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Byronic Heroes in FRANKENSTEIN and DRACULA

To undertake the project of comparing the Byronic hero in Frankenstein with a similar figure in Dracula is to acknowledge the Romantic sensibility that the novels share. How that sensibility informed character and theme in such texts as Shelley's Frankenstein and Stoker's Dracula can be seen in ways that Romanticism bubbled up from the intellectual climate of the Enlightenment in the early 19th century. Although Romanticism owed much to the Enlightenment, it deified feeling instead of reason, was suspicious of institutional constraints, entailed nature mysticism, and conceptualized humanity as "living in a world of creativity and becoming" (Baumer 274), whether of one's selfhood or of one's physical and social environment. That helps explain the affinity Romantics had with reform and revolution, which can be construed as opportunities for wholesale transformation of the human condition, even if the record of such transformations might be spotty.

The concept of the Byronic hero--a man of privilege yet devoted to principles favoring justice for all, fearless of impossible odds, and (probably) doomed to (bravely and handsomely born) death in the midst of the fight--was completely consistent with Romanticism. Barzun sees Byron as embodiment of what became the cultural referent (485-6). Byron fell in Greece, having traveled there in 1824 to join the brave Greeks in their revolution against the dastardly Ottoman yoke. That he died of a fever and not in battle seems to have been rather overlooked; temperament was what mattered.

It was in this intellectual climate that Frankenstein was published in 1817. Bearing the subtitle The Modern Prometheus, the novel explored the extent to which its hero, a highly regarded physician, would use medical science to render all humanity immune to any except a violent death. Victor Frankenstein is a dedicated scientist, and the action develops the idea that, despite the promises of sci...

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Byronic Heroes in FRANKENSTEIN and DRACULA. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 11:37, May 28, 2020, from