The Byronic Hero: Features and Influence on English Literature

The Byronic Hero

Disclaimer: Everybody is familiar with the literary works by George Gordon Byron, and everybody would agree, that his influence on the literature was immense. The epoch when he was living and working, now we call it the Romantic Era, was marked by new movements, in the social life as well as in literature. Strong morality, the combination of imagination and emotion, social involvement – those are the features that shaped the time.

Why are we mentioning then Gordon Byron rather than any other writer of that period? He made a turn in the literature trend by introducing a new kind of a character, now we call it the Byronic hero. The Byronic hero is special. He is questioning the world and the society, and with his narcissistic nature, he believes, he is the only one who is right.

The Byronic hero is a strong however and extremely controversial personality: incredible personal charisma and power from one side, and self-destruction, from another side, extraordinary intelligence and embarrassing arrogance, self-criticism and self-confidence. These absolutely contradictory features have created a new hero, a new character that has impressed many writers after Byron and has influenced English literature greatly.

The Bronte sisters were admiring Byron’s personality and the Byronic characters. It is possible to see this in all their works, but especially in Jane Eyre. When we are reading the novel, we can make clear parallels between the Byronic hero and Edward Rochester. The sisters revived Romanticism, as well, they gave a new breath to the Byronic hero, with their masterpieces that have lasted till now.

Rochester is intelligent and attractive, however, he isn’t beautiful. He is imperfect and doesn’t care about this imperfection, that’s why he wins the heart of Jane. However, he gets married to another woman. Further circumstances develop in a way that he isolates himself from the world, and this is one more distinctive feature of the Byronic hero.

However, Charlotte Bronte has added some features, that weren’t typical of the Byronic hero: Rochester is brave and is able to risk his life to save another person. The talented writer combined the features of the typical Byronic hero with the features of a typical character of that period, and thus, creates a normal man, with his ups and downs. As we can see, Charlotte Bronte created a person who could be real, who could live at any time.

Emily Bronte, however, creates a completely different character, the true Byronic hero, in her Wuthering Heights, in the person of Heathcliff. This is a real rebel, who cannot be tamed by anybody and anything. This is a real Byronic hero, an anti-hero.

It is very noticeable how similar are Rochester and Heathcliff, and how different they are. Both share rebelling features, superiority in relation to other people, arrogance, and magic attractiveness. However, they are completely different in their attitude to people. And both of them were created under the influence of a genius writer.

References

  1. Byronic Hero. Wikipedia.org. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Byronic_hero. Accessed 20 Jun. 2018
  2. Owen, David. The Byronic Hero. 10 May 2017, https://englishromanticism1617.wordpress.com/2017/05/10/the-byronic-hero/ . Accessed 20 Jun. 2018

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