In teaching Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, it’s impossible not to discuss the Byronic Hero, and how this type of hero permeates not only Gothic romances like this one, but romantic literature in general. The general characteristics of Lord Byron himself, the real life figure behind the type have prevailed over time. Handsome, intelligent, connected, troubled, and artistic, he was in much demand in society. Even then, he was considered to be a rogue (a word that should most definitely be used more often), as well as a romantic. He would be easy to fall for, but if you did, you’d be asking for serious trouble…his wife left him for good cause (seems like he had an inappropriate relationship with his half-sister). Still, the Byronic hero endures and continues to find favour in current books in some of the the romance genres or cross-genres.
Although he’s not the nice guy, why do female characters still fall for Byronic heroes, as well as readers?
Five reasons why the Byronic hero is so appealing and so dangerous at the same time.
1. Character’s appearance:
Is classically good-looking (even though Lord Byron himself struggled with weight and appearance).
2. Is of high birth, but seems to not take his privileged position very seriously. Flaunts convention while at the same time enjoying the privileges that his wealth and/or privileged society brings.
3. He is suffering from some unknown pain, and seems to be living with one foot in the present, and the other foot in the world of his torment. His love interest doesn’t really know why he is in pain, but believes that it is something as grave as he believes it to be. His anguish at times it is so overpowering that she can almost share in his pain. This pain serves as a shield to keep people away, but also as a net as the mystery of his pain draws in not only the female love-interest, but the reader as well. This is part of the mystery of him that draws us all in, despite some growing frustration.
4. He sets himself apart from the common people– it seems that no one can really “get” him. Behaves arrogantly towards everyone and is filled with unshakeable self-confidence.
5. If it’s the heroine he wants, and if it’s him whom she chooses, then her world as she knows it when change forever. As a result, her status and current living situation will drastically improve.
Some of our favorite romances are those who have a Byronic hero. It could be because this type of hero is so complex that it allows the writer to develop a character-driven plot that allows for many complexities. Probably our favorites are Daphne DuMaurier’s Rebecca (Maxim de Winter ), Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Austen (Mr. Rochester), and Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight (Edward Cullen).
We came across an article that covered this appeal as well a few years back. The Telegraph reported that Mills and Boon readers voted Mr. Rochester their favorite romantic hero. You just can’t seem to get away from the appeal of Lord Byron. Here’s a link to some of Byron’s works, works which were popular during his day.