Forget born to Minato and Kushina Uzumaki. Directly following

Forget Jane Eyre –
Naruto is the True Quintessential Bildungsroman

 

 A Bildungsroman tracks
the coming-of-age of a sensitive person seeking the answers to life’s many questions,
in the hopes that the answers will lead to his racking up experience. Common Bildungsromans
include Candide by Voltaire, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, and The Catcher in
the Rye by J.D. Salinger. However, these pale in comparison to the true
Bildungsroman, Naruto. Naruto (in its manga form primarily, as
Bildungsroman describes to a literary form) is a comprehensive treatise on the
coming-of-age novel, otherwise known as a Bildungsroman.

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A Bildungsroman, as I said, always begins with a young
character who is generally sensitive and unsure of himself. Often, they begin
with a tragedy that deeply affects the character on an emotional level, leaving
a void he will try to fill throughout his travels and life experiences. This
description is identical to Naruto’s own beginning: Naruto was born to Minato
and Kushina Uzumaki. Directly following his birth, Naruto’s mom, Kushina, was attacked
by a masked man, Tobi who released the Nine-Tails fox from inside of her, which
he then used to destroy their village called Konoha. After releasing the
Nine-Tails from Tobi’s control, Minato and Kushina realize the only way to stop
the Nine-Tails all together is to seal it within Naruto. The Nine-Tails’ power,
or chakra, was too great to seal into Naruto, an infant, Minato sacrificed
himself to split the fox’s chakra and seal one half within Naruto. After doing
this, Minato and Kushina, both badly injured from protecting Naruto from the
Nine-Tails, died due to their battle wounds. Thus, Naruto is left not only an
orphan, but is shunned by a majority of his village of Konoha for being a
jinch?riki – basically the vessel for the Nine-Tails. Now a sensitive, socially
isolated young boy, Naruto’s journey to fulfill his mother’s dying wish of him being
regarded as a hero was off to a rough start, as the majority of Konoha ostracized
him for being the cause of the destruction of the village. However, his perseverance
and growth as a person allows him to follow through to completion in his coming-of-age
quest.

 

During a Bildungsroman, the protagonist undergoes a journey
where he gains maturity, though not without adversity and difficulty. This
psychological and ethical journey provides an insight into the depth of
character that the protagonist contains, and allows the reader to empathize
with the protagonist on a more personal level, as its realism attaches us to
the character and the stages of his life in order to view his change. After
this hardship, Naruto’s life journey becomes a mission to understand society’s
pattern of hatred and to break that cycle of hatred. He is stubborn and adamant
about doing things on his own, but later learns that he can trust in the
strength and support his friends provide for him.

 

A Bildungsroman almost always ends with the character’s own
self-realization and enlightenment in his own sense of belonging. Thus, a Bildungsroman
is often used as an educational and philosophical text of great importance to
teens and young adults, as its message of pursuing a higher goal and maturing
to find a sense of tranquility within themselves is a key factor in the real
life coming of age that we all go through. Naruto is that philosophical text,
reaching millions of readers to educate on the values of individuality and
acceptance.

 

Some common characters in a Bildungsroman besides the
protagonist (Naruto) are also portrayed in this text. For example, the
unrequited love is Sakura, the evil authority figure is the Akatsuki, the kind
mentor is Kakashi or Jiraiya, and the best friend is Sasuke. Naruto himself
exemplifies common Bildungsroman protagonist tropes as he represents the orphan
as well as the misfit or outcast. He is sent off to train rigorously with his
teacher, Jiraiya, fulfilling the ever so common coming of age trope where the
protagonist is sent off to work somewhere.  

 

Basically, Naruto checks off every single box of what the
essential Bildungsroman should embody. It covers all of the common tropes,
backstories, plot devices, themes, and characters, whereas most other
Bildungsromans only contain one of these features. So the next time you use
Jane Eyre to illustrate the three-part plot structure in a Bildungsroman, look
to the true paradigm of all coming-of-age novels and turn to Naruto. I would
like to thank my sister, Juliet, for suggesting this topic.