Ten years after completing David Copperfield Dickens wrote his second bildungsroman, Great Expectations (1860-1861). There is little optimism despite the title in this work, and its hero, Pip (Phillip Pirrip) has a character that is much more like Dickens than David Copperfield. Unlike David Pip is not patient and easy-going. He also becomes a snob who is embarrassed that his benefactor, Magwitch, is an escaped criminal. Another orphan character created by Dickens is Oliver Twist, and his story forms Dickens’ third novel about a child caught in the underworld of London. Most of the characters in the major novels are either orphans or children who grow up in a single parent home like Steerforth in David Copperfield.
A film version of David Copperfield was made by MGM in 1935 with an all-star cast including Lionel Barrymore, W. C. Fields, Edna May Oliver and Basil Rathbone. Fields is outstanding as Wilkins Micawber, a role he was born to play. A made-for-television version was shot in England in 1970, but does not match in quality the earlier film. In 1999 the BBC made another production for Masterpiece Theater.
Another more recent bildungsroman is E. L. Doctorow’s Billy Bathgate, which portrays a street kid in New York during the 1930s. Billy becomes associated with Dutch Schultz, the prohibition-era gang leader. A film version appeared in 1991 that is excellent, with Dustin Hoffman playing Schultz.