Having already warned all the fans of Pride and Prejudice about the risks of believing in the existence of a Mr Darcy in the real world, and having myself very likely married the only man, who can be compared to that fantasy ( ok, I know, maybe I have exaggerated a little , but I have to write that in case Mr Run reads this post), I would like to continue with my action for woman awareness, talking about another dangerous type of man who crowds girls’ dreams. Don’t deny it, “it is a truth universally acknowledged” that women feel that dangerous attraction for a” proud, moody, cynical (man). with defiance on his brow, and misery in his heart, a scorner of his kind, implacable in revenge, yet capable of deep and strong affection” just to use Lord Macaulay‘s words. Nowadays such a man would be called a bastard or a jerk, but in the early nineteenth century he was to become a new type of hero, the Byronic hero.
The Byronic hero is somehow, the portrait of Byron himself or rather of what Byron would have liked to appear before the people he knew. From a literary point of view the protagonist of Byron’s epic poem ‘Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage’ is considered the first Byronic hero, but this character can be found in almost every other work he wrote. The word hero here is actually deprived of its traditional meaning of a man who distinguishes himself for his courage, nobility, fortitude etc. and becomes the figure who dares rebel, just like Milton‘s Satan, against conventional modes of behavior and thought, who naturally possesses a magnetical charm but also a great degree of psychological and emotional complexity. In a few words, a lot of troubles.
If we get a list of the character traits and attitudes typically associated to a Byronic hero and we study it accurately, in my opinion Heathcliff is the most Byronic among his fellow mates that people the pages of the novels and poems of the early nineteenth century.
Let’s discuss some of them one by one:
1. A distaste for social institutions and norms
Heathcliff displays his distaste for society and its conventions from the very beginning, when he receives hastily and coldly his tenant Mr Lockwood. His antagonist is Mr Linton who represents rule, order and stability.
2. An exiled, an outcast, an outlaw
Heathcliff never fully integrates in the adoptive family and is rejected by the Lintons’.
If we might interview the characters of the novel I guess everybody could say something about it.
Even in this case everybody experiences his cynicism, Catherine included, but Isabel Linton will be the one to pay bitterly for her credulity and ingenuousness
5.Cunning and ability to adapt
Despite any punishment or social degradation, he succeeds in surviving in any situation. He is quick to understand and grabs any occasion he has, an example is Isabel’s crush on him, to reach his revengeful purposes.
6.Dark attributes not normally associated with a hero.
He is described as a gipsy.
7.Disrespectful of rank and privilege.
Once again the enemy is Mr Linton even because his rank is an appeal for Catherine.
8. Emotionally conflicted,bipolar tendencies or moodiness.
His conflict is between love and hate, which explodes in the necessity of revenge.
9. High level of intelligence and perception.
He seems to know well all the weaknesses of the people that surround him. Jus like when he wins Wuthering Heights taking advantage of Hindley’s addiction to alcohol and game habit. He is never taken by surprise.
10. Mysterious, magnetic, charismatic
We know nothing about his past and real family. We know nothing about what he did in the his two-year absence from the Heights or how he made his fortune. He appears and disappears.
11. Power of seduction and attraction
Well, the whole novel is about this. Even Lockwood seems to be seduced by the man when he first sees him. “A capital fellow” he defines him.
12.Self destructive behaviour
The power of his love is both destructive and self-destructive
13.Social and sexual dominance
He is socially and sexually the dominant male. He manages to come into possession of Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange and destroys or humbles all the male figures he comes across.
14.Sophisticated and well-educated
He can’t certainly be defined sophisticated or well-educated, but he has received an education and knows how to behave properly if this fits his schemes. At first glance Heathcliff looks like a gentleman to Lockwood
We only know that he is a founder who seems to have suffered.
If we have understood Emily Bronte‘s novel well, the Byronic type is the kind of man who should be avoided carefully, nevertheless his attractive power is still proof against wisdom or better judgement. I’m sure that in a story of every woman there is a chapter dedicated to her own Byronic hero, a chapter that every now and then she will read to remember that thrill, that shiver. She will read those pages with the lightness of one who, however, has been able to write other meaningful chapters.