No, I Have Not Read ‘Twilight’ (But I Will)

Just when we’re making some headway in The Secret Garden, I am asked about the Twilight novels. It’s a great question and deserves its own thread. Here is the question, my response, and an open floor for you all to say your piece. It won’t be the last time this subject comes up, I’m sure (I hope!).

MaggieMay: John, I know you have your hands full with Tales of BTB just coming out and all, but my daughter has moved full-swing into the Twilight series, so wondering if you have any positive thoughts about it? I’m reading it too, just, just to stay relevant… Since you had time/energy to bring up The Secret Garden, I would absolutely love commentary on Edward and Bella! thanks

MaggieMay, talk about hijacking a thread! Two quick Twilight comments before I get back to reading The Secret Garden and, more urgently, writing Harry Potter’s Bookshelf:

(1) I have been asked what I think of Stephanie Meyers’ books for several years and rather urgently the last few months in anticipation of the first movie. I haven’t given these novels much thought and I have not read them, though I plan to. Why? Beyond wanting to know what the fuss is about, I have been asked to by a very good friend in California who is involved in organizing a Twilight fan conference this summer. Here are my biases and preconceptions going in:

My first impressions are that it is a deconstruction of the Stoker/Gothic vampire myth of the undead and that it must be a double coding masterpiece (combining teen romance, paranormal gothic chiller-thriller, and international adventure a la Dan Brown) with postmodern themes of tolerance and admiration for the abused ‘other’ laced through it. That last bit is almost a given with any book written today but the deconstruction and double-coding are also postmodern essentials.

I’m assuming folks love Twilight — especially women? — because vampire stories are always ciphers for sexuality and the tension between sexual restraint and hedonism, and this one, I’ve read, features a guy who cares enough about his girl not to want to bite/deflower her. For a book to be this popular, Da Vinci Code aside, there has to be a clear vein of virtue somewhere in it, even if it is the titillation that is an obvious draw. Sacrificial restraint has to be a turn on for American women because, sadly, I’m near certain it isn’t their experience with single or married guys.

But I haven’t read the books so my opinion is just an uninformed guess! I am very curious, especially because the author has been quite open about her faith in the revelations of the Latter Day Saints church, about how that faith and her beliefs play out in the stories. Frankly, I am surprised we have not heard about these novels from a certain Harry Potter critic who has published several long ‘Mormon tell-all’ books: Twilight and the Bible: The Menace Behind the LDS Vampire? Look for it.

(2) Travis Prinzi is reading Twilight now and will be writing about it soon for another web site to which I am sure he will post a link on Hog’s Head.org. That will be your best bet for a thoughtful opinion on this subject if you still have questions. At least until I get around to reading them (when I will almost certainly write a thread here saying Mr. Prinzi was right).

Those of you who have read Mrs. Meyers’ novels, please let us know what you think of the writing, the themes, and what drives the popularity of these books as compared to the writing, themes, and popularity of Ms. Rowling’s Harry Potter stories. I’ve already said way too much for someone not having cracked the cover of the books in question!

Comments

  1. John’s hunches are not far of the mark at all. I’d refrain from using the word “masterpiece” in any way, shape, or form, unless the words “not a” appear right before it, and “in the least” appear after it. There is nothing masterfully done about Twilight, if the first book is any indication. I hesitate to pronounce final judgment on the series, as I’ve only read the first book, but I found the first so utterly painful that I just can’t bring myself to read the second.

    I’ve written a review for The Rabbit Room, and I’ll link it at The Hog’s Head when it’s posted.

  2. Red Rocker says:

    I haven’t read the books. But I’d still love to comment. Or rather retract an earlier comment I made at THH.

  3. John,

    I’ve not read Twilight either. I haven’t felt particularly inclined to do so but I guess I’ll have to do it, if only to contribute meaningfully to any discussions. I have listened to a review of it by another Lutheran pastor who is fairly even handed in his treatment of it. He also was favorably inclined towards Harry Potter & has referenced your works quite a bit. If anyone would like to hear his review, I would be happy to point them towards the mp3 download of it.

    Liked your comment on the “certain critic.” 🙂 While I would not agree with LDS theology, I think it best to fairly review things & not go all psycho on them like certain Christian commentators are inclined to do.

  4. Btw, this Lutheran pastor I mentioned who reviewed Twilight didn’t seem to think any objectionable material was ported in from Mormonism. He was more concerned about some of the romantic aspects of the books, in the sense of “Oh I just can’t live without you & if we can’t be together, life is dark & barren!” The kind of stuff that got Romeo & Juliet into doing the old poison/knife swan song…

  5. Red Rocker says:

    revgeorge, your Lutheran reviewer couldn’t have read the last book in the series: Breaking Dawn. At the end of BD Jacob, Bella’s disappointed suitor, “imprints” upon Bella and Edward’s newborn daughter, Renesmee as his “soulmate”, and joins the Cullen clan as an older brother to Renesmee until she is old enough to become his lover.

    How Mormon is that?

  6. I have read Twilight, and I will admit to being underwhelmed by both the writing style (whatever happened to “show, don’t tell”?) and the main characters. The heroine, in particular, I find to be rather problematic in her passivity. I will admit to being a student and fan of “old school” vampire literature – give me Le Fanu’s 1872 Carmilla any day! And it still wows my students, too – but I do think there’s much more compelling and meaningful vampire literature being written today, from Robin McKinley’s Sunshine (winner, by the way, of the Mythopoeic Award) to, if we want to talk strictly YA, The Night Wanderer: A Native Gothic Novel by Drew Hayden Taylor (who, incidentally, handles Native subjects far better than Stephanie Meyers). Then again, you could scrap them all and read Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book from this year (which includes a vampire) and Coraline; these are about as good as you can get for any age, as far as I’m concerned. Just my two cents!

