Author

Lizzie Meier

Date of Award

2012

First Advisor

Bernard F. Rodgers, Jr.

Second Advisor

Brendan Mathews

Abstract

In my thesis I am exploring the relationships of Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre, Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights, and Charles Smithson and Sarah Woodruff in The French Lieutenant’s Woman. In the context of these works, I develop three incarnations of the “Byronic relationship,” or a relationship which incorporates a Byronic hero and/or heroine. To begin this analysis, I use the “real” relationship of Lord Byron and Lady Caroline Lamb, his most famous lover, as a springboard. Although my initial question when beginning this thesis was why women are attracted to Byronic heroes, or men who, as Lady Caroline described Byron, are “mad, bad and dangerous to know,” my topic evolved to a consideration of the totality of the relationship. In all three novels, I found that the relationship embodies the striving of both partners to uphold and validate their selves in the context of a wider social situation which is primarily hostile to the expression of this “true” self. I use Jane Eyre and The French Lieutenant’s Woman to outline the finding of self in the context of the Byronic relationship, while I use Wuthering Heights to illustrate the disintegration of self when this relationship is denied.

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