Antiheroes are protagonists with a dark side, which is frequently unknown to the other characters, especially the heroine, at least at the outset of the novel. Antiheroes are complex characters who have an inclination for using dishonest methods to achieve their goals. They also have positive attributes, which are the reason their weaknesses are so often overlooked.
Some authors have distinguished between the antihero as someone who has no regard for right or wrong; he does bad things irresponsibly and unpredictably, just because he can, and the Byronic antihero, who does bad things for good reasons.
Some antiheroes, especially of the Byronic kind, are popular among readers who often excuse the antihero’s flaws, defending, justifying their actions, or even falling in love with the dark brooding antihero, because they supposedly had a good intention. Such is the case of Emily Bronte’s Heathcliff, Scott Fitzgerald’s Jay Gatsby, Mario Puzo’s Michael Corleone, Ian Fleming’s James Bond, Stephen King’s Roland Deschain, and David Nicholl’s Dexter, to name just a few of the most well-known.
One of literature’s most captivating and most famous Byronic antiheroes of them all is Charlotte Bronte’s Edward Rochester.
I have been obsessed with Charlotte Bronte’s novel, Jane Eyre, since I first read the novel as a teenager, and when I read the prequel, Wide Sargasso Sea, by Jean Rhys, as an adult, my obsession grew so much that the first novels I wrote and published are included in The Eyre Hall Series, the six-part sequel to Jane Eyre, which takes place twenty years after Jane Eyre’s marriage to Edward Rochester.
The first two novels in the series expose Rochester’s crimes, lies, and flagrant manipulation of Jane Eyre, as well as his criminal acts. The rest of the series deals with Jane’s subsequent marriages, travels, ordeals, and misfortunes, as well as her relentless pursuit of justice, integrity, love, and happiness.
As with all antiheroes, some readers claim Mr Rochester has some positive qualities, although I can’t appreciate any myself, unless his supposedly genuine love of Jane is considered a redeeming attribute, because ‘All’s fair in love and war.’
Some readers disagreed with my portrayal of Mr Rochester in The Eyre Hall Series and defended his behaviour, which I find surprising, to say the least, especially bearing in mind the cold-blooded and selfish way he treated his first wife, his mistresses, his daughter, and the way he manipulated his second wife.
If we agree with Nietzsche and ‘true’ love can justify any criminal or immoral action, then perhaps we can let Mr Rochester and all the other antiheroes off the hook, and call them simply heroes.
‘Whatever is done for love always occurs beyond good and evil.’FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE
What do you think? Can we justify a hero’s actions and behaviours because of his allegedly good or romantic intentions?
While I was writing The Eyre Hall Series, which is almost complete, I had the idea of writing a contemporary novel, with a similar plot, and that was how Ghost Wife was born, over five years ago. It has undergone several rewrites and transformations over the years before I published the final version yesterday.
Ghost Wife is a suspenseful, contemporary gothic romance, with engaging and complex characters, and many twists and turns. And, just so you know, Ghost Wife has three main characters and points of view, and one of them is a Byronic Antihero.
I’ll tell you more about these characters tomorrow!