  7. I’ll have to get my wife to comment on this. She reads this paranormal romance stuff all the time & I think she’s read McKinley’s book. She hasn’t been interested in Twilight, though. I think that says something about the series right there. 🙂

    Rocker, no I don’t think this pastor had gotten that far into the series. But to be specific his review was only over the first book & movie, so he was perhaps only commenting on those in particular.

  8. It would be great for your wife to join us here, RevGeorge! I think the only husband-wife All-Pros we have to date are the D&T Gras duo and Toni doesn’t post very often.

  9. It would be nice, but I doubt very much it will happen. My wife has read the HP series once. She’d probably read it more but since JKR won’t release the books in an ebook format, my wife probably won’t read it all that often. Anyway, I think she just tolerates my obsession with the books. 🙂

  10. I applaud your willingness to tackle these books. They just don’t interest me. I’ve noticed in friends who are fans that it takes on a very 13-year-old-obsessive characteristic, and these are grown women! One of those has since shaken it off and said they weren’t very well written, so that’s a turn-off. Plus, when I did some research I came to a few conclusions:

    1. They are teenie-bopper lit.
    2. There are some seriously disturbing things (I read about something that occurs when Bella has the baby that was horrifyingly gross).
    3. The laudable absence of typical teen lit free sexuality, etc., is not well-supported by otherwise commendable actions. From what I have read in a number of places, Edward exclaims how bad he is for Bella, and she is open to his “ravishing” her but he won’t until they’re married, but on the other hand sneaks into her room nightly and they cuddle. —> CAUTION!

    If anyone here does want to read a good vampire book, in October I read The Historian, which I thought was fantastic and very well-written. The author was, I think, trying to add a new part of the old Dracula legend, not supplant anything but build upon Stoker et al. Best of luck swallowing that teen girl fantasy lit….

    ~Zee

  11. Amy, “What ever happened to ‘Show, don’t Tell'” is right on the mark! I make the point in the review I wrote for The Rabbit Room (which is still pending for posting).

  12. Arabella Figg says:

    I read Twilight the week before Christmas. So I guess Dr. Sturgis, Travis (haven’t read your post yet, Travis, so I can speak my own thoughts) and I are the only three here so far with the goods.

    And the goods…aren’t very good. Twilight has a basic “forbidden love” storyline geared to make teen girl (and teen girl within) hearts go pitty-pat–and it’s laugh-inducing fantasy. (Note: I did read plot summaries of the sequels–spoilers ahead.)

    Edward, the only fully realized character (as far as it goes) is heroic, self-sacrificing, loving, stormy, dangerous, sexy, inhumanly beautiful (vampirizing seems to beautify humans), brooding and, oh yeah, dead. Bella (the *live* narrator, for heaven’s sake!) is flat as cardboard with absolutely nothing interesting about her. I kept waiting for an explanation as to why this self-confessed drab in Phoenix was a mega boy-magnet in the aptly-described gloomy and forboding Olympic Peninsula, WA. (Hmmm, the town is named Forks, the book is about, er, dining….)

    The only other characters I found remotely interesting were Cullen vampires Alice and “father” Carlisle. But I wondered…if Carlisle was so compassionate, why did he doom other humans (the Cullen “family”) to becoming “monsters” (his term), when he could have let them peacefully die? (Edward says it was because Carlisle was “lonely.” Aha! Self-loathing selfish compassion–works for me.)

    And let’s have that real “monster”–the church–in there. Carlisle’s father was a witch-hunting/burning, hellfire preacher in the 1600s, who would have burned his own bitten son alive. This is the only time people of faith are mentioned. Oh, except when Edward posits, in place of Darwinian everything-just-came-to-be, that God made vampires.

    Meyer says she came up with this plot in a dream. Too bad her dream didn’t provide good writing skills to tell it as well. How many times did she tediously use the same adjectives to describe Edward–cold, icy, pale, alabaster, marble, angelic, beautiful, pure? The writing loitered in a plodding way and I only finished the book to see where this bare-bones story went. (My favorite scene was vampire baseball, because it was fun. The incredulous “You brought a snack?” [from intruding vampires referring to Bella] was the best line in the book.)

    Twilight has been criticized as a tract on teen abstinence, with its chaste lovemaking and self-denial, but so what? Why is this considered bad in a culture solely portraying teens as hormonal victims who have no control over their bodies and actions? I had to laugh, though, at Edward (explaining his passionate love to Bella) saying he wasn’t human, but he was still a man. Come again?

    But most amusing was that absolutely nothing was addressed about the skin-to-skin contact between Edward and Bella. Bella seems to have no real problem with icy fingers. In a later book they consummate their love before Bella is transformed into a vampire. It would be like making love with a popsicle. Yikes!

    I guess I would have loved this book as an indiscriminate young teen–very heart-throbbish. I don’t think it’s a bad book, a dangerous book, a book to be avoided and condemned. It’s just kind of a silly book. I read it to learn what the fuss was about, just as I read the first Potter book.

    Fullatricks says “bite me”…

  13. Arabella Figg says:

    Oh, and John, Renaissance Italy has it’s day in the sequels, apparently.

  14. I read the first book and it was so awful I couldn’t bring myself to read the rest of the series. I did, however, go online and read the summaries of the remaining books which led me to breathe a sigh of relief that I didn’t waste my time with anymore Twilight nonsense.

    The author had never written anything before and it clearly shows. I don’t know who her editors were, but they should be fired.

    Literary talent aside (or lack thereof), I have serious issues with the author, Meyer. In addition to the comments above (of which I agree 100%), the most disturbing aspect of the book for me was the fact that Edward is a 100-year-old vampire MAN. He is not a 17 year old boy with a crush on a fellow classmate; he’s a man going after a young girl. Talk about creepy and that’s just the beginning. Here are a few more:

    1. Edward is constantly being described as “perfect” and “beautiful” by Bella. She’s obsessed and it turns out that she is willing to give up anything and everything of value in her life just to be with him.

