Childe Harold's Pilgrimage

by Lord George Gordon Byron
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Last Updated on July 24, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 435

Childe Harold

The principal character in Childe Harold's Pilgrimage is Childe Harold, the narrator and author surrogate (that is, a fictional character based on the author). Childe Harold is the seminal Byronic hero, a form of Romantic hero that is an elevated, moody type of anti-hero.

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Childe Harold is a young man who grows weary of his life of wealth and luxury, so he embarks on a solitary journey through Europe to seek adventure and awaken emotions that have gone dormant from years of disillusionment. Though he does find adventure and meet new people everywhere he goes, he remains melancholy. The journey does not solve his struggles of temperament.

It is dark, brooding character traits that tend to define the Byronic hero. Byronic heroes are typically some combination of moody, cynical, cunning, clever, perceptive, mysterious, charismatic, and arrogant. Byronic heroes are often outsiders living on the fringe of their social or environmental surroundings. They are also generally disillusioned with the trappings of society. Byron himself was famously said to be "mad, bad, and dangerous to know" by Lady Caroline Lamb, one of Byron's many romantic conquests.

Cantos 1 and 2 of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage were written in close succession, but cantos 3 and 4 came later. Between cantos 2 and 3, Lord Byron ceased trying to put distance between the character of Childe Harold and himself.

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Latest answer posted December 10, 2014, 8:49 pm (UTC)

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Byron mentions certain other people either as encounters in the course of Childe Harold's travels or as a source of introspection. Some descriptions follow:

Ianthe

This character parallels the real-life Lady Charlotte Harley, the daughter of Lady Oxford. Byron and Lady Oxford sustained an affair, and though Lady Charlotte was only 11 at the time they met, Lord Byron had a questionable attraction to the child.

Inez

Inez is a character addressed directly through an ode in which Childe Harold explains his disillusionment and expresses the hope that no others may become saddled with the knowledge that life is senseless.

Ali Pacha

Ali Pancha is a bandit and warrior Childe Harold meets in Albania.

John Eddleston

Referenced in canto 2, Eddleston was a former schoolmate and paramour from Byron's younger years. Byron remained fond of Eddleston until Eddleston's death.

Ada Byron

Ada was Lord Byron's daughter with his wife Annabella Byron (also invoked). Lord Byron lost his relationship with Ada when his wife left him. Following this, accounts of an incestuous relationship with his half sister Augusta Leigh plagued Byron and eventually led to his exile from England. In canto 3, Byron expresses his grief over missing Ada.

Various historical figures and generals from past battles across Europe are also analyzed in the poem as Childe Harold travels through Europe and visits different battlefields.

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 379

Childe Harold

Childe Harold, a wandering young man. the term “childe,” in medieval English, denoted a young man of the noble classes, about to enter knighthood. Harold begins the story as a rather desperate young man, engaged mostly in debauchery and drunkenness. He leaves England (“Albion’s land”) in a quest for truth about the world, or at least about himself. He travels by sea to Portugal, Spain, France, and Germany, and finally Greece and Italy. Throughout the journey, he is bewildered about the truth and never quite finds his way. He begins to find his way in Germany, on the banks of the Rhine. There, he finds a young woman with whom he can have a meaningful relationship, but he decides he is unworthy. He then travels to Greece, where he is astounded by natural beauty once again but is appalled by the decadence to which the once great Greeks have fallen. In Rome, he finds a similar situation, and there he dies. Childe Harold is more of a metaphor than a real human being. He represents Lord Byron in some sense, but more important, he represents the fall of humankind from the glory of ancient times to the decadence that Byron perceives has befallen his own generation.

Harold’s page

Harold’s page, whose age is unclear. He is useful in the narrative only as the one person Harold seems to care about seriously as he leaves England. Apparently, though this is unclear, he does not accompany Harold on the journey. His major function in the poem is to suggest that Childe Harold, generally a callous individual, can show real love to a boy, even if he has difficulty showing such love to a grown woman.

Julia

Julia, Harold’s first love on his travels. Julia is introduced about midway through the poem and is soon gone. She is the first nonsexual love object that Harold encounters, apart from his page. She is described as beautiful, and Harold describes himself as unworthy of her. Her principal task in the narrative is to provide the first platonic love for Harold. Knowing Julia changes him significantly. After he meets Julia, Harold has more to say about the beauties of nature and less to say about the evils of humankind.

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