The term (from German literally a growing-up novel) applies to a narrative in which we
encounter encounters a description of how the hero/heroine whose personality develops by
means of experience. The Bildungsroman shows the consolidation of a set of values by
which a man/woman lives. This "Bildung" is not so much an educational matter but rather a
more internal and psychological process. Some examples of this genre would be Fielding’s
Kenneth M. Sroka
defends that Edward Waverley undergoes an internal chang. He asserts
that education is a central theme in Waverley and considers that the evolution of the main
character throughout the novel follows the directories of the Bildungsroman genre. Sroka
advocates for the balance between the usefulness and uselessness of studies, both practical
ones and those that are merely for amusement. This balance is extended to the two narrators, the
fictional and the historical voices, and the minor characters, as well. Both narrators are
differentiated by their educational backgrounds, the former being predominantly from literary
sources, the latter being from historical roots.
Sroka points out that Walter Scott depicts his characters through their education, since it is
influential on their response to real life experiences. Therefore, he develops the topic of education
as a tangle of useful and useless knowledge, which is distributed between the characters. Major
and minor characters are defined by the proportion of 'useful' and 'useless' knowledge they have.
Two of the major characters, namely Flora MacIvor and Rose Bradwardine clash in their
education, since the former possesses a more literary knowledge used in a practical way,
whereas the latter relies more on experience than on books, which she considers to be a
complement of her general education. Waverley's interrelation with both characters results in a
combination of attitudes towards the experiences he undergoes. On the one hand, his romantic
education is turned into a more "practical wisdom", as Sroka poses. On the other hand, he
confides his literary knowledge to fully understanding those experiences. For Kenneth Sroka,
Waverley's education in love is consequently "a miniature on his overall education".
, however, disagrees in considering Waverley a character who fulfils the
properties of a Bildingsroman hero. According to Shaw, one cannot be totally certain whether the
hero in Waverley is the tool to explore a historical process or the object of an evolution towards
maturity. The historical process, rather than character psychology is the main concern of the
novel. All decisions Waverley undertakes arise out of either external influences such as his
acquaintances and his readings or the historical process itself.
The approach to Waverley's personality is far too superficial to include the novel in
'Bildungsroman' genre. Literary education is presented as vital in the first chapters. However, the
fact that it spends so many pages on narrating Waverley's childhood experiences through reading
Sroka, Kenneth. “Education in Walter Scott's Waverley” in Studies in Scottish Literature, vol.
Shaw, Harry E. 'The Hero as Instrument' in The Form of Historical Fiction, New York: Cornell
living in another timeless world can indeed expand in the adult mind.
Waverley's evolution is like everybody else's. Gradually he realises that some values (i.e.
Jacobite ones) are no longer his and gains in self-confidence and pragmatism, just like most
people do. In this sense, it is a normal part of evolution to marry a girl like Rose for pragmatic
reasons. On the other hand, Waverley learns to take decisions and make moral judgements. The
only problem is that Waverley does so when he is not really asked to, such as the passage where
he saves Talbot from the Jacobite troops.
Scott seems to be interested in building up an account of a historical process by
suggesting how utterly it depends on personal experience. At the same time, he demonstrates
how difficult it is to disengage one's decisions from one's historical context.