The term ‘bildungsroman’ was first used by the German philologist Johann Carl Simon Morgenstern, and literally, it means a novel of learning and education. It is applied to those works which show a moral, psychological, or social development of a character, normally from childhood to maturity (Abrams, 2005).According to the Victorian Web, that growth takes place “within the context of a defined social order”, and “to spur the hero or heroine on to their journey, some form of loss or discontent must jar them at an early stage away from the home or family setting”, as it precisely occurs with our heroine Catherine Morland, who was fed up of being ‘the ugly duckling” and of waiting for something exciting in herlife, departs to Bath with a married couple, the Allens.
From there on, Catherine embarks on journey destiny ‘adulthood’. “She reached the age of seventeen, without having seen one amiable youth who could call forth her sensibility; without having inspired one real passion” (2003: 18). So she arrives to Bath being inexperienced and naïve, but there she undergoes a series of circumstances andsituations which make her mature and grow as a person. It is clear that the education she involuntarily receives is fundamentally moral. The protagonist has the opportunity of learning from actions and behaviours of different characters, and Isabella Thorpe is one of those from whom Catherine learns more. She is the first friend who Catherine meets there, and “being four years older” and “betterinformed” than her, Miss Thorpe “had a very decided advantage in discussing such points; […] [and] could rectify the opinions of her new friend” (2003:32). We see here that from the very moment of their introduction, Isabella has the leading voice in the matter, and will use her power of persuasion to carry Catherine to her home ground.
On the other hand, Catherine’s good-nature and receivededucation does not allow herself to make any resistance, “for she had not been brought up to understand the propensities of a rattle, […] nor idle assertions and impudent falsehoods”. She comes from a family where mischief and ruse are not part of their daily life. Catherine is not used to being treated in that way, thus, she is easily influenced. A good example of Catherine’s innocence is the momentin which Isabella, during a ball, expresses her total opposition to leave Catherine alone in order to dance with James Morland, “I assure you [James], I would not stand up without your dear sister for all the world. […] Catherine accepted this kindness with gratitude.” And three minutes later Isabella says “My dear creature, I am afraid I must leave you, tour brother is so amazingly impatient tobegin; I know you will not mind my going away” (2003: 51). In this situation we appreciate how Isabella ends up doing what she wants looking after herself exclusively, without caring what she has just said and Catherine, and excusing her acts with lies. But Catherine is too ingenuous yet to see the actual causes of Isabella’s behaviour.
Isabella’s brother, John Thorpe, is another character who,through stratagems and trickery, usually achieves his aims and ‘helps’ Catherine to grow as a person. As we have already said, Catherine is easily influenced, so John takes advantage of that and plays dirty tricks on her. For instance when he, Isabella and James try to convince her to accompany them to the Blaize Castle, in spite of the fact that she has already said that she is waiting for theTilneys. John lies to her by saying that he “heard Tilney hallooing to a man who was just passing by on horseback, that they were going as far as Wick Rocks” (2003: 82). Then Catherine agrees and goes with them, and in the carriage she encounters the Tilneys on their way to the Allens’ home, while John refuses to stop the horses for Catherine to talk to them. That misunderstanding with the Tilneys...