The Myth of the Heroine: The Female Bildungsroman in the Twentieth Century: Dorothy Richardson, Simone de Beauvoir, Doris Lessing, Christa Wolf

By Esther Kleinbord Labovitz | Go to book overview

3
Doris Lessing:
Children of Violence 1, Five Volumes

Introduction: Autobiographical Aspects

The five volumes of Children of Violence through which Doris Lessing follows the growth process of a single protagonist is a rich source for the evolution of the twentieth-century female Bildungsroman. Similar in many respects to Dorothy Richardson's series, Pilgrimage, this extended work is held together by the consciousness of the heroine, Martha Quest, whose growth is followed from adolescence to maturity. Like Richardson, Lessing breaks through the boundaries of the traditional Bildungsroman form, extending the heroine's quest beyond the years normally allotted to the male hero. This contingency affects the course of the heroine's Bildung, lends another dimension to the whole concept of Bildung and the Bildungsroman, leaving an undetermined future open to the youthful heroine, whereby she will continue to pursue her passage for education and experience.

More than the quest itself the circuitous route by which Martha Quest eventually comes to self-knowledge gives meaning to the nature of the heroine's lengthy journey and provides a cohesive structure to the grand scheme of Lessing's ambitious work. A dominant motif of the series, adding another dimension to the structure of the Bildungsroman, perhaps defining the female Bildungsroman, is the emphasis Lessing places on the collective. Lessing defines this work as turning on "a study of the individual conscience in its relations with the collective." 2 Martha Quest's search is as much related to questions of

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The Myth of the Heroine: The Female Bildungsroman in the Twentieth Century: Dorothy Richardson, Simone de Beauvoir, Doris Lessing, Christa Wolf
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents iii
  • PREFACE TO SECOND EDITION v
  • Introduction 1
  • Notes 8
  • 1 - Dorothy Richardson: Pilgrimage: Four Volumes1 11
  • Notes 66
  • 2 - Simone De Beauvoir: Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter1 73
  • Notes 142
  • 3 - Doris Lessing: Children of Violence1, Five Volumes 145
  • Notes 198
  • 4 - Christa Wolf: 201
  • Notes 240
  • Conclusion 245
  • Notes 258
  • Appendix 259
  • Bibliography 265
  • Index 271
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