How is Maxim de Winter in "Rebecca" an example of a Byronic hero?

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teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Like a Byronic hero, Maxim is aristocratic, handsome, proud, brooding, and burdened with a secret grief. He is a man of deep feeling—though he does not show it—and suffers anguish over both his marriage to his evil first wife, Rebecca, and over having shot and killed Rebecca in a fit of rage when she told him (falsely) that she was carrying another man's child.  Our narrator, Maxim's second wife, finds Maxim alluring, forbidding, and mysterious because of the way he walls himself off from her emotionally. 

All of this puts Maxim in a direct line of literary descent from actual Byronic heroes such as Childe Harold or Conrad, the hero of The Corsair. Childe Harold is an aristocrat—moody, forbidding, proud and full of misery and mystery. Conrad, a pirate, is described as "that man of loneliness and mystery"—much as Maxim appears to his second wife. 

 

linda-allen eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A Byronic hero, so called because of the writing of Lord Byron, has several characteristics, including a dark, mysterious nature. He is often a loner or isolated from society. He can be moody, and he is usually very intellectual. The writer of "The Gothic Tradition of Daphne du Marier" describes the Byronic hero as having a "charming, handsome appearance [that] causes women to fall in love with him without realizing the hidden trouble of getting involved with such an individual."

Maxim de Winter certainly displays these characteristics. His new wife (whose name is never given!) falls in love with him at first sight. He is mysterious and moody; every time his dead wife, Rebecca, is mentioned he becomes very emotional. He is hiding a secret, whose revelation will change their lives forever.

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