Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Semester of Degree Completion


Thesis Director

Richard Sylvia


Charles Dickens wrote two autobiographical novels which are developed in the Bildungsroman genre. Although the self-formation of the two young heroes, David in David Copperfield and Pip in Great Expectations, are very similar, reflecting the struggles in Dickens' own development, there is an important and interesting difference in the forces that influence each young hero. This difference evolves from Dickens' responses to forces affecting his life at the time he wrote David Copperfield in 1849-50 and Great Expectations in 1860.

This thesis addresses the internal forces influencing David's development, contrasting them with the external forces to which Pip must respond. David's heart is undisciplined because of the unfulfilled relationship with his mother, and he is unable to progress toward maturity until he can release his need for the images of his mother. Pip, on the other hand, struggles with people who attempt to thrust him into a life of disrespect for the values which he learned from his brother-in-law, Joe Gargery. Pip's self-formation is complete when he is able to remove himself from these undesirable forces and return to the values of his innocence.

Using the Bildungsroman traits defined in Randolph P. Shaffner's The Apprenticeship: A Study of the Bildungsroman as a Regulative Type in Western Literature with a Focus on Three Classic Representatives by Goethe, Mougham, and Mann and Jerome Buckley's Season of Youth: the Bildungsroman from Dickens to Golding, this study establishes the distinguishable differences in Dickens' treatment of the development of David and Pip, while working within the conventional Bildungsroman patterns. Additionally, this study concludes that although each hero struggles with different forces and ends his self-formation with different goals, each completes a process of apprenticeship prepared for successful adulthood.