    2. Bella has a strained relationship with her father and Edward is her surrogate-daddy. He’s controlling and becomes angry when she doesn’t do what he wants.

    3. Bella marries immediately after having graduated from high school and gets pregnant on her honeymoon. She ends up bruised and in pain after consummating the marriage due to Edward’s super-vampire strength.

    Aren’t these great messages to send out to millions of young girls? And the list goes on….

    I also stumbled across a blog written by a former LDS member who quite amusingly points out all of the not-so-subtle Mormon references. And there is quite a bit once you know what to look for. While I didn’t mind the underlying Mormon belief system throughout (I just ignored it), I did object to the thinly-veiled swipe at the Catholic Church. Or is it just a coincidence that the “bad, ancient sect of vampires” just happens to live near Rome and are collectors/scholars of art?

    I anxiously await Travis’ review, as I am sure it will be much more articulate and analytic than my comments above.

    John – it’s a terrible read, but if you decide to waste a couple of hours you can then join the “I can’t believe this train wreck” club and laugh (or cry) along with the rest of us!

  15. Arabella & jensenly, thanks for your comments on Twilight. I had been toying with the idea of reading it just so I could participate in any discussions on it, but I’m rapidly being cured of that idea!

  16. Jensenly: Please share the link to the recovering LDS reader’s blog where he shares the references to that faith in Twilight. That would really be invaluable; there’s just no way I’m ever going to catch those myself…

    I hadn’t thought about the child-predator aspect of old man Edward. Gives “be my daddy” a whole new shade of meaning (“be my daddy’s great grand-daddy!”).

    I may have to read The Little Princess and Little Lord Fauntleroy before I get to Twilight

  17. There’s a bit of precedent for the old man vampire–young, lovely girl pairing, found in the Buffy series between Buffy & Angel. The difference I see is that Buffy & Angel’s love was doomed by the fact that one was human & the other a vampire albeit a good one, when he still had a soul at least.

    Of course, Buffy also had a personality & skills & abilities & a purpose outside of her relationship with Angel. Her whole identity & existence wasn’t wrapped up in him.

  18. Arabella Figg says:

    Thanks, Jensenly, I forgot to mention the creep factor of Edward being born in 1902 and vampirized at 17, during the flu pandemic. He’s physically 17, but he in no way acts like anything other than an adult, and a controlling one at that. While the human adults are surprisingly passive.

    I too kept wondering…who the heck edited this thing? They ought to be fired. And why was it approved it in the first place? When I think of the superior teen lit out there, it’s maddening.

    Here’s another plot hole big enough to “swan” dive through. How could Edward physically feel passion and also procreate, since he’s bloodless? Meyer has curiously fluid vampire constructs (pun intended).

    I’d like to see the LDS info too. There was nothing obvious like multiple wives, but you could say the vampires were something like “gods,” with their extraordinary “superpowers.” And through “blood,” could bring other “gods” into the fold.

    John, you might want to be informed, as a source for parents who have trusted you on Harry. Just a thought. But prepare to roll your eyes more than lemons in a slot machine.

  19. Arabella Figg says:

    I wrote in my first comment: “I don’t think it’s a bad book, a dangerous book, a book to be avoided and condemned. It’s just kind of a silly book.”

    I’ve been reflecting on this and Jensenly’s comments while doing the dinner dishes. While I don’t think Twilight is a “dangerous” book (as in teen girls will want to find handsome vampires, a la the Harry/wannabe wizard fracas), I have to admit I’m viewing it from an adult perspective.

    I *am* disturbed by generational Twilight fandom. If gushing women are blind to the very poor messages and overwrought “romance,” and are sharing this with daughters and granddaughters…. Well, I find that about as yucky as an adult man romancing a teen.

    There are some serious talking points for *grownup* parents to discuss with teen readers. If I had a young family member who’d read it, I’d want to read it and have those conversations.

    So, to restate, I consider Twilight to be poorly-written drivel aimed at teen romantics, that neither delights nor instructs, and you can’t call it edifying. There’s much better out there for teens.

  20. Twilight Preaches Mormonism: a blog post by a daddy with reservations about the implicit LDS instruction going on in Stephanie Meyers’ books (and about the witchcraft in Harry Potter)

    LDS “Dog Whistles” in Twilight: This reader, a Mormon believer, sees the stories as transparencies for LDS teaching. Here is the “You’re out of your mind!” response from another Mormon who sees them as invitations to sexual license.

  21. The biggest Twilight parallel with Harry Potter I see so far — again, without having read the books — is the cartoon similarity in both being vehicles of the two authors’ individual religious beliefs, vehicles that many devout believers in each faith find objectionable, reprehensible, outrageous, etc.

    I’m waiting for the critic-who-shall-not-be-named to publish on the dangers Twilight holds as a “gateway to Mormonism” as he did about Harry being the gateway and conveyor belt to the occult. As he has argued that LDS beliefs are all but occultic, the connection is inevitable, no?

  22. On a different note, there has been something of a Native backlash against the series in some quarters, FYI.

  23. In my attempt to read the book (the library due date came before I even made it that far), I could not see any parallels with Harry Potter outside both are in the fantasy genre.

    I just wonder which portion of the fandom is interested in Twilight? Is it only the teenage portion? The fans that the first fantasy novel they read was Harry Potter and don’t seem to have any interest in Narnia or the Lord of the Rings? It seems that for many fans the next series to get into is Twilight or is it just because MuggleCast is on my Ipod? In the first session of the NIU Harry Potter Conference, everyone in my room seemed to be in love with the Twilight series and were looking forward to seeing the movie.

    John, I was wondering too when “you-know-who-critic” would jump into the forefront on Twilight since his distaste for Mormonism is only outpaced by that for Harry Potter. It’s funny that the two us grew up in the same town!

