Byronic attraction


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 wroteThe 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’.
3. Arrogant
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
15.Troubled past
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.

41 thoughts on “Byronic attraction

  1. Ooh, I have felt the draw of more than my fair share of “Byroinic heroes” in my time and lived to tell the tale! My disapproving friends were not using that term to describe them though. 🙂

  2. And he still lives on in his modern form today with the likes of Christian Grey and that Twilight guy…and the man starring in pretty much every Harlequin Romance ever written. Why, oh, why do we find him so fascinating?? I hate the message of these stories: “He treats you like crap because he loves you so much. And don’t worry, your good love will change him.” Sigh.

    • Yes,this is it. Every woman’s hopeless secret ambition is to reform and save the Byronic hero thanks to her love and transform him into a family man with brats and slippers. Mission impossible 🙂

  3. An excellent summary of the Byronic man!
    Whilst I have come across similar characters in other novels, I have never had the pleasure of reading “Wuthering Heights”, but am now thinking that I really should do now. You certainly make Heathcliff sound very intriguing!

    • Ohhhh, there was another one around ! Good for you! I don’t like these Byronic heroes much( I dedicated a couple of posts to grumpy Mr Rochester as well), but I have to say, what would life be like without them ? 😉

      • It’s a case where the fantasy is so much better than the real thing. BUT according to Charlotte B., Mr. Rochester was successfully domesticated… hmmm.

      • She talks about looking after him at the end of the book, and says that he got his sight back in one eye (after two years). She writes, “I hold myself supremely blest- blest beyond what language can express; because I am my husband’s life as fully as he is mine.” It is all extremely romantic, as though their honeymoon never ended! I presume that Edward was rather good in bed;)

  4. Some of these attributes sound very much the kind of descriptions you’d give for a sociopath — the type of person you’d want to be very careful about engaging with!

  5. I enjoyed this post a lot! I’ve never read any Byron before although I just bought a book of his poetry recently.

  6. Can´t hit the freaking like button.

    And this was quite a good step by step braking down the character. You should be a teacher in English Literature, but I think you already are in Rome right? This reminded me of my highschool and university days when we studied the characters, the narrative, can´t remember much now, all the technical things. But I do remember I loved to brake it down and analyze it. This was quite coolI shoud have read the book to try to counteract some of your theories, love a good debate…So I guess I should have been born in early in the 19th century, I feel I have soome traits with this dude

  7. I’ve been out of school too long, Miss Stefania, and I forgot about Heathcliff. I loved this piece. Laughed, learned. The “hero” traits remind me of a guy I look at in the mirror, yet I’ve had trouble getting the ladies. Ruh-roh! Better take another look in the mirror and do some soul searching. Laughing out loud. So nice to be back at E-Tinkerbell. It’s been too long.

  8. Thank you very much for taking the time to visit my blog and introduce me to yours =] you have a way with words, I’m a huge Jane Austen fan and this made me chuckle from start to finish. I believe that the modern day Byronic man is portrayed as a vampire in mainstream entertainment and literature so as to increase his allure even more by making him a mythical creature. But he’s out there.

  9. I think modern guys are trying to replicate the Byronic Hero with the whole Pick-Up Artist school of seduction, a la Neil Strauss and the Rules of the Game… and I think this is very much a response to the sense of powerlessness they feel around women-as-sirens. They can’t help their reaction to femme fatales, so they try to take wrangle some self-control back by adopting these defense mechanism tactics (#3,#4,#10,#13 on your list)… unfortunately it works, as you correctly point out… such Stockholm Syndrome examples as Twilight…

  10. I found this description very interesting and almost completely true.. Any girl would fall for a man like Heatchliff.. I did.
    He was an attractive young man , muscular , dark skin and hair , indipendent and a very free spirit. He disliked rules, even though he wasn’t a criminal sometimes he did some crazy (totally illegal ) things ! He didnt go to college but had a job. He was very smart , adaptable and learned quickly . He had a troubled background, different from mine, he had experienced a lot more than me (he wasnt arrogant and cynical though 😀 ). I found him so interesting , fascinating and, well yeah, sexy.
    I naturally liked him.. And we started hanging out .. after a month I realized that he was amazing, but all the mysitery had become normality. He still was The intelligent handsome Dude , but it was not enough for me anymore. I wanted someone more.. regular , as ambicious and with future plans as I am. Thus I came to the conclusion that “the byronic hero” is the greatest crush a girl like me could have , but the feeling would change at some point.. I still rememeber what emotions he made me feel.. but his lifestyle and mine can’t conciliate and one of us would have to change.
    I know It s a long comment, sorry 🙂
    P.s. one day I wanna know about your byronic hero .. 😀

  11. Mr Darcy as Heathcliff are at the same time attractive but dangerous, and it is what women want. They look for an exciting life and they don’t want to be annoyed by men. Despite of this, in both stories by Emily Bronte and Jane Austen eventually the two lovers are together and happy. When you reach your purpose, you lose the emotional side of it and your life is going to become a routine. “To await a pleasure, is itself a pleasure” said Gotthold Ephraim Lessing. That’s true, we should have always the passion for something in our life…don’t be lazy!

    • Hi Ilaria, I disagree with you this time. Darcy is not a dangerours man, he seems stiff,cold, but eventually we undestand that he is just an introvert man. For what concerns Wuthering Heights, there is no happy end, just like in Pride and Prejudice, as the two lovers will not be together in this world, but the next. 🙂

      • Oh yes, I understand, therefore it’s more correct to say that Darcy and Heathcliff are both difficult to reach, so their women are more and more attracted by them and they feel a craving passion.

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