How does Bilbo's character change over the course of The Hobbit?

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jrheath eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When Bilbo first considered the possibility of leaving the Shire, one could compare it to the opinion of a fish faced with the decision to exit the water. As far as Bilbo is concerned, and perhaps the hobbit stereotype in general, hobbits are not fit for adventures. Part of this expectation is derived from the belief that the 'comforts of home' are ostensibly connected to the 'location' of home. Given that Bilbo represents an advocate for modest goals and a perhaps mundane existence, it is entirely unexpected that he would develop into such a hero over the course of the story. Through his kinship with the dwarves whom he helps to retrieve treasures from the terrible dragon Smog, Bilbo discovers that he was certainly correct in thinking that there was a lot of evil and unpleasantry in the world outside of the Shire -- but the displacement of the dwarves from their home is just as easily something that could happen to the hobbits in the Shire.

Good will is still present in Middle Earth, even if it is not always tucked in the seclusion of a hobbit hole. Once Bilbo has made this journey from the Shire to the mountains and back, he realizes that he was always involved in the overarching struggle faced by the representatives of good. Home is not only the place where one starts, but anywhere they can find comfort and friendly faces, such as Rivendell, the home of the elves. Though he sees all of these places as foreign and threatening, he soon realizes that leaving the Shire does not mean abandoning it entirely. This portable feeling of home is exemplarized by Bilbo's journal, "There and Back again, a Hobbit's Tale," which concludes that the hobbit world is still preferrable to our intrepid adventurer -- but one never knows how good it really is unless they have seen how others live. I believe this tale is something of a preparation for the hobbit world, insofar as Bilbo is tasked with helping an outside group reclaim their shelter -- which is a scaled down version of Frodo's later journey to protect the whole of Middle Earth from Sauron's malicious will.

lequam eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Three ways that Bilbo Baggins changes from the beginning of The Hobbit to the end of the book are his understanding of the world around him, his sense of adventure, and his desire to live a comfortable life without thought for others. 

At the beginning of the book, Bilbo cares nothing for he world outside of the Shire or outside of his small hobbit home.  But by the end of the book, his eyes have been opened to the world outside of the Shire, and he has an understanding of different parts of the world as well as different people (elves, dwarves, dragons, to name a few) in the world. 

Also, his sense of adventure grows throughout the book.  At the beginning, Gandalf pretty much has to trick Bilbo into going on this adventure, but by the end of the book, Bilbo is much more courageous and willing adventure out on his own, as evidenced by his willingness to confront Smaug. 

Finally, although Bilbo is a hobbit who will always love his hobbit hole and his six meals a day, he has learned how to make sacrifices and how to live without these comforts if he must.  He even puts himself in danger when rescuing the dwarves from the Spiders and the Wood Elves and sacrifices his own comfort to ensure their safety. 

Michael Foster eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Throughout his journey, Bilbo moves beyond the safety of The Shire to the risk and vulnerability of the outside world.  From a place of relative control over his environment, Bilbo discovers his ability to meet with "adventure," the unexpected events and people. 

Bit by bit, he discovers his own abilities.  With each success, he gains confidence to meet the next great adventure.

Yet he also learns how to deal with failure, both in himself and in others.  He learns to accept and forgive these failures and bestow mercy, rather than judgment.  This legacy will be passed on to Frodo in "The Lord of the Rings."

reidalot eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Bilbo Baggins is tasked to leave the Shire and adventure while also dealing with the Evil Ring. As such, he is sent on a Quest, and it is this quest that changes him once and forever!

Throughout his quest, he is tempted, metaphorically, he loses blood (suffers loss), and is a changed hobbit by the end of the novel. As he struggles to cope with all the change in his once peaceful life, he discovers things about his world that he wished he never knew! Bilbo is transformed by the end of the book on his journey from innocence to experience!

jeoanna | Student

Throughout Bilbo's adventure he goes from being unheroic to couragous,fierce,confident and heroic, example when he fight off the Great Spider to save his friends (dwarfs) he names the sword he uses to fend off the Spider "Sting" and he says that he himself feels more confident and fierce, from there he just progress to become stronger and at the end Gandalf says to Bilbo,"Something is the matter with you! You are not the hobbit that you were." from that you can tell that Gandalf has seen the changes,most of the changes come from the ways he saves everyone and it also starts when he finds the ring because in in beggining he doesn't want to be an adventurer just to stay at home but at the end he's (Bilbo) glad he did stay and do this treasure hunting adventure.

thewanderlust878 | Student

The Hobbit is a wonderful story about an introverted, home-loving hobbit who goes on a fascinating adventure with dwarves whom he never would have previously met. 

At the beginning of the novel, Bilbo clearly is a simple, routine-loving hobbit who wants nothing more than to live his quiet life inside his home. He does not want to go on adventures or risk missing his next meal. 

Throughout the rest of the novel Bilbo realizes that there is more out in the world than just his hobbit hole. There are fascinating creatures to meet and new things to try. As Bilbo starts to realize this, he also begins to change. 

At the end of the novel Bilbo doesn't straightaway notice that he has changed. It takes him a good deal of time, and a bit of help from Gandalf, to realize that for the better, he has changed. He has become more adventurous and brave, but also through his new friends he has learned the value of kindness, friendship, and love.