  24. While I’ve not read Twilight I have to say concerning the difference between Edward and Bella’s ages, it is a fantasy book and such lines are a bit more blurred in immortals relations to mortals. Another example would be the age difference between Arwen and Aragorn, she is much older then he is, I think by over two thousand years. Just pointing out that old man Edward isn’t quite as weird as it seems at first.

  25. Here’s the link for the blog I mentioned earlier. Although I can’t seem to locate the webpage where she provides her background, I believe she is in her mid-thirties, is married with children and is an actress.

    Be warned – she is very irreverent and makes no apologies. It’s not really a serious discussion of the Twilight series like the websites mentioned above, but rather a funny rant on the absurdity of it all. The comments people have left are just as hysterical as her summaries. She also links to a number of legit LDS web pages, whenever she points out a Mormon theme popping up. Some of those links are rather astonishing.

    http://stoney321.livejournal.com/317176.html

    Arabella – you are completely right about the adult (read: women) fans out there. I have several friends who blew my mind when they said they “loved” the books. When I patiently went through my laundry list of issues, they looked at me as if I had confunded them and said, “I never thought about it that way”. Seriously.

  26. Red Rocker says:

    We might have to wait for Renesmee to grow up (which shouldn’t be too long, given her accelerated growth curve) and link up with her “soul mate” Jacob, before the Mormon agenda becomes clear enough for people to sit up and take notice.

    But you know what? I don’t think Twilight is going to stir up as much outrage in certain circles as did HP. The concept of a 107 year old man having sex with a 17 year old girl, and their eternally 25 year old friend waiting for their daughter to grow old enough so he can have sex with his “soul mate” may somehow slip under the same radar that warns of the dangers of Potterverse.

  27. Red Rocker says:

    Shane, valid point, about the age discrepancies that come up in fantasy fiction. And yes, Arwen was a tad long in the tooth as compared to Aragorn. But I don’t think he was a spring chicken when they married. I just checked Appendix B. Aragorn was born in year 2931 of the Third Age. He met Arwen in 2951. So he was 20 (to her 2710). A bit of a mismatch, yes, but at least he wasn’t hovering around the age of consent. And they waitied until he dealt with his important life tasks (like defeating the armies of Sauron and becoming King) before consummating their love. He was 88 when they wed, old enough, one thinks, to have developed some independent judgment and wisdom.

    I think the objection about Bella’s age is that at 17 she is not old enough to have developed a strong sense of autonomy let alone tackled any important life tasks. Her entire life task appears to be Edward. Which would be harmless if he were a 17 year old adolescent instead of a 107 year old in the body of a 17 year old.

    And ask yourself this: why did Tolkien choose to make Aragorn 20 when he met Arwen? I think the answer to that tells us a little bit about what’s so wrong with Edward/Bella.

  28. Arabella Figg says:

    Jensenly, thank you for this hilarious, perfect, perfect, perfect recap. (I still liked the vampire baseball/snack thing, though). And you’re not alone with your “laundry list,” because I’ve read these concerns elsewhere.

    And, yes, what about sleepless, perfect Edward in Bella’s bedroom at night, watching her, lying with her? What message does this send? It’s okay as long as you don’t “do it”? At first this was unknown to her (ick!). That vamp scamp!

    At least Bella will never have a summer mosquito problem, because perfect, jealous Edward will keep them away from supping upon his beloved.

  29. jensenly, thanks for posting that link. I read through the whole thing & it was hilarious! Probably much better than Twilight itself is. Now I really feel no desire to read the series.

    Red Rocker, regards Aragorn & Arwen, it must also be remembered that while Aragorn may have fallen in love with Arwen at age 20, she did not fall in love with him until much later, after he had spent quite a few years out in the world striving against Sauron’s minions, almost 30 years or so. So, he would’ve been 50 & in full manhood according to the reckoning of the High Men.

  30. Red Rocker says:

    Good point, revgeorge no cradle snatcher, our Lady Arwen, although a bit of a cougar. Can you imagine the conversation between the elf maidens over drinks: “My dear, she’s old enough to be his great (2 to the 10th power) grandmother!”

  31. Red Rocker, Good points! I stand corrected.

  32. New Challenge!

    You folks that don’t like Twilight, fine, I get that. I’m more than a little uncomfortable here with the tad-too-casual dismissal of these books as hoi polloi distractions. Really thoughtful people are engaged by these books and re-read them again and again. Are we piling on here or enjoying the beat-down too much? Maybe.

    The question I’ll be trying to explain, when I get around to reading this (there is now a copy of the first book in the series in my home), will be very much the one that started my exploration of Harry Potter, namely, “Why are these books so popular?”

    I think you’ll forgive me if I don’t find “because they’re so stupid, poorly written, adolescent, derivative, and LDS-doctrine-laden” as especially compelling answers to that question. No one loves books for those reasons. I read and heard similar things about Harry Potter, which failing to give a positive explanation of a cultural phenomenon spurred me to write Hidden Key in 2002.

    I am NOT saying that Twilight has multiple layers of meaning, even that it is edifying. I have to admit that I almost certain, however, that Eliade’s thesis about the mythic or religious function of entertainments, especially novels, in a secular culture will be relevant here. My bet, again, without opening the first book, is that readers are responding to Bella’s desire to have eternal life and the experience of unconditional love from God (albeit in the guise of a Prophet Smith stand-in?).

    There has to be something in this girl’s desire to join the undead which is resonating with core human needs. Otherwise we’re left with inexplicable fascination with what Harold Bloom would almost certainly call “slop.” Readers are more intelligent than we give them credit for. What are Twilight fans responding to even identifying with in these books?

