What are the characteristics, or features, of the autobiographical novel?
While some have said that all novels are autobiographical, an autobiographical novel is a distinct form in which the author writes about his or her own life but in a fictive guise. In an autobiographical novel, the writer hews closely to the events of his life, but characteristically adopts a fictive name and persona, and may change events, places or chronology to highlight a thematic point. Often autobiographical novels are written in the third person rather than the first person, allowing the writer to put distance between herself and the autobiographical events being described.
A good example of an autobiographical novel is You Can't Go Home Again by Thomas Wolfe. Although Wolfe is talking about himself and events in his own life, he casts himself as a character called George Webber, who like him, is a writer, who like him, is rejected in his hometown, and who, like Wolfe, travels to New York and Berlin. In Berlin, Webber, like Wolfe, is celebrated as a writer and grows increasingly disenchanted with Nazism.