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Heathcliff As A “Byronic Hero” Essay

1351 words - 5 pages

Heathcliff as a "Byronic hero"
ALBA MOLINA CORPAS Análisis de textos literarios ingleses.

In this essay I am going to focus on the male protagonist of the novel written by Emily Brontë
Wuthering Heights, called Heathcliff and why he is described as a Byronic hero. First, a description
of what a "Byronic hero" is must be presented to understand the characterization of this protagonist.
To achieve this aim, I will use some electronic resources from the library and what we have learnt
within the class.
As Peter Thorslev comments on his book Byronic Hero: Types and Prototypes, in the Romantic
Movement there was a distinctive heroic tradition in which its major representative was Lord
Byron. Quoting Thorslev, he is "the one poet in the Romantic Movement whose hero was his
poetry, or whose poetry existed for his hero" (Thorslev, 1962: 3). The Romantic heroes epitomize
many of the most important aspects of Romanticism, and the Byronic Hero shows the elements of
every major types of Romantic hero.
According to the Norton Literature Online, Byron's first representation of this hero was his
Satanic-Gothic-Napoleon lineage in 1812, in the opening stanza of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage,
canto 1. He is depicted as a "young man, prematurely sated by sin, who wanders about in an attempt
to escape society and his own memories". Another character, Conrad, the hero of The Corsair
(1814) is described as "more isolated, darker, more complex in his history and inner conflict, and
therefore more frightening and more compelling to the reader".
The Norton Anthology presents the Byronic hero as "an alien, mysterious, and gloomy
spirit, superior in his passions and powers to the common run of humanity, whom he regards with
disdain. He harbors the torturing memory of an enormous, nameless guilt that drives him toward an

inevitable doom. And he exerts an attraction on other characters that is the more compelling because
it involves their terror at his obliviousness to ordinary human concerns and values. This figure,
infusing the archrebel in a nonpolitical form with a strong erotic interest, was imitated in life as well
as in art and helped shape the intellectual and the cultural history of the later nineteenth century."
(NAEL 8, 2: 608)
One of the literary descendants of the Byronic hero includes Heathcliff in Wuthering
Heathcliff is the male protagonist of the famous novel written by Emily Brontë in 1847, Wuthering
Heights. The novel revolves around the passionate but unfulfilled romance between Heathcliff and
Catherine, and shows how Heathcliff's feeling and personality becomes darker due to this
complicated relationship.
As described in Fegan's book Wuthering Heights: Character Studies, he has suffered a lot
his entire life since he was a child before arriving to the Heights. These experiences have been
painful and make him learn to bear suffering...

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