  33. desire to have eternal life

    It seems to me that your answer will explain more than the success of just the Twilight series; you’re also touching on the related success of “adult” phenomena such as the bestselling Sookie Stackhouse books-now-turned-hit television series and other current vampire and even “paranormal romance” texts.

    As for connecting this with the Harry Potter phenomenon, I know some of the popular podcasts called for Twilight midnight debut parties at bookstores because the Harry Potter readers who were their listeners enjoyed these parties a great deal and despaired that there would never be any more after Rowling published Deathly Hallows. They were looking actively for new books to help them maintain that collective fan experience. Similarly, they found the film a natural source of interest because “Cedric Diggory” was one of the stars. I’m not saying this explains all of the Twilight interest by any means, but I do think there are several reasons, not all of them directly tied to the texts themselves, why Twilight inherited some of the momentum of the Harry Potter fandom.

  34. Red Rocker says:

    John, I have consciously resisted my urge to beat up on the Twilight books, both out of common courtesy and because I have not read them. The sole point I have latched on is the incredible power differential between Edward and Bella, and how that resonates with the Mormon practice of child brides. And that only after someone else – I will name no names – brought up the issue.

    Having said which, I think I can venture a semi-informed guess about what the fans are responding to in these books. You mention core human needs, and in particular the need for eternal life and unconditional love from God.

    I think you’re right on with the desire for eternal life. And as AHS (above) noted, that desire has ensured the popularity of countless vampire stories, and especially the stories of Anne Rice.

    The desire for unconditional love from God – or his stand-in – is a bit more complicated. What Bella has from Edward is a number of things which come together to represent the ultimate, total fulfillment of a teen-age girl’s fantasy of love. To wit: a physically perfect lover (pages spent on describing his physical perfection, no acne here!), a lover who is passionately, obsessively devoted (talks on an on about his hunger for her blood, spends nights watching her sleep), a dangerous lover (he could crush her to death or drain her blood faster than you can say girls love bad boys), a lover who prefers her to the exclusion of all others, even after 80 odd years of playing the field. And at the same time, she has a lover who is totally safe: he will not hurt her, he will not turn her into a vampire, he will not have sex with her unless they are married, and even then she has to be the one to take the first step.

    I read somewhere (OK, Wikipedia) that Meyer put Edward together from the characters of Mr. Darcy, Mr. Rochester and Gilbert Blythe. Putting aside the fact that Austen, Bronte and especially poor Montgomery would be rotating in their graves at the thought, Meyer designed her dream lover: a totally gorgeous, sexy, passionate but defanged Byronic antihero. No pride in his superior position to get in Edward’s way. No mad wife living in the attic. And no boyish mischieviousness to torment the heroine.

    Of course teen age girls love the series. And older women too. Even when they realize it’s a fantasy, it’s an extremely satisfactory fantasy. Hats off to Meyer for identifying and then fulfilling a need as basic as it gets for half the human race.

    As for the relationship with God, I think you could extrapolate to that. But I think that the the basic need is for the dream lover.

  35. Arabella Figg says:

    John, I’m glad you’ve brought the thread back to the original question; it has stimulated me to think more deeply about Twlight. Sure, I had fun ragging on some aspects of the books I considered (as mentioned in my original comment) “silly.” But in that sentence I also said Twilight wasn’t a bad book, to be avoided as dangerous, and I stand by that.

    I think these books have tapped into a deep longing, one derided and ignored in our cynical postmodern sensibility which demands everything, even romantic relationships, be drenched with self-removal, mockery and irony. The unabashed romance in Twilight honestly moved me (apart from some disturbing aspects).

    Our culture persuades kids that virginity is a detriment to be discarded as quickly as possible; that a chaste relationship is dumb and risky (a contrast from previous times). They’re also taught to not value and treat as more precious than themselves those who love them. Instead they’re taught to play destructive games.

    In contrast, Bella’s and Edward’s devotion to each other is portrayed as something unironically beautiful and holy. Most young girls have romantic ideals, but these get sullied during the tween years. Girls take on a brittle attitude, or wistfully stuff feelings deep within, hiding longing under an acceptable “cool” exterior. This makes them easy targets for sexual advances.

    Bella’s broken home life, in which she is caretaker for neglectful parents, reflects much of family life today where children quickly must become little adults. Readers in similar situations would be incredibly drawn to the Cullens. The Cullen family is attractive, warm and loving, caring not only for each other, but also humans (the other) and those whom family members love–even Bella who is both temptation and danger. In a bad family situation myself as a teen, I was always drawn to loving, intact families and longed to be part of them.

    It’s no wonder Bella is not only obsessed with her love for Edward (the loved who deeply loves her), but also wants to be a permanent part of his family into forever; this is her idea of heaven. She even expresses to Edward a Ruth-like “where you are, I’m home” sentiment. Their sacrificial love for each other is a great example for teens. (Self-sacrificing love–a bit Potterish!)

    As I wrote earlier, I would have loved this book as a teen, because it pushes all the right buttons of human and spiritual desire–being deeply loved and loving with a perfect love that lasts forever. It would have thrilled my love-starved and romantic soul to have a handsome boy love me and watch over me; who would go against and save me from those who harmed me. Does it get more romantic (or religious) than that?

    I would have wanted to be a Cullen, too, even if it meant becoming a vampire, detatched as I was from my family, like Bella. Such love-hunger is often why people are drawn to cults–they hope for forever loving family offering mutual love and care. (And, not coincidentally, this is why many kids want to live at Hogwarts–desire for family.)

    I honestly think all the LDS and creep factor stuff we may see will go over the heads of most teens…and the “grownup teens” that are Twilight fans.

    I think Dr. Sturgis is correct about the rise of paranormal romances. These romances can transcend (aha!) human romance which has been, through postmodern disillusionment, reduced to the “hookup” mentality. There’s a reason Twilight is catching on with hungry hearts. I also believe the communality of fandom provides a larger expression of family, in which everyone matters and can contribute.

