Two books I selected from our shelves that contain typical Byronic heroes. Wondering how I linked these together?
You may not know what I’m talking about, but you know the type. That’s the thing with stereoypes, with heroes, with protagonists. We may not have a term for these things, but we all know the type.
The typical Byronic hero is idealised but flawed. Lord Byron, for whom the Byronic hero is named, was the first “modern-style” celebrity, and nowadays he’d be characterised in the media as a rock star. His ex-lover Lady Caroline Lamb famously described him as “mad, bad and dangerous to know”, and this is the essence of the Byronic hero.
The Byronic hero is intelligent, cunning, and maybe even criminal. Crucially these more negative characteristics are set off by something negative, perhaps a tendency toward introspection and moodiness, or a streak of cowardice (perhaps just realism) or narcissism. Consider Rhett Butler from Gone With The Wind. He is shunned by his family for being thrown out of West Point, yet is obviously well-educated. He has an adversarial relationship with many characters, and his insight into human nature prevents him from salvaging his love for Scarlett. Cue bitter tears.
The Byronic hero is also intelligent, astute and educated, yet he or she (usually he) struggles with integrity, often bucking convention and suffering for it. Byronic heroes are usually physically attractive and generally in love with someone, but (again, most importantly) often are burdened with a dark secret or source of guilt. Consider Stephen Dedalus from the works of James Joyce. Stephen is considered by his friend Buck Mulligan to be a great poet, but he cannot seem to relate to many people very well. He is extremely guilty over the fact that he could not pray for his mother as she lay on her death bed – his stubborn moral decisions about religion (among other things) prevented him from doing this).
The Byronic hero may be privileged (socially or in terms of money) but will show a disregard for social conventions and their own responsibilities.
The Byronic hero often has an understanding of his of her inner world, but may be overburdened thus. You’re beginning to see a pattern, right? You know a character like this.
To further explore this, I’ll first tell you about some boring literary stuff. Then we’ll talk about some real (fictional) Byronic heroes.
Scholars have traced the tradition of the Byronic hero from the works of John Milton. Milton published the twelve-book version of his epic poem Paradise Lost in 1674. It is heavily concerned with the conflict between God’s foresight and omnipotence and man’s free will.
It wasn’t until the American and French revolutions and the Romantic period that people really began to sympathise with Satanic characters. In 1819 Percy Shelley (a contemporary of Byron) put forth that Milton’s Satan was morally superior to the tyrranical God of the poem. Most crucially, he said that Satan’s greatness of character is flawed (again) by vengefulness and pride. Byron wrote a semi-autobiographical epic narrative poem from 1812 to 1818, called Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage. Many of the elements of the Byronic hero are in this: a world-weary character who searches for enlightenment in foreign lands.
That’s crucial to the characterisation of the Byronic hero. The Byronic hero is flawed, and the “but” in the character’s description is very important. Brilliant BUT self-destructive, moral BUT with a Dark Secret, full of integrity but dark and mysterious, etc etc. Consider Bruce Wayne of Batman.
A few more examples: Rochester in Jane Eyre is a typical Byronic hero. Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights is also a popular example (a larger than life dark-and-handsome romance who never wavers from his goal), as well as Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo. The heroes of many hard-boiled detective novels, as I discussed here, are similarly flawed. Sam Spade is a contemporary example of the Byronic hero, as is Philip Marlowe. You might also consider the titular Doctor House from the TV series House to be a similar hero — he’s brilliant but, as you probably would have guessed by now even if you don’t watch the show, Tragically Flawed in more ways than one. Gothic fiction was bursting with Byronic heroes, as are spaghetti Westerns such as The Good, The Bad And The Ugly. Consider also the Phantom of the Opera and the Vampire Lestat. The Modernist era also gave rise to a lot of Byronic heroes
Byronic heroes are a lot more interesting than your regular old white-knight hero, and there’s still usually an element of romance there… the carefully tousled hair, the enigmatic secrets, etc etc.
The Byronic hero fits into the larger genre of the antihero, which we might take a look at next time. The Byronic hero usually has an air of sweeping romance about him or her — their tragic flaws are never so tragic that you don’t adore the character eventually.
