Discuss A Little Piece of Ground as bildungsroman!

Expert Answers
andraa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

       To easily answer by yourself any question regarding literature, you have to follow two steps: understanding the question and reading the novel/literary work involved. However, if for any reason you were not able to do that, I hope this will help.

       First we should understand what a “bildungsroman” is. The term itself puts light on our inquiry. Of German origin: “bildung”-means education and “roman”, a novel. We are talking about a novel, in which the main character gets an education.


        I believe you are referring to Elizabeth Laird’s “A Little Piece of Ground”. This is not a traditional bildungsroman. First of all, the evolution of the character takes place in a very short period of time. We are dealing with the education of a twelve years old boy, named Karim and also of his friends,Jodi and Hopper. This education is intense and compressed. The harsh environment impacts directly the evolution of the characters, without their agreement. Maturity is forced from outside to the inside and it is a mental maturity.

      In the beginning, Karim appears as kind of a typical kid. He dreams about becoming a well known soccer player,he wishes to get rid of the annoyances of his younger sister and older brother. But as events put pressure on his life, things begin to change inside his mind. His school is destroyed and he does not even have a place to play his favorite game any longer. Also, meeting Hopper, a school mate whom faced harsh situations, opens his eyes even more. All starts from a subjective point of view, continuing with a subjective ideal-the desire to have a little piece of ground to play soccer in. In the end, his mental growth allows him to have a more objective view.

   Simple phrases, but with great impact,such as: “Not have our house flattened by Israeli Tanks…Not living under occupation…Not dead.”

” Alive...inshallah” ,show the tragic depth of his thinking. He gradually realizes he could also be a victim.His dreams and childish concerns disappear under the terror of reality.The truth he finds is that in his world, not even the fact that he is just a kid, protects him from the military forces that destroy his city.

    In the tradition of the bildungsroman,the novel shows not only the evolution of the character, narratively speaking, but also desires to educate the reader. Elizabeth Laird’s novel teaches tolerance,by showing an inside view on violence and terror.


Good luck with your study!

Noelle Thompson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Quite simply, a bildungsroman is a coming of age story.  You can make a case that this is certainly true with the young adult novel A Little Piece of Ground, especially in the character of Karim. 

Karim begins the story as a typical egocentric teen.  He wants to be with his friends, play sports, and become a soccer star.  The main conflict in the story is the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, as Karim is a Palestinian under the military control of Israeli forces.  It is this conflict that forces his coming of age.

How is this so?  Israeli forces destroy Karim's school.  They destroy Karim's ability to play sports.  They destroy Karim's ability to be with his friends.  They destroy his freedom by instituting a curfew.  They even try to destroy Karim by wounding him so severely that he is hospitalized!  Laird spoke about the truth of the situation in Palestine in this way during an NPR interview:

I was profoundly shocked by what I found, by the real dreadfulness of people's everyday life, the increasing poverty, the harassment, the curfews. And it occurred to me then that it would be a proper subject for a novel to see how children are managing under these circumstances.

How does Karim react to all of his?  He reacts by desperately wanting and planning his "little piece of ground" for him and his friends to play soccer.  He reacts by keeping his friendship with Joni, a Christian, which represents Karim's great growth as he reaches across the aisle.  He reacts through defiance (instead of through peace). 

Not have our house flattened by Israeli tanks. ... Not living under occupation. ... Not dead.

Therefore, as you can see, there are some ways that Karim grows; however, there are also some ways that he remains stagnant, representing the stagnation between Israel and Palestine. 

m-gupta | Student

A Bildungsroman novel is one that focuses on the moral and mental growth of the main character in the novel. The novel Little Piece of Ground is an example as we see the growth of Karim throughout a period of his life. He has grown up in a society that has always been restricted and sheltered by the Israeli's that rule in Palestine. Due to this he looks for a place to escape the trials of this oppression as well as pursue his passion. Through these hardships and the relationships he develps, we see Karim's ever changing views of the Israeli's and a development of his perspective on the world and how he wants to pursue his happiness and take control over his own life.

I hope this helps :)

dharmadog | Student

 A Bildungsroman is a novel in which we see the protagonist's develop his/her moral and intellectual mindset. An example of a bildungsroman story is a Spanish novel written during the golden age of Spain, "Lazarillo de Tormez". In this novel, the protagonist (Lazarillo) narrates his life be first talking about his youth. As the story progresses, Lazarillo evolves into a mature adult after encountering certain events in his life (in which he narrates) that helped him realize the harsh realities of the world: a selfish society and a hypocritical authority(during this time, the catholic church was considered society's authority). In other words, through bildungsroman, not only do we see the protagonist's evolving mental growth, but the events in the protagonist's life that cause him/her to evolve in that certain way.

ale88 | Student

A Bildungsroman novel is concerned with the growth, physically and mentally, of a youthful protagonist towards his or her adulthood in a determined context of a social order.The growing process has to do with a search for meaning to life. Social values are usually expressed through the protagonist's behaviour; i.e. his or her needs and desires. Charles Dickens's novel Great Expectations is one of the best examples of this sort of novel.

courtneyrose3 | Student

A bildungsroman is, in fact, a coming of age story. An example of a bildungsroman would be Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. The novel begins when the main character, Jane, is a young girl, and ends when she has grown into a woman. The novel follows how her feelings, dreams, and attitudes towards those around her change with age, as well as marking key experiences throughout her life.

I hope this answers your question.