The Byronic Hero Narrative

Monday 18 November 2019

Not familiar with the term Byronic Hero? Into The Script has you covered!

A Byronic hero is a charismatic character with a strong sense of passion and ideals, while being deeply flawed. Their arc focuses mainly on dealing with their internal struggles of wanting to be better but finding the reality almost impossible. This causes them to be self-aware of their flaws, issues and shadow self.

They have a set of rules that will not be broken for anything or anyone.  Their true 'dark' self will not be accepted by society, so while they may be attractive, charismatic etc they are still very much alone/shunned within society.  Sounds very familiar when it comes to talking about Ryan Gosling's character - The Driver in DRIVE.

So, now we've got that covered, let's remember this trope while getting to grips with Laila's most recent analysis and in-depth dive into the world of DRIVE!

A real human being and a real hero
Back against the wall and odds, with the strength of a will and a cause
Your pursuits are called outstanding
You’re emotionally complex

These exact lyrics play over the last scene of Drive and through the final credits. 
If you’ve seen the film (and if you haven’t, I urge you to), you know exactly who these words describe: our protagonist, Driver. 
He just drives—that’s his job. One of the best stunt doubles in Hollywood movies, and a readily available getaway driver who flees at lightning speed. Take longer than five minutes to show up, and he’s out. He makes the rules, not me. 
His moniker? Unknown.
He’s either “Driver or “Kid”.
He doesn’t partake in crime—not until he needs to save Irene, a neighbour whom he’s enamoured with, and her son Benicio, from a robbery committed by Irene’s criminal husband.
For them, he’s willing to break his own set of rules.
In this article, we’re going through all aspects that make Ryan Gosling’s character so iconic in all his eccentricity. 
What is it that makes our Driver so emotionally intriguing? Let’s find out and ask a few questions to make our characters more remarkable. 

Selective silence

Driver is mostly laconic. He only spends his words on what’s strictly necessary, such as
“Hi”, “want something to drink?” or “shut your mouth or I’ll kick your teeth down”.  Essential stuff. 
He’s not much of a talker, and his chosen words are butter smooth when talking to Irene and Benicio. A real gentleman. As with anyone who might endanger their lives, his words become as dirty as the emblematic scorpion jacket by the end of the film. 
His lack of words, however, is exactly what makes us go “what’s up with this guy?”. It’s his most interesting peculiarity. 
  • Your character doesn’t necessarily have to be enigmatic, but if you could make them known with a snappy description, that’s great. Let’s see a few examples:
“Hey, I saw this cool film last night but can’t remember the name for the life of me.”
“What’s it about?”
“Oh, it’s about a melancholy ballerina who hallucinates...”
Before they finish, my mind goes straight to Black Swan. Sure, I’d need a few more details to be 100 percent sure, but a “melancholy ballerina who hallucinates” is the ideal quick description for Nina Sayers. In the beginning, at least. 
“Dude I saw this scary film about a playwright who goes ape shit with an axe in this isolated hotel.”
Not the best description, but movie fans know full well he’s talking about Jack Torrance. 
“Saw a movie about a getaway driver who barely speaks. He wears a cool jacket”.
Drive, undoubtedly.
If your main character died TODAY...which traits, peculiarities and actions would they be remembered for? What makes people think “oh yeah, that’s who we’re talking about”?

An unfamiliar side 

At one moment, he’s carrying Benicio to bed like a father, watching TV and playing with him. At another, he’s stomping someone’s face to death right in front of his girlfriend-to-be. Talk about adaptability!
When his dirty work begins, it comes as a shock to us just as it does to Irene. It’s a real mindf*ck to see someone you know for being harmless and soft doing the unimaginable.
  • We all have a side we don’t show anyone. Perhaps not this dark, but we do. Driver has to show his real self, otherwise Irene and Benicio will die. But showing his real self and what he’s up to means betraying her trust, and making her scared of him for life. Something’s gotta give. 
What secret does your character hide? What’s at stake if they reveal themselves? Could this hidden side be useful under pressure or at a given moment? 

The best of both worlds

He’s one hell of a stunt driver. He keeps a straight face and a fine composure when facing danger, even if that means shaking in anger and sweating like a pig.
He stays calm because he knows the lay of the land. He knows how to swerve at a crazy high speed. He’s done it several times before during his part time job, and if he needs to apply his skills somewhere else...boy, he will. 
Now, we can all agree on one thing: the film would look completely wack if we had a regular guy who magically acquires insane driving skills after finding out his prospective girlfriend and her son are in danger.
“Yeah, but have you heard of hysterical strength?”
Yes, but that’s not a matter of strength. A mother in despair could lift an entire car to save her child, but in Driver’s case, it’s a matter of skill. Put an ordinary dude in his position, and he won’t last a single car chase. 
If there’s one reason we root for Driver, it’s because we know from the start that he can finish what he has started. He can, but does that mean he will?  
  • Connection is the word. Driver speeds to escape killers and wears his stunt mask to avoid being recognized by Nino, one of the mobsters. That’s where the best of both worlds meet.
What are your character’s strengths and abilities, and how could they help them in completely different situations? 


It turns out Driver never tells us the story about the scorpion and the frog, which is the allusion behind that mighty scorpion on the back of his jacket. No Film School provided a comprehensive description of this fable and how it can be used to build character arcs. Read it below:
"A scorpion and a frog meet on the bank of a babbling stream. It's too treacherous to cross, so the scorpion nicely asks the frog to carry him across on its back. This makes the frog a little suspicious. It asks, “How do I know you won’t sting me?” The scorpion says, “Because if I do, I will die too.” That sound reasoning relaxes the frog's nerves. So he allows the scorpion to climb aboard and they shove off across the flowing water. They get halfway across the stream and the scorpion stings the frog directly in the middle of his back. The frog feels the onset of the scorpion's poison and starts to sink. He manages one dying breath: "Why?!" And the scorpion replies: “It’s my nature…” 
Regardless of best intentions, the scorpion’s nature is to sting. He might just want to get by, or in Driver’s case, help someone else get by unhurt, but he can’t do it without doing justice to his essence.
He has to get involved, to sting, to play the bad guy in order to do a good guy’s deed. It’s who he is, and it’s the only way he can save this family and himself.  

  • Stories, fables, books, films...every piece of information you can get your hands on can become material for allusions, metaphors, and character arcs. Don’t underestimate the power of learning. Read about what you like, what you hate, get out of your shell and watch genres you’re not familiar with. Explore. There’s an art in connecting “unrelated things”. Have you been learning enough lately?

A real human being, a real hero. A hero who kills a few to keep other few alive. That’s what makes Driver the ideal good-bad guy, if you will. 

Laila Resende is a 20-year-old freelance copywriter and a Feature Writer and Social Media Assistant at Into The Script. Her insatiable passion for movies and blogging is perfect for her role as Feature Writer & Social Media Assistant at Into The Script. 

Laila shares all of Into The Script's news on her Instagram page (@lailarsnde) and Facebook.

1 comment

  1. In this film, there are a lot of symbolisms that are difficult to see the first time since you will be very enthusiastically watching the development of the plot.