A very contemporary example is Edward Cullen from the Twilight series. And now I seem to have linked pop culture with high culture, and so I’ll finish there.
If you got the whole way through that — congratulations!
-AgnesFiled under Books that deserve a look, Boost your brain | Tags: Classic Crime, Literature, Your two cents worth - book reviews | Comment (0)
Did you know that Bookland is a fictitious country? There is such a thing, and this one was created in the 1980s to reserve an EAN (European Article Number) for books, regardless of which country they come from. This helps the EAN to catalogue books by ISBN (International Standard Book Number). Most products have an EAN, but the Bookland code lets the EAN combine the two.
Almost every book published since 1970 has an ISBN. Books that are published privately do not have ISBNs. Here at JimmyD’s ISBNs are just one of the things we use to catalogue our books. Our catalogue enables us to look up books and know immediately if they are on the shelf, even if all we have is a title or an author’s name. It’s very useful, and it helps us serve you better, too. So if there’s a certain book you’re looking for, come into JimmyD’s and we’ll help you find it.
Have a look here for more info on ISBNs.Filed under Boost your brain | Tags: book store, Books store | Comments Off
Another work which I find enjoyable by Plato, is Symposium, where Socrates is invited to a night of drinking with the leading minds of Athens. Literary devices are used well in this short work such as Plato’s use of stories told within stories (the story of the party was told second hand by a follower of Socrates who had been told about it second hand from someone else). The party decides to amuse themselves by praising love which gives Plato the opportunity to make his characters give pretty speeches or alternatively to make a complete ass out of themselves. One of Socrates’ previous lovers drops in and causes some trouble. The star of the show remains of course Socrates whose eccentricities, arrogance and heroic virtues are on full display as well as his philosophical skill as he gives the final word (or so he thinks) on Love at the climax of the drinking party.Filed under Boost your brain | Tags: Plato | Comment (0)
The Republic is the work that pops up in people’s minds when they think about Plato. Take my advice and don’t start with it. The protagonist in Plato’s writings is a rather strange character called Socrates who was Plato’s teacher. This Socrates can be infuriating, often engaging in dialogues with innocent passersby, only to systematically (sometimes well, sometimes it must be said with rather dubious arguments) show that what the person thought they know they really didn’t. His mission, to show man how ignorant he is, can often make the reader uninterested in Socrates. However Plato’s works which deal with the trial and the events surrounding the trial of Socrates obtain a dramatic element which makes the reader more engaged and in my opinion the concepts better articulated. Plato’s books the Euthyphro, Apology, Crito (my favorite) and Phaedo are all relatively short and have been compiled together under the title The Last Days of Socrates. It is when faced with death that we can relate with the heroic Character of Socrates and his mission to live what he saw as the good life.Filed under Boost your brain | Tags: Crito, Euthyphro, Phaedo, Philosophy, Plato, Socrates | Comment (0)
(continued from previous blog)
What people usually think of first when you mention philosophy are the three giants of Classical Greek thought; Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. Aristotle’s writings are incredibly important in the development of thought in the western and Islamic worlds but unfortunately his writing style is quite dry. He has been described as ‘the worlds first dull professor’. Socrates as far as we know never wrote a word, so that leaves only Plato.
Interested in Socrates, Plato and Aristotal check out their fansite at http://scoppioingola.org/philos/Filed under Boost your brain | Comment (0)
Readable philosophy classics part one – Plato, By Theo
Philosophical works have acquired a reputation for being obscure and difficult to read. I imagine that this came about because people who were interested in reading philosophy would ask a friend who had studied philosophy what their favorite text was. This was a supremely silly thing to do. Their friend probably had a glint in their eye when they replied with something like “Heidegger’s Being and Time is a pretty remarkable book”. Why the friend said this I do not know, perhaps they found it amusing to thrust Heidegger, one of the most unreadable philosophers ever, onto an unsuspecting victim.
I am here to write about some philosophers who could put two sentences together and some texts that are readable and you never know, you might even find them enjoyable. It will be presented in small edible chunks each day or two.
If you are interested in an introduction to philosophy classics try listening to exerts from Nigel Warburton’s book, Philosophy: the Classics at www.philclassics.libsyn.comFiled under Boost your brain | Tags: Introduction to philosophy classics | Comment (0)