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Childe Harold's Pilgrimage in 1812 established Lord Byron as the leading poet in England, and the work is a beautiful expression of English Romanticism in its explorations of antiquity and celebrations of nature. From his life in England and through his journeys, Harold becomes the Romantic Byronic hero, a figure who would appear many times over in Western literature to follow.
One of the primary characteristics of Romanticism is the emphasis upon the individual; the interior life, particularly in terms of self-awareness and self-fulfillment are valued more than the individual's role in society. In American literature in the 1800s, these Romantic philosophies were clearly expressed in the Transcendental works of Emerson and Thoreau. In Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, they create the framework of the poem itself; troubled and discontent, Harold leaves his home to go in search of truth about human existence, and in doing so, discovers essential inner truths. Harold's pilgrimage, therefore, is both external and internal. His journeys into foreign lands appealed to readers' interest in the exotic, but it is in his exploration, awareness, and development of self that Byron's Romantic themes are best realized.
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