Künstlerroman: Threefold Personal Growth of an Artist in Miriam Toew’s "A Complicated Kindness"

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Künstlerroman is a German word meaning “artist’s novel”; an ideal description for Miriam Toew’s novel A Complicated Kindness. Staying true to the definition of the word, it is a novel about an artist’s growth to maturity, depicting the struggles of a sensitive youth against the values of the bourgeois society of her time. Even more fittingly, is the term from which künstlerroman is a sub-genre: bildungsroman, or “novel of education”. To label a novel as such, the author must present the personality of a young main character through psychological, moral and social adjustment. As well, the process of maturation should be portrayed as difficult and gradual, involving repeated clashes between the needs and desires of the protagonist and the …show more content…
Regardless of the confusion her experiences bring to her thoughts, Nomi becomes quite adept in her goal for psychological understanding. Not only does she learn to recognize her own unique being; she opens her senses to subjectively discern the very people who have confused her for so long. After being excommunicated from church and her father has left town, Nomi reasons that “if Ray wanted to keep his faith and stay in town…yeah, I’d have been a ghost to him, a kid he loved but couldn’t acknowledge. And it was comforting, in a fragile, loss-filled kind of way, to know that Ray had decided to keep the love alive in his imagination and leave” (317). It is this skill in recognizing the positive in people and situations, and willingness to view the world through the mind of others, which shows the psychological growth Nomi has accomplished. Equally successful is Nomi’s change in attitude towards the very town she ridicules throughout much of the novel. In the beginning of her narrative, Nomi is very bitter towards East Village, which she makes clear in an explanation stemming from her problems at school: “I’ve got a problem with endings…I feel that there are so many to choose from. I’m already anticipating failure…But then what the hell will it matter to me while I’m snapping tiny necks and chucking feathery corpses onto a conveyor belt…on the edge of a town not of this world” (2). Nomi finds herself trapped in a

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