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Discuss how Childe Harold's Pilgrimage and Don Juan reflect the Romantic characteristic...

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angel-08 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted April 25, 2010 at 1:26 PM via web

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Discuss how Childe Harold's Pilgrimage and Don Juan reflect the Romantic characteristic that places emphasis on the value of the unique individual.

Can someone please help me with this homework short answer question. I've read it quite a few times, but I don't understand the last part of the question. Thank you!

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mstultz72 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted April 25, 2010 at 10:24 PM (Answer #1)

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I can give you background on Byron's emphasis on the individual, which you can apply to the homework (the reading of the two works):

Both works focus on the Bryonic Hero, which is a very close persona of Byron.  Here are his qualities: notorious…condemned…defiant…brooding…melancholic…voracious…unusually handsome, or inextricably attractive, often to both sexes...wounded or physically, disabled in some way...moody, mysterious, and/or gloomy...passionate (both in terms of sexuality and deep emotions generally)...remorse laden (for some unnamed sin, a hidden curse, or crime)...unrepentant (despite remorse)...persecuted by fate...self-reliant (often rejecting people on both physical and emotional levels)

Here's the background: In 1815, a radical aristocratic poet, Lord Byron, married, had his first child, and published Hebrew Melodies, a commercial success which included "She walks in beauty." Like Napoleon, Byron had become a national romantic hero and champion of the working class [his first speech in the House of Lords was to grant pardon to English weavers].  In fact, Byron even welcomed Napoleon's Hundred Days rule and said of his defeat at Waterloo: "I'm damned sorry for it."  That same year also brought defeat for Byron: the separation of his wife and rumors of "insanity, incest, and sodomy" by English critics, politicians, and poets alike. In April 1816, Byron exiled himself from England, later saying to those who opposed Napoleon and revolution:

O ye! who teach the ingenious youth of nations, Holland, France, England, Germany or Spain, I pray ye flog them upon all occasions, It mends their morals, never mind the pain (Don Juan, Cato II).

This is Byron's Weltanschauung, or cultural view of the world: he sees a world in which Byron himself was exiled and morose, alienated from wife, child, and home.

Andrew Rutherford, in his book, Byron: A Critical Study, indicts Byron for "artistic slight of hand," saying that Child Harole is a flawed Byronic Hero, but he never admits to his own faults in his soliloquies. In effect, Byron is "having it both ways": to avoid criticism. Since he was an artist in exile, since some critics and certainly the public were more concerned with tabloid than his works, Byron wrote exiled art forms of poetry and drama that are intentionally ambiguous and equivocal, all without realistic moral grounds, to spite critics.  So says Rutherford:

All his heroes in the early verse tales had paradoxical virtues of good and evil, vice and virtue, but their more unpleasant crimes were never fully presented in the poems, so that the reader--like the author--could enjoy the romantic villainy without ever facing its real implications. Something of the same kind happens in Manfred, for the hero's sinful past is emphasised to make him seem more interesting and awe-inspiring, but the more objectionable qualities (like hypocrisy or delight in others' pain) are excluded from the actual portrayal of his character, by an artistic sleight of hand amounting to dishonesty.

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