This is a work that traces the evolution of a single family through multiple (usually three) generations, covering a long enough period of time that you get to see more than one generation at the same age or stage of life. Often it follows the pattern:
- The first-generation protagonist is an immigrant.
- The second-generation protagonist becomes entirely assimilated in the host culture.
- The third-generation protagonist ends up learning to appreciate their ancestral heritage.
With only two generations, the third-generation protagonist is usually the one omitted; works which follow this pattern through more than three generations might have multiple second-generation-type (assimilated) protagonists, or they might alternate between second- and third-generation-type protagonists.
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. Often they both react in the same way to her, or (if the first-generation character is still alive when the third-generation character is around) form a bond that excludes her.
Note that properly speaking this only applies to unified works; having a Changing of the Guard
sequel in which we meet Generation Xerox
isn't enough. It's primarily a literary trope, though it also appears in theater and film; you might be able to see less-planned versions of it in long-running Soap Operas
or possibly even Comic Books
(but with the latter, it's far more common for the first-generation character to live well beyond when the third-generation would reach adulthood
Compare An Immigrant's Tale
. Also compare Three Successful Generations
- The entire DC Universe and Marvel Universe can be thought of as two great, big generational sagas (especially in regards to team titles like Teen Titans or Justice League of America for the former,and the many X-Men or Avengers titles for the latter).
- Most adaptations of the DCU, Post Crisis (and even AFTER the New Fifty Two - just to show how iconic the idea has become), make the DCU out to be a THREE Generational Saga: The First Age of Heroes, made up of WWII-era heroes like Jay Garrick (the FIRST Flash), Alan Scott (the first Green Lantern of Earth and the only magic-based GL), Dr. Fate, etc.; the Second Age, being the primary Age of the DCU and featuring Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Barry Allen & then Wally West as the Flashes, Hal Jordan, John Stewart, and Guy Gardner as the Green Lanterns of Earth, Aquaman, Martian Manhunter etc.; and the Third Age, that being of the Nightwing & the Robins, the Titans in all their incarnations, Superboy, Supergirl, etc.
- Hulk comics. Interestingly, generation is a bit of a fluid thing here. The first generation is Bruce Banner, Jen Walters, and their supporting casts, then we get the second generation with Skaar and Lyra, the Hulk's son and daughter, as well as members of the first generation becoming Hulks themselves.
- In the saga of The Metabarons, the entire history of the Metabarons is told from the start of the dynasty to the last Metabaron.
- The french comic book series ''Le Décalogue" follows the history of the book "Nahik" in general, and of the Fleury-Nadal family in particular.
- The movie American Pop covers four generations and their relationship to popular music in America
- The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan. It only covers the first two generations of four sets of mothers and daughters, but they all follow the pattern.
- The Edge Chronicles revolves primarily around generations of the Verginix family. Only two stories in the series aren't about members of the Verginix family; The Stone Pilot and The Blooding of Rufus Filatine.
- Both London and Sarum by Edward Rutherfurd trace a few families' non-consecutive generations from Stone Age England through to modern times. He's also done it for Russia (Russka) and Ireland (The Dublin Saga), among others.
- James Michener's writing:
- Technically his novel Centennial covers residents going back essentially to the beginning of humanity, but the bulk of the narrative starts in the early nineteenth century. Such diverse characters as Mennonite farmers, French trappers, Arapaho natives, British nobility, and Scottish immigrants eventually combine into the main character set in the present day.
- The Source covers the events at one (fictional) site in the Middle East from 10,000 BCE to 1962.
- Hawaii and Alaska do this one better, the former going back to the creation of Hawaii via volcano over billions of years and the later going all the way back to the beginning of time.
- For The Other Wiki's list of novels like this, see here.
- Sidney Sheldon's Master of the Game follows four generations of one family in detail and also has appearances from an earlier and later one. The significant four generations are headed by, in order: A Scottish man who ventures to late-1800s South Africa to make his fortune in diamonds; his daughter, who devotes her life to making the resultant company even bigger and more powerful; her son, who wants to be an artist instead of her heir; and his Cain and Abel twin daughters. The first and second generations are similar, the third obviously different, and the twins split the difference — one isn't interested in the company, the other most certainly is.
- The Full Matilda discusses four generations of African-American servants living in Washington DC and their interactions with Matilda. The first generation is Matilda's father Jacob (only partially covered) becoming a servant during the early 20th century, the second generation discusses the Sibling Rivalry between Matilda and her brother when they start a catering company from The Roaring Twenties to The Fifties, the third generation is Martin's sons David and Rodrick (who starts a food distribution company) growing up in The Sixties, and the fourth is Rodrick's biracial son who is Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life during the Turn of the Millennium.
- Warrior Cats. The first series follows Fireheart as he joins the Clan and eventually becomes leader. The second series is from his children's point of view; they consider themselves Clanborn and don't really think much about their non-Clan roots. The third and fourth series are from his grandchildren's point of view, and their kittypet heritage is rarely if ever mentioned.
- A variation in Mikhail Akhmanov's Arrivals From The Dark series, whose main characters are descended from a Half-Human Hybrid (except for the first novel, where one of the secondary characters is the pregnant mother of said hybrid), but the novels frequently jump several generations. Each of the characters has Psychic Powers inherited from the hybrid, although it's stated that many other descendants have not inherited them (but may still pass on the genes). Another common factor is that all the main characters are Space Navy officers.
- Interestingly, another of Akhmanov's series called Trevelyan's Mission (set in the same universe centuries later) focuses on a single character, who in the last novel is revealed to be a distant descendant of the same line but himself did not know it.
- The novel Fall on Your Knees tells the story of the Piper family and the terrible secrets that shaped their lives. The narrative is focused mainly on James Piper and his three daughters (each of whom gets a turn as the Point-of-View-Character), but it includes segments which involve family members spanning at least four generations (if one includes James' immigrant father-in-law). It's difficult to be precise about how many generations are actually present without going into the squicky details of the plot.
- There's an In-Universe example from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Garak lends Julian a Cardassian epic novel called The Never-Ending Sacrifice, about seven generations of a Cardassian family who all live selfless lives of service to the State. Julian finds it dull as ditchwater, while Garak calls it "the finest Cardassian novel ever written" and the definitive example of the "repetitive epic" genre.
- In a rather unique twist, the successive series of Blackadder follow (non-consecutive) generations of the Blackadder dynasty.
- Quantum Leap touches on this with the 3-parter Trilogy, where Sam jumps into a father, then the husband of his daughter, then the lawyer of the daughter focusing on helping her daughter (the granddaughter of his original leapee).
- In Once Upon a Time Snow White loses her daughter, her husband, and her whole world as the evil queen sends them "someplace horrible," the real world. Emma, Snow White's long-lost daughter, is street smart and resents her biological parents for her abandonment. It takes her own long-lost son Henry to bring her back to the family that she never knew and the idea of the enchanted world they came from.
- 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.
- Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War, which is divided into two halves which follow a different generation. The first half follows Sigurd and his attempts to save his friend only to be manipulated into a plot to revive an evil dragon. The second half deals with the children of the first half and their attempts to stop said evil dragon.
- The Legend of Zelda as a whole tells the saga of the many Links throughout history who save Hyrule from Ganon and other evils, with the many Zeldas often aiding him.