A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce is written in the genre known as "Bildungsroman", a German term meaning "formation novel". It is a genre in which the focus is not on plot action but on the character formation and education of a single protagonist. One of the most influential practitioners of the genre was Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, whose Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship and Sorrows of Young Werther were foundational works in the genre. As in the case of Joyce's novel, the protagonist is often an artistic or sensitive teenager or young adult, struggling against social conventions or familial pressures to live an ordinary bourgeois life. The novels often conclude with an epiphany, as when Joyce's Stephen says that:
I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race.