Thursday, 15 April 2010

Mad, bad and dangerous to know...

Yesterday a friend mentioned to me how earlier that day her lecturer had been talking about Byronic heroes, listing some as Rochester, Heathcliff and... Edward Cullen! I've never really given much thought to the Byronic hero, but when she said that, it set me to thinking.

More often than I'd ever care to admit, I fall in love with characters in a book. It's the reason I can read the same stories over and over again; why the page that has Captain Wentworth's beautiful letter to Anne Elliot in my copy of Persuasion is so battered and why I'm not ashamed to admit that I've read the Twilight series five times (well, maybe I am a little). There's something about these stories that draws me in time and time again. And yes, I wish I was the heroine and that I could meet someone like the hero, who I would fall madly in love with. But I know I'm not the only one!

How many great stories about love are there in the world? Hundreds! How many romantic heroes are there? Thousands! And yet it's the same ones that pop up time and time again.

Rochester, Heathcliff, and yes, I am going to agree with my friend's lecturer... Edward Cullen. They are men who have captured the hearts of millions of adoring women, all over the world. And they are all Byronic heroes.

According to wikipedia, the definition of a Byronic hero, or an anti-hero, is someone who is "an idealised but flawed character . . . mad, bad and dangerous to know". A Byronic hero shows a mixture of the following characterstics: a strong sense of arrogance, a troubled past, power of seduction and sexual attraction, mysterious, magnetic and charasmatic, self-destructive behaviour and of course, a good heart in the end.

All of these men have these traits, and I've finally realised that it is exactly this type of man that suckers women in. If we were ever to meet one of these men in modern day life, we'd consider them a "bad boy" and yet when they're in literature, they're a tortured romantic. So, it's exactly why we DO always go for the bad boy in life and can't understand it. We sigh and say " why can't Dave be like Mr Darcy?" When in fact, if we knew Mr Darcy, we might think he was a bit of a prick.

So let's take a look at them...
Rochester is a favourite of mine. I love that he falls head over heels for plain Jane Eyre. Let's face it, he's a bastard. He has no qualms about committing bigamy and ruining Jane's reputation, but he's forgiven when his crazy wife conveniently burns to death and he goes blind, karma's a bitch hey. Jane takes care of him and they live happily ever after. Byronic hero behaviour? Check.

Heathcliff, I have a few issues with. Not only was he an arse, but I'm pretty certain he was more than a little unhinged. Yes, he loved Cathy with all his heart, but I always found him a little extreme. Mind you, Edgar Linton was far too pathetic for my liking. I always wish Heathcliff had just stayed to hear what Cathy really thought about him, but that's just me and my need for people in love to be together. He's the epitome of the Byronic hero.

Edward Cullen, not your typical romantic hero due to being undead. I genuinely fell a little bit in love with him when I read Twilight though. I can't understand how anyone could be Team Jacob, but anyway... He has the ultimate bad boy danger, he could quite literally kill the love of his life at any moment. He also has great brooding skills, if a tad too overprotective for my liking. He couldn't be any more of a Byronic hero than if he were Byron himself.

Captain Wentworth, possibly my favourite ever fictional hero. I always think of him as being so sweet and wonderful, but having given it some thought, he is a tad Byronic. He has spent 8 years missing the love of his life, but when he sees her again he flirts with some floozy in front of her, and acts like a bit of an arse. Yet Anne still digs him and they finally get their act together after he tells her how he feels (swoon!).

I'd also say the same of Darcy, he has the pride, some obvious issues with the whole Wickham/Georgiana sitch and is constantly rude to Lizzie, but he's possibly the most famous hero in the world. Go figure.

No matter how awfully these men have behaved throughout their respective storylines, they are all entangled in some of the greatest love stories ever written, and they are all completely in love with someone who accepts them and loves them back equally. The proof of this love is what shows us that they all have a good heart. Love is their most redeeming quality.

So, after a ridiculously long ramble, I have come to the conclusion that I certainly have a type when it comes to reading a book. And now I know what it is.

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