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How does Bryon's Childe Harold's Pilgrimage and Don Juan reflect the Romantic...

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mayflower1 | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 25, 2012 at 7:50 PM via web

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How does Bryon's Childe Harold's Pilgrimage and Don Juan reflect the Romantic characteristic that placed emphasis on the value of the unique individual?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted January 3, 2013 at 7:37 AM (Answer #1)

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A key tenet of the Romantic movement was the figure of a Romantic hero who scorned the trammels and restrictions of civilisation and society and who determined to shape his own life and course through rejecting the path that society would have him take. This is a figure that is evident in both of these poems by Byron. Both Childe Harold and Don Juan experience the restrictions and various negative aspects of society in the way that they face the narrowness and hypocritical nature of the education system in the case of Don Juan, and also hedonism and a life of debauchery in the case of Childe Harold. Note how Childe Harold reaches a low point in Canto 1:

He felt the fulness of satiety:

Then loath'd he in his native land to dwell,

Which seem'd to him more lone than Eremite's said cell.

In both poems, the true nature and the unique self of the hero is threatened by society and its various restrictions. For Childe Harold, as this quote suggests, his homeland becomes stifling and profoundly alienating. Both he and Don Juan flee their homeland as part of their quest to determine their own course of life and to express their own unique individuality. Both texts therefore uphold the value of the unique individual through the depiction of the struggles and journey of the central character as he voyages towards greater self-understanding.

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