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Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Enough with the Adolf Hitler, Voldemort and Emperor Palpatine comparisons. We’re going to go a little old school now, like pre-20th century. We’re going to do an old-fashioned literary analysis by comparing our president to a Byronic hero.

Now for those of you who fell asleep during Advanced Placement English Literature, here’s a refresher. The Byronic hero — named for Romantic poet Lord George Gordon Byron — was a staple of romantic gothic literature. Most often male (there are rare female examples within the time period, though they are more common now), the Byronic hero came at a contrast to the chivalrous and charming Captain Wentworth and King Arthur. They were bad boys, and usually, the good, virginal heroine of the novel would be completely enraptured and captivated by their moodiness, pride and general anti-social tendencies.

Seductive, isn’t it?

For this extended comparison to really come across, we’re going to cast our country in the role of the sweet, fresh-faced darling. America was ready for a change. Having been romanced by a host of similar-minded suitors for the past 300 years, she was growing rather tiresome of the conventions and the customs. What America wanted was a bad boy, someone who wasn’t afraid to get his breeches real dirty, someone who wanted to build a wall. Screw what the rest of the government says!

Enter President Donald Trump. The fundamental traits of a Byronic hero are arrogance, rebellion and being somewhat of a social outcast. Let’s see how Trump ranked on those scales during the election season. There’s no doubt he was arrogant — even supporters of Trump say his pride is one of his most notable qualities, though they usually defend it. But hey, we’ll admit it, sometimes cockiness can be sexy. Trump represented a rebellion from the typical institution America was used to having. And as for being a social outsider, well, in the realm of politics, he certainly was an outcast.

There are more niche traits of the Byronic hero that Trump fits as well. Emotional sensitivity and quickness to anger, as seen by Trump’s fiery Twitter rants. His intensity, his drive, his rejection of social norms — all these are traits shared by the original 18th- century bad boys and our current president.

Now some people were telling America not to run away with this hot shot — just look at how some of your friends wooed by similar bad boys ended up — but America wanted a break from the norm. She wanted to be swept away by this brooding anti-hero, give some excitement to her humdrum life and maybe even change him in the end.

And sometimes that’s the case. The brooding anti-hero of Charlotte Brontë’s “Jane Eyre” was one of those cases — redeemed by love, we all forgave him for locking his wife up in an attic and lying about her existence, just because he loved Jane so damn much. This type of redemption arc is popular with today’s anti-heroes, and both the sweet, innocent girl and the brooding bad boy benefit. The girl learns to live a little, and the boy shapes up some.

However, the problem is that in real life when you meet a brooding bad boy at a club, it doesn’t really play out with a happily ever under. Despite all of America’s friends warning her about this potentially dangerous suitor, she fell for him.

How will this love story turn out? Well, right now, it looks like we’re in the darker part. Mr. Rochester has just revealed his wife is locked up in his attic, and Heathcliff from “Wuthering Heights” has gone off brooding in the moors. Perhaps, like Rochester, this love affair can be redeemed. Or perhaps, as in the case of Heathcliff, both parties will be destroyed by their own passionate affair and brutal arrogance.

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