    Meyer has tapped a nerve too long dismissed. I hope this gives more to consider. I look forward your more scholarly thoughts and Travis’, as well.

  36. John wrote: “Are we piling on here or enjoying the beat-down too much?” and also “The question I’ll be trying to explain, when I get around to reading this (there is now a copy of the first book in the series in my home), will be very much the one that started my exploration of Harry Potter, namely, ‘Why are these books so popular?'”

    Isn’t it possible to do both? 🙂

    Seriously, though, and I don’t mean this as a criticism, but is it possible to sometimes read _too_ deeply into things or to find hidden meaning where there are none? After all, as Freud said, “Sometimes shallow fluff _is_ just shallow fluff.”

    That is to say, perhaps Twilight is popular not because there’s any depth to it or because there is some hidden theme or meaning that draws people in but it is popular because it is fluff & people like that “slop” sometimes, especially as pure escapism. For the same reason that people will watch the most inane sitcoms as opposed to Masterpiece Theatre.

    And as for really thoughtful people, well, really thoughtful people were also involved in the HP shipping wars & gave lots of serious thought to that subject but does that commend the shipping wars as something deep & meaningful or as something that simply caught people’s fancies?

    Well, I suppose I should read Twilight just to say I have read it. Maybe there’s something to it; maybe not. After all, I didn’t start out reading HPPS thinking to get that much out of it. In fact, I began my foray in Potterdom without much enthusiasm for the series & look where I ended up! 🙂

  37. I’ve been wanting to post this for a couple of days, but sheer holiday busyness has prevented me.

    I have very mixed feelings about the Twilight books, which makes conversation such as this quite interesting. John, thanks for validating the appreciation I do have for the story! Let me try to sort some of those mixed feelings out:

    First off, I agree that a lot of these criticisms are valid. Nzie is right in that the fourth book is more than a little grotesque in places. “Show, don’t tell!” is certainly something Meyer could learn, although it is comparatively difficult to pull off when one is narrating from the first person perspective of an obsessed, detail-focused teenage girl. And Mrs. Figg, you made me laugh out loud—at the office, no less—with your comments about Bella’s tolerance for Edward’s low temperature!

    The sensuality, the if-anything-happens-to-you-I’m-killing-myself-too tendencies of the main characters, the grotesqueries and certain writing failures (pacing especially, and I didn’t care much for her changes in voice) bother me most of all. But I’ve read all the books twice and parts of them more often, and while I wouldn’t be anxious to give them to a 14-year-old—at least not without planning on some serious conversations—I don’t think they’re entirely trash.

    Having never read vampire fiction before, it’s hard for me to pull out much symbolism. I’d find it easy to believe you’re right about the deconstruction, though, John. I went looking for alchemy, since the covers were all black plus white plus red; found some things such as reconciliation of opposites and occasional color references that made me wonder, but certainly nothing conclusive. It’s probably coincidental. I don’t have much experience with alchemical symbolism, but after reading Unlocking Harry Potter I didn’t have any trouble spotting it in Little White Horse. I did think there was more real thought in the books than in the average teen romance; considerations of life and death, right and wrong, sex and self-control, all carried some value.

    Stephenie Meyer’s writing isn’t perfect, but I found it readable enough in that she has a good vocabulary and pleasant if somewhat repetitive descriptions. The creative references to Austen and BrontĂ« were enjoyable. She certainly pulls off suspense; I read well past midnight at least once to find out what would happen.

    Finally, as fairy-tale I think the story works. The postmodern “good monsters” and the themes of self-control, self-sacrifice (Bella’s greatest strength and a lot of the reason I liked her as a character), and human life, etc., all made it interesting for me, even though I didn’t always agree with the way they were handled. The books are not “the next Harry Potter”, but they weren’t a waste of my time either.

    I’ve enjoyed reading comments here and will look forward to hearing what you have to say when you’ve read it, John.

  38. Arabella Figg says:

    I add another thought regarding the love/family/fandom issue: the numerous studies of the immediate and lifelong impact of neglecting, absent or abandoning fathers on girls and women.

    Here’s another thought. Edward remained a virgin, waiting for genuine love. When the issue of sex comes up between the two, he comments, “I know love and lust don’t always keep the same company” and is “satisfied” he and Bella have “that one thing in common, at least.” He refuses to make indulge himself when he does find true love, because he could easily hurt her.

    Edward’s love, in an imperfect (haha) way, reflects the purity of love that overcomes selfish desires. A great theme!

    Twilight deals with themes of love, family, self-sacrifice and choice.

  39. Wow — great ideas. I have a week of writing to do for Bookshelf and then will read Twilight.

    Anyone going to Forks for the Twilight conference this summer? I hope I can, both to see friends who are going for ‘Summer School in Forks’ and to catch up with buddies on the Peninsula (and one in Bellingham).

  40. twilightgeek says:

    Well, I am obviously a fan of Twilight–and one of John’s reasons for starting the series–and I must make a short comment.

    Firstly, I think some of the above comments are quite elitist. The same things were mentioned by my father–yes, John–Ken–after he read only five chapters of the first book and then quit. I have always told him and others that these books are simply fun. They are not great literature, by any means. That doesn’t mean they should be dismissed. Hearing all of you list Meyer’s secret Mormon insertions makes me think that perhaps they are something more. But must they be? I’ll be the first to point out many issues I have with the writing and the plot lines, especially in the fourth book, but I do find comfort in maintaining that collective fan experience that AHS mentioned above. The Meyer books allow me and many HP friends worldwide another series to endlessly discuss and dissect. I think that’s where the fun and the draw are.

    Before the Twilight books I never read any “romance” novels or vampire novels, not even Dracula. I don’t intend to start reading any of them now, but I will read other Meyer novels. In fact, her adult Sci Fi book, The Host, is much better written and an all-around good read.

