Created By: Micah on October 3, 2009
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Generational Saga

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Launching later tonight.

This is a work that traces the evolution of a single family through multiple (usually three) generations. Often it follows the pattern:
  1. The first-generation protagonist is an immigrant.
  2. The second-generation protagonist becomes entirely assimilated in the host culture.
  3. The third-generation protagonist ends up learning to appreciate their ancestral heritage.

Another frequent theme is that the first- and third-generation characters have more in common with each other than either does with the second-generation character.

This is primarily a literary/theatrical trope (I think), though you might be able to see less-planned versions of it in long-running Soap Operas or possibly even Comic Books.

Examples:

  • Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides follows this pattern, for a family of Greek immigrants to the Detroit area.
  • Accelerando by Charles Stross; in this case, the "immigration" that occurs is into The Singularity.
  • The family from Rock 'n' Roll by Tom Stoppard aren't immigrants, but it does have the three generations of protagonists with the intermediate one being the odd one out.
  • Roots by Alex Haley is an incredibly extended example, going through seven generations.
  • Some probable examples from this blog thread, none of which I've read:
    • I Remember Mama, a play by John Van Druten (and presumably also Mama's Bank Account, the memoir on which it was based?)
    • The Philadelphian by Richard Powell
    • The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy
    • The Jalna series by Mazo de la Roche
Community Feedback Replies: 22
  • September 29, 2009
    Nurfle
    Cough, Cough.
  • September 29, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    The Joy Luck Club. It only covers the first two generations of four sets of mothers and daughters, but they all follow the pattern.
  • September 29, 2009
    Micah
    Huh. Apparently I was using the wrong set of search terms to comb The Other Wiki.

    I think they're using a broader definition than I am. I wouldn't call Holes an example of this; the ancestors are more plot devices than co-protagonists. (I'm not sure the two generations of protagonists in Star Wars are enough to make it count either--if Shmi had a more major role, maybe...)
  • September 29, 2009
    Nurfle
    Wasn't there quite a bit with Leia and Han's kids in the Expanded Universe? I dunno, I never really delved that far into it. At any rate, there are plenty of two-generation examples that probably shouldn't be excluded (see Joy Luck Club above). As for the links, just trying to point you in the right direction :)
  • September 29, 2009
    Micah
    Maybe I'm using a stricter definition that I should be, but I don't see the Star Wars Expanded Universe as being relevant--those books are works of their own that just happen to involve the kids of the movies' main characters, not continuations of the movies' story. (Similarly, when I was talking to my girlfriend about this, she came up with Anne Mc Caffrey's Rowan books and Shakespeare's 14th-century histories, both of which I'd say are not examples because they aren't unified enough.)

    If there are enough two-generation examples, I'm not opposed to including them, though.
  • September 29, 2009
    iwintheinternets?
  • September 29, 2009
    chubbyboy
    Would the manga "Jojo's Bizarre Adventure" be an example of this?
  • September 29, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    The miniseries Taken.

    John Jakes's Kent Family Chronicles, which was over 10 generations.
  • September 29, 2009
    Iron Salticus
    Song of Solomon has elements of this.
  • September 29, 2009
    Micah
    Just to be clear, when UT @ 67.171.169.99 says The Joy Luck Club follows the pattern, what does s/he mean? (In particular, how does it deal with there being three roles in the pattern but only two generations? Do they double up, or do they skip a role?)

    Anyone who's actually read Jojos Bizarre Adventure want to weigh in on whether it fits or not? It sounds kind of plausible from the description, but I don't know it at all...
  • September 29, 2009
    Tzintzuntzan
    Do we have a trope yet for the eternal conflict between first-generation immigrant parents and their assimilated children? The Joy Luck Club (which really should have an entry by now...)may be the Trope Codifier for this, at least for the US version.
  • September 30, 2009
    jason taylor
    Saga of the Volsungs

    Traveller: Intersteller Wars has a sample campaign called, Legacy of War which is this.

    I believe there have been more then one Zionist sagas like this. Weren't Wouk's The Hope, and The Glory this?

    Love Comes Softly and it's sequels.
  • September 30, 2009
    Tomtitan
    Arguably, Dragonball and its spinoffs.

    Actually, scratch the 'arguably', Dragonball fits this trope.
  • September 30, 2009
    jason taylor

    "Song of Solomon has elements of this."

    If you mean the one in The Bible then it was simply a love song with allegorical double meanings(God approves of human love in it's right place, the man is God and the woman is Israel/the Church/both , or all of them at once and a whole bunch of others or whatever)which depends on whom you talk to. My pastor says it is a story of a King who disguised himself as a shepherd to court a slave girl which is a pretty story if true but I just couldn't find that. But it is not a generational saga as such.

    Or are you refering to another Song of Solomon?
  • September 30, 2009
    Genuine
    • Both London and Sarum by Edward Rutherford are generational sagas. Both novels trace a few families from Stone age England through to modern times.

  • September 30, 2009
    Iron Salticus
    @jason taylor: I was referring to the one by Toni Morrison. It's not completely straight since the heaviest focus is on the third generation character, but the novel is largely about the two generations that came before him.
  • September 30, 2009
    CharlieTango
    Centennial by James Michener would fit here
  • October 1, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    The movie American Pop covers four generations and their relationship to popular music in America

    If all that's required to fit this trope is works covering multiple generations of a family, then Piers Anthony's Xanth series, or parts of it, count.
  • October 1, 2009
    Micah
    The Xanth series isn't a unified work, though.

    I'd say fitting this trope requires:
    • Multiple generations of a family
    • Over a long-ish period of time, to the point where you see more than one generation at the same stage of life
    • All this happens in one work--it's not just that there's one book with the first generation and then a second book with the Generation Xerox.

    I'll take Star Wars under the principle that all six movies are supposed to be telling one story, but there's no way you can say that of the Xanth books.
  • October 2, 2009
    cg12345
    There's an in-universe example from Deep Space Nine: Garak lends Julian a Cardassian epic novel called "The Never-Ending Sacrifice", about five (?) generations of a Cardassian family who all live selfless lives of service to the State. Julian finds it dull as ditchwater.
  • October 3, 2009
    Nurfle
    Seven generations, and Garak calls it "the finest Cardassian novel ever written."
  • October 3, 2009
    Martin The Mess
    Many early Danielle Steele novels fit this type, including Jewels. Others are the story of a single woman's life, such as Zoya, but she tends to have three husbands (or great loves of her life, anyways), which somewhat fit the pattern: her first husband is perfect, but tragically dies...her second husband seems perfect, but betrays her...and the third husband reminds her of the first, and they finally live happily ever after.
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