What is it about bad boys? We know they are trouble and no good, but as literary heroes (and in real life, some would add) they are the most intriguing and thrilling. Byron was the master of bad boys so much so that they are defined as Byronic heroes. Lord Macauley, a contemporary of Byron, wrote that a Byronic hero was:
“A man proud, moody, cynical, with defiance on his brow, and misery in his heart, a scorner of his kind, implacable in revenge, yet capable of deep and strong affection.”
Now that was nearly 200 years ago, but nothing has really changed. Manfred, Heathcliff, Frankenstein, Mr. Rochester, the Phantom from the Opera to Edward Cullen and even Christian Grey. They all have that heartthrob, *sigh* bad boy qualities that we love and adore – and simply cannot get enough of.
In real life, we know that an encounter with a bad boy is more than likely to end in disaster, but in fiction we allow ourselves to hope and throw our hearts at them, even though we are not always guaranteed a happily ever after. In fiction, we want Heathcliff; in reality, we rely on Edgar Linton.
The bad boy heroes make for better stories in that they are more radical and extreme. They easily go through the entire red-hot registry of emotions from passionate to angry, their point of balance a dark brooding thinker a la Rodin’s.
We want to be swept off our feet and whisked away from the dreariness of everyday life, including laundry and dust bunnies in corners, to a life of “more” – whatever that is – more emotion, deeper love, wilder anger, sweeter forgiveness. Furthermore, there is our inert desire to be a positive influence on someone and round off the edges of our bad boy. Some literary heroines get to do just that. The rest of us will have to read about it instead and be content with teaching our Edgar Lintons to put the toilet seat down.
Please share your thoughts on bad boys in the comment section.