Sunday, July 31, 2016
The Romantic Hero
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Romantic hero is a literary archetype referring to a character that rejects established norms and conventions, has been rejected by society, and has themself as the center of his or her own existence. The Romantic hero is often the protagonist in the literary work and there is a primary focus on the character's thoughts rather than his or her actions. Literary critic Northrop Frye noted that the Romantic hero is often "placed outside the structure of civilization and therefore represents the force of physical nature, amoral or ruthless, yet with a sense of power, and often leadership, that society has impoverished itself by rejecting". Other characteristics of the Romantic hero include introspection, the triumph of the individual over the "restraints of theological and social conventions", wanderlust, melancholy, misanthropy, alienation, and isolation. However, another common trait of the Romantic hero is regret for his actions, and self-criticism, often leading to philanthropy, which stops the character from ending romantically. An example of this trait is Edmond Dantès in The Count of Monte Cristo.
Usually estranged from his more grounded, realist biological family and leading a rural, solitary life, the Romantic hero may nevertheless have a long-suffering love interest, herself victimised by his rebellious tendencies, with their fates intertwined for decades, sometimes from their youths to their deaths. (See Tatyana Larina, Elizabeth Bennet, Eugenie Grandet et al.)
The Romantic hero first began appearing in literature during the Romantic period, in works by such authors as Byron, Keats, Goethe and Pushkin, and is seen in part as a response to the French Revolution. As Napoleon, the "living model of a hero", became a disappointment to many, the typical notion of the hero as upholding social order began to be challenged. Classic literary examples of the romantic hero include Werther from Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther, Gwynplaine from Hugo's The Man who Laughs, the title character in Pushkin's Onegin, Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice, the main character in the epic poem "Don Juan" by Lord Byron, Chateaubriand's René, Tolstoy's Andrei Bolkonsky from War and Peace, Cooper's "Hawkeye" (Natty Bumppo) from The Leatherstocking Tales, and Raymond Chandler's Phillip Marlowe from his seven novels about the Los Angeles detective. [end of Wiki info]
To me, a romantic hero is someone who is romantic around the woman he loves. He gives her his all. But, what do I know? Maybe I’m the only writer at RWASD & RWA who didn’t know this wicked Wiki interpretation. Chime in, please.
If you look up romantic in the Webster’s College dictionary you may compare quite different definitions:
1. of or pertaining to romance.
2. impractrical or unrealistic; fanciful.
3. imbued with idealism, a desire for adventure, etc.
4. preoccupied with love or by the idealizing of love.
5. expressing love or strong affection.
6. ardent, passionate, fervent.
7. …a style of literature that subordinates form to content, encourages freedom of treatment, emphasizes imagination, emotion, and introspection, and often celebrates nature, the ordinary person, and freedom of the spirit (contrasted with Classical).
8. of free expression of imagination and emotion, virtuosic display…
9. imaginary, fictitious, or fabulous.
10. noting the role of a suitor in a play [or book/RWR] about love; the romantic lead.
11. a romantic person.
12. an adherent of romanticism.
Why the dictotomy?
There is a strain of thought on romance novels, and we’ve talked to this before, that literary fiction is the only or much superior fiction of merit. I’ll follow the dictionary, which in twelve tries doesn’t come close to the Wiki interpretation.
It is useful to look at your hero and heroine through the prism of the definitions above so that their motivations are grounded in common understanding or why we fall in love and what it means to be in love.
P.s. I’d like to take a Wiki leak and rewrite the entry, if only I had the will, time and inclination.