    Hats off to Red Rocker who stated: “it’s an extremely satisfactory fantasy”…spot on! Props go out also to Arabella Figg “I honestly think all the LDS and creep factor stuff we may see will go over the heads of most teens…and the “grownup teens” that are Twilight fans.” I didn’t want to find any weird Mormon ideas so I didn’t look for them.

    Yes, I am a devout Cullen fan…
    Edward IS the new Mr. Darcy…
    and YES, I will be attending the symposium in Forks. I’m running it.

    For any of you with an open mind, I suggest you read the first 12 chapters of Midnight Sun on Stepheniemeyer.com. It is Twilight from Edward’s perspective and is a much more interesting story than the one from Bella’s perspective. Much more Cullen family action, much less of Bella-boringness.

  41. My review of Twilight is up.

    It’s probably just a matter of personal taste which is causing such a strong reaction on my part, but I’m already done with this series. While there are certainly some interesting reasons the stories are popular, I could not stand Meyer’s writing. I had a visceral reaction to it. I’m not enjoying the beat-down, by the way. I’m kind of annoyed we even have to bother with it in the first place.

    I agree things don’t become popular because they’re poorly written. That doesn’t even make sense. Lots of good reasons have been posited for the series’ popularity, but I don’t think, John, that was with HP, you’ll come to the conclusion, “They’re so popular because they’re so good.”

    I think the key to this series’ success, more than anything else, has been effective tapping into the younger portion of HP fandom, which AHS was referring to.

    The one thing that might make me stick around on this story is the potential to use it to point backward to better, classic Gothic lit.

  42. I have not read the books, and I am not sure I will. Being the Dracula scholar that I am becoming, I already see things I do not like. Like churches going ga ga over the books and allowing them to be discussed there because of the abstinence theme in the books, which I am skeptical about anyway. I do not think most of them have even read Dracula, at least that is my experience, and most do not understand Christian lit or those themes. A lot of people I come in contact with do not even understand the Bible, and I blame our education system for all of that. Being an art teacher, I see that the students at my middle school are reading Twilight, and when I ask them if they have read Dracula, they always say no. And some of the kids say they did not understand Twilight after reading. No wonder!!!!! There was an awesome guy that came to our school to talk with our students about horror authors, like Conan Doyle, Stoker, Poe, and Houdini. When he asked the audience to raise their hands if they had read their books or knew who those guys were, I was almost the only person who could raise my hand to any and all of the questions. That is sad, since probably the only horror book on out reading list in our district is Frankenstein. I have a problem with that book being the only one because of the atheist themes in it. We really need to take our education back into the hands of the states and in the hands of the people before it’s too late.

  43. Some questions from a non-reader after reading Travis Prinzi’s review of Twilight (as good as I expected, which is to say “very good;” be sure to read the comments for the feeling Twilight lovers must get when they are patronized and dismissed the way Tony Henninger talks about Potter!):

    (1) The titles of the books are Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, and Breaking Dawn. These title choices were clearly deliberate and more meaningful than dusk to dawn sequencing (most nights don’t feature an eclipse, right?). If you’ve read the books, please share with us the reason for the lunar imagery, i.e., what are the qualities of sunset in Twilight, illumined night or reflected light in New Moon, sudden darkness or obscured light or reflection in Eclipse, and hope or resurrection, even new life after darkness (!) in Dawn.

    (2) The covers are all in black, white, and red. C’mon, folks, that should make your heads turn. The author has said Romeo and Juliet is the inspiration of Moon and Midsummer’s Night Dream for Dawn; are there Shakespearean hermetic and alchemical elements in these stories? [Please note that LDS theology is heavily indebted to the Theosophical or occult Enlightenment (sic) of the late 18th century. Literary Alchemy is not a stretch if the woman read English literature at BYU — or has read posts on this site like y’all have. “To construct plausible and moving `other worlds’ you must draw upon the only real `other world’ we know, that of the spirit” (CSL, Of This and Other Worlds 35-36); alchemy is an aspect of the LDS spiritual world.]

    (3) And you science fiction readers, where do we see the shading of Orson Scott Card, a writer and Mormon Ms. Meyer says is influential? Card has made clear he thinks the case can be made that Rowling read his Ender’s Game and lifted the plot line for her series. Do we see a similar influence here with Meyer who has acknowledged her debt?

    I got this from the covers and a Wikipedia link. There has got to be more substance in the success of these books than the Meyer Mashers are allowing. People are re-reading them again and again — and, sorry, teen girl readers won’t get you four out of the top five spots on the list of New York Times bestselling books. Adults, men and women, a lot of them, are reading these books and getting something out of it. I don’t care how bad the writing is; there’s meat in this somewhere. As Travis noted, people don’t like bad writing because it’s bad; they love stories because some part of them resonates with its mythic aspect.

    No, I haven’t read the books. But I’m confident they’re more meaningful and reflective of a neglected part of postmodern life than critics are allowing.

  44. Red Rocker says:

    John, I personally can not move beyond “I don’t care how bad the writing is.”

    The closest analogy I can find are soap operas, where the writing and acting are pretty bad, yet millions of people watch them pretty compulsively day in day out. No issue with those people. But I don’t choose to be of their number.

  45. Okay, now I’m officially hooked on this conversation. 🙂

    John, I couldn’t possibly answer all of those questions tonight–it would definitely be the wee hours of the morning before I finished. Here’s a start, though.

    About the titles and solar/lunar imagery–well, I’m still learning to recognize and interpret the use of imagery. But I notice a few things, and maybe you and the All-Pros can help me understand them better. For “Twilight” (meaning the first book, not the whole series): In chapter 1, Bella moves from Phoenix, AZ to Forks, WA–a move from sunshine to shadow if ever there was one, as you probably know from having lived out here (I’m a Bellinghamite.) This mirrors her mood, as she feels her heart and her identity are comfortable in Phoenix and antagonistic to Forks.

