relatively low wages (although these wages need to be put into the context of lands left behind, where poverty and even lower incomes were often the norm).
Immigrant Experience.” In Contemporary Literary Criticism, vol. America is a land of immigrants: they are the driving force of the economy, bringing intense ambition, a hunger to better oneself, a willingness to work, and most of all a relentless self-motivation that can be expressed in diverse ways, from the results of raw labor to those of education and cultural expression.
At the same time, it would be incorrect to idealize the rural past, where opportunities for change within rigidly hierarchical societies were virtually nil.
But once in the new cities, opportunity could be stifled by other demands, such as the heavy taxes that were a continual burden, often leading to a ‘catch 22’ situation where an increase in income could be quickly lost as governments took taxes for military expansion, among other things.
Many of these narratives are autobiographical or ‘pseudo-autobiographical,’ that is to say, crossing the boundaries between fact and fiction.
The fictional genre that is most closely related to such autobiographical writing is that of the bildungsroman, or novel of education and development. a novel which describes the protagonist's development from childhood to maturity.” He cites as famous examples Goethe's Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship and Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.