Is A Little Piece of Ground a bildungsroman? Discuss.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

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. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

       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!

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Discuss A Little Piece of Ground as bildungsroman.

The principal criteria describing a bildungsroman (coming of age) novel can be identified generally as (1) the presence of a central character that is young/childish, in one way or another and (2) depicts a process wherein that character grows, matures, changes or otherwise comes into adulthood. The question to ask is – Does the story depict a formative process for a central character?

 “Bildungsroman is the name affixed to those novels that concentrate on the development or education of a central character” (eNotes). 

Elizabeth Laird’s novel, A Little Piece of Ground, will qualify as a bildungsroman if we can say that the story of Karim Adouli meets the above-mentioned criteria.

Karim is, indeed, a child. He grows into a new personal and cultural perspective over the course of the novel. His experiences tear him out of any innocence he may have enjoyed and put him face to face with the difficult realities of life under occupation.

Perhaps problematically, this perspective is informed largely by negative feelings and outright hatred. Yet, on a technical level, the emotional content of the characters changes make little difference as to whether or not the novel can be considered as a bildungsroman.

Is A Little Piece of Ground a conventional or common form of bildungsroman? The answer to this question is probably “no.” But is it an example of a bildungsroman, generally speaking? The answer to this question is seems to be “yes.”

To answer this question for yourself as a reader, you have to decide if Karim has been "formed" or "constructed" into a new version of himself by the novel's end. If he is still "under construction" or still in the process of "coming of age" then you might want to argue that the novel does not truly belong to the category of bildungsroman.  

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on