    … skip a few hundred pages, and here’s a few lines from the epilogue:

    “And then we were outdoors, in the cool, dim light of a fading sunset… The moon was already up, visible though the gauzy clouds, and his face glowed pale in the white light. His mouth was hard, his eyes troubled.

    ‘The point?’ I prompted softly.

    He ignored me, staring up at the moon.

    ‘Twilight, again,’ he murmured. ‘Another ending. No matter how perfect the day is, it always has to end.’…”

    A few pages later, near the end of the epilogue:

    ” ‘So ready for this to end,’ he murmured, almost to himself, ‘for this to be the twilight of your life, though your life has barely started. You’re ready to give up everything.’ “

    For “Moon”, the first non-flash-forward, non-dream paragraph in the book includes the line “Dull gray light, the familiar light of an overcast morning, took the place of the blinding sun in my dream.”

    Resurrection imagery is pretty obvious in “Dawn”; new life after darkness is a repeated theme. In the central event, Bella gives her life over to the bearing of Edward’s baby, knowing she won’t survive as a human but hoping to live through it as an immortal. “Dawn” has its weak points, but her transformation and awakening with immortal sight seemed exquisitely done to me. I loved everything from the moment the first-person perspective shifts back to hers (a big relief, after looking through Jacob Black’s eyes for a third of the book) to the moment she and Edward jump out of Carlisle’s office window and she hurls Alice’s French heels back into the house.

    Which takes me to alchemy. I didn’t realize that LDS ideas had roots that could lead to that subject, so maybe I should give it a second and more serious look. Some thoughts, though: Until today, when I was reading Deathly Hallows Lectures, I didn’t put together just how central the reconciliation of opposites is to alchemy. There’s a scene–in Eclipse, I think–where Bella is standing in front of the refrigerator trying to force the wrong poles of two magnets together. That comes from her frustration over trying to reconcile the two men she loves (best friend Jacob, a sort of werewolf, and Edward; the vampires and werewolves are mortal enemies) and through them, the conflict within herself (perhaps a representation of [mortal] humanity and immortality? Her love for Jacob is a very human emotion, and superseded by Edward’s mainly because Edward is something more.)

    Also, Bella’s transformation from mortal human to immortal vampire begins with darkness and feeling her entire body burned through with fire. When she opens her eyes, it is to light, with intense clarity–but she experiences it all in a sort of dreamlike, wide-eyed wonder, not speaking at first and then only briefly. There is certainly a sense of revelation about the experience. Later, there is a scene where she is illumined by–well, see for yourself:

    “The sun suddenly burst through the clouds, shooting long beams of ruby and gold across the ten of us, and I was immediately lost in the beauty of my skin in the light of the sunset.”

    Of course, the idea of finding oneself dazzlingly beautiful, looking up into the eyes of a likewise dazzling and admiring husband, and holding a beautiful baby in one’s arms … these things will always catch at the heart of most girls, in spite of all the reconditioning feminism can provide. The deepest desires of practically every woman are to be beautiful and beloved and to give life and nurture. Alchemy or no, I have to give Stephenie Meyer major kudos for writing a story in which the heroine is ultimately unembarrassed (she doesn’t start out so) by those dreams.

    Orson Scott Card’s Speaker for the Dead is one of my favorite books, so I’ll have to put some thought into the comparison. It’s almost midnight, though, so I’ll close for now and comment again if/when I have more to add.

    P.S. John, I don’t know if you’re the comment moderator but you can remove this if you wish: Your Deathly Hallows Lectures has kept me positively spellbound all afternoon. It’s great stuff. I just have one small request: Please let me proofread your next book!

  46. My mind has refused to stop thinking about this. Here are a few more ideas on alchemy in the Twilight Saga; you can all tell me if I’ve hit on something or if I should simply never be allowed to post comments at three in the morning.

    Where was my brain earlier? Bella spends almost the entirety of “Moon” with Jacob Black. This occurs after Edward leaves her, taking her sense of identity and almost her entire conscious self. After Sam Uley brings her back from having collapsed deep in the forest in blind pursuit of Edward, there are several blank chapters marked only by the names of the successive few months. Her return to consciousness is bleary and patchy, shadowy and depressive. Jacob, whom she refers to as ‘her sun’ if I remember right (he’s not a werewolf in the full-moon sense, by the way), calls out the only life she shows in the main body of the book. But that life is generally reckless and self-destructive, pushing her ever closer to death.

    I might add that an odd part of Jacob’s physical transformation is a raise in temperature, to 108 or 109 degrees–a striking contrast to Edward, whose vampire body is two or three degrees cooler than the human norm. Sulphur and quicksilver? They both overreact to everything, but Jacob is tempestuous and insistent and Edward tends more toward the chill calm of despair. The vampires and werewolves are also portrayed as mortal enemies, though the Cullens and the Quileutes have a treaty between them.

    In the final chapters of New Moon, Alice returns and takes Bella on a rescue mission to Volterra, Italy–through Florence–where Edward, having been through his own Dark Night of the Soul and being under the impression that Bella has killed herself, is about to commit suicide by provoking the Volturi (the ‘Big Brothers’ of the vampire world). Bella reaches Edward in time to stop him, but not in time to escape the Volturi, who march them underground for a third-degree and a little torture. Edward jumps in front of Bella and takes the pain himself, but when Bella is attacked directly she is proven to be immune. Alice talks the threesome out of trouble by promising to make Bella a vampire, thus fulfilling the Volturi’s secrecy laws, and Edward and Bella return to Forks united.

    I need to go back and re-read Eclipse. But in that book, Bella hears a tale of self-sacrifice made by a human woman, married to the original Native werewolf, to save her husