Usage of Bildungsroman in Thirteen Reasons Why

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Jay Asher effectively uses bildungsroman in his young adults’ novel Thirteen Reasons Why. Bildungsroman is the underappreciated literary device in which a character noticeably develops throughout the course of the novel. In Thirteen Reasons Why, a young woman, Hannah Baker, tells her story in a rather unconventional way: through tapes she recorded prior to her suicide, which were then passed along to the people mentioned in the tapes. These fall into the hands of Clay Jensen, who is both mortified and curious as to why he was mentioned in the tapes. This use of bildungsroman is subtle, and quite intriguingly played out. Instead of the typical narrative, where events unfold as they happen, Hannah is the one narrating her story, in a beyond-the-grave type fashion. The tapes are her final words, and her last hints of life. Within the tapes, she tells of her downfall, mentally and emotionally. One could even say her character develops through her depreciation. She becomes more realistic, more human of a character, as she loses herself to the lies and rumors. A more specific, obvious example from the text is when she reaches her final breaking point. She becomes certain that she would end her life after speaking to her teacher, Mr. Porter. It’s a crucial moment in the book, the deciding factor in a story we already knew the outcome of. Despite knowing that her suicide was inevitable, readers find themselves wanting that fate changed by the end of Hannah’s tapes. All in all, Asher does an exceptional job in using bildungsroman to captivate an audience, putting them at the edge of their seats as a story unfolded. Even with an ending blatantly stated in the start, readers still want to hear the story play out. They find themselves sympathizing with Hannah’s tale, getting angry and sad at all the right parts. It’s comparable to Clay’s reactions to the tapes, as he finds
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