Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship is the second novel by Johann Wolfgang Goethe, published in 1795-96. While his first novel, The Sorrows of Young Werther, featured a hero driven to suicide by despair, the eponymous hero of this novel undergoes a journey of self-realization. The story centers upon Wilhelm's attempt to escape what he views as the empty life of a bourgeois businessman. After a failed romance with the theater, Wilhelm commits himself to the mysterious Tower Society comprised of enlightened aristocrats who will guide him towards his true calling.
Further books patterned after this novel have been called Bildungsromane ("novels of formation"), despite the fact that Wilhelm's "Bildung" ("education," or "formation of character") is ironized by the narrator at many points.
Wilhelm Meisters Wanderjahre ("Wilhelm Meister's Journeyman Years"), the sequel, was Goethe's fourth and last novel. Its first edition appeared in 1821, and substantially reworked second edition in 1829.