Is Your Hero Anti or Byronic?

I’ve done some research on the difference between the anti-hero and the Byronic hero. I couldn’t find a definitive article anywhere comparing the two directly, but from what I’ve read here’s my own conclusion.

A Byronic hero is a bad good guy. He does bad things, makes his own rules, operates outside of the law. But his goal is to do good. He’s tormented. He’s introspective. He hurts. He takes full responsibility. He’s Batman.

A Byronic hero will never find true success because he is so conflicted. He seems to be constantly putting out fires in his quest to do right, but due to his own sensitivity of the world he will never achieve his goal. He’s tragic. He’ll never be happy.

An anti-hero is unpredictable. He’s good when he wants to be. He’s bad when he wants to be. And sometimes he’s bad just to piss you off. Because he knows he can, and he doesn’t care. He doesn’t know the meaning of responsibility. He has no regard for right and wrong, he only knows what he wants to do in the moment. His actions will be completely different on another day.

An anti-hero finds success in everything he does. He is happy in his own world because it is all he sees.

In a nutshell, a Byronic hero does bad things for the greater good. An anti-hero does whatever the hell he wants.

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9 thoughts on “Is Your Hero Anti or Byronic?

  1. Since you couldn’t find one, you may be the first author of a definitive essay on this! It’s good to learn the differences. I think that some of these traits would be a challenge to distinguish in fiction, because each of them do bad things. Their reasoning would be in the writer’s hands. The anti-hero seems to have more freedom due to less conscience, so it sounds harder to write a Byronic character. You think?

    • Yes, I think you’re right. It would be harder to keep the Byronic hero in character. But it would be so fulfilling to see him grow. Especially if he became something else, like a classic hero! But then the story would pretty much be over. Unless he was corrupted by something. Oh, this gives me ideas…

  2. Pingback: Anti-Heros, Torture | Kay Camden

  3. This clears up a lot.
    I have a question though. According to this article, Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights seems more of an anti hero than a Byronic hero, with one gaping contradiction: Heathcliff’s never satisfied. He does do whatever the hell he likes, but he never ends up happy, since he never gets Catherine. And his conscience only exists when it comes to Catherine. Does this one thing make him Byronic rather than anti?

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