This essay questions the role assigned to Goethe's Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre as an archetype of the traditional Bildungsroman. I seek to build from Lukaçs' analysis of Goethe's novel as a failed attempt at synthesis, while at the same time emphasizing the protagonist's role in a proto-capitalist economy. From here, I conclude that money exercises a powerful influence over Wilhelm Meister's identity and ultimately enables the Turmgesellschaft to manipulate him and distort his ideals.
This article also appears in Focus on German Studies Volume 10, 2003, Dpt. of German, University of Cincinnati.
Sean Wilson completed the M.A. and is working towards the Ph.D. in German at the University of Minnesota. His interests include German Idealism, Frankfurt School, and philosophies of money.