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Manfred typifies the Romantic mindset partly because he is, or sees himself, an outcast. Like Faust, he is dissatisfied with "life" in its mundane form and wishes to transcend it, to experience some ultimate transformation that will enable him to break free of the ordinary, banal world. A major theme...

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Manfred typifies the Romantic mindset partly because he is, or sees himself, an outcast. Like Faust, he is dissatisfied with "life" in its mundane form and wishes to transcend it, to experience some ultimate transformation that will enable him to break free of the ordinary, banal world. A major theme of the Romantic movement was this striving after the impossible and the perception of man as a rebel, a god-like being with the potential to venture beyond the ordinary limits imposed upon him by the laws both of God and of men.

Manfred seeks "forgetfulness." It's almost an inverted form of the seemingly positive experiences that other Romantic heroes strive for. Faust seeks some ultimate moment in time so beautiful to him that he will wish it to linger—unlike all that he has experienced in his long life and with his great knowledge. But he must make a pact with the Devil in order to accomplish this. Frankenstein wishes to do what only God has done, to create life, and he does so, but the experiment backfires. Manfred similarly seeks the impossible, but it is a negation of life—the ability to erase memories so awful that he is being destroyed by them. In all these cases the Romantic hero wishes to transcend what others have been capable of and thus to become a kind of god himself.

The dissatisfaction and lack of fulfillment that motivates these figures is expressed throughout much of Romantic literature. It is as if even when man accomplishes something it's not enough, or it does not give him the feeling he expected. In The Prelude Wordsworth describes crossing the Alps, but in a way that indicates he and his fellow traveler are over the crest without even realizing it at first. This is a prototype of Romantic thought in which, in ordinary life, one misses the impact of achievement, and therefore must strive for something more, something out of bounds, as it were. Manfred's seeking "oblivion" is Byron's personal expression of this thought and this desire.

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Manfred is a particular kind of Romantic hero, called a Byronic hero. This means he is dark and brooding, tortured inwardly by hidden guilt.

The Romantics had a particular self-concept which is reflected in Manfred's character. They believed strongly in the individual, and, particularly, in the individual genius who is set apart from other people because of the superiority of his vision. Manfred, for example, chooses to exile himself to a mountaintop (the perfect place to commune with gods and spirits), apart from other people, because he feels little kinship with ordinary humans. His is a suffering, artistic, and superior spirit.

The Byronic hero does not follow the normal social conventions. In Manfred's case, he is wracked with guilt over incest with Astarte. Manfred, like a good Romantic hero, also defies both the gods and the devil, choosing his own path, which is to embrace death.

A good example of a Manfred-like Romantic/Byronic hero is Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights.

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Manfred is almost the epitome of a Byronic hero. He scorns society's rules, showing utter contempt for the mores and social codes that respectable people impose on individuals of great character like himself. Manfred lives by his own moral code, his own standards. And so he stands apart from society, leading a life of great loneliness, but one in which at least he can feel free. A Byronic hero like Manfred may not be the most likable person you will ever come across but he is clearly an intelligent, charismatic, and deeply fascinating personality.

But beneath the heroic self-image, Manfred, like his progenitor, is still human. Manfred broods extensively over his sister's death and the part he may have played in it due to his having an incestuous relationship with her. Beneath all the posturing bluster, he really does have a conscience after all. But what he does not yet have is the ability to take responsibility for his actions. So he tries to avoid his sins and their ruinous consequences by wandering desolate mountaintops, summoning spirits, and shutting himself off in his castle. He does not want to deal with his profound guilt; he wants to forget about it completely.

He ultimately comes to recognize the good within himself. But it is his own inner good, the product of his nature as a unique individual set apart by genius from others, not the outer good conferred upon him by the approbation of society. He dies on his own terms without the comfort of the church or the aid of any other human authority. This man bows before no power, earthly or supernatural. In other words, Manfred remains a true Byronic hero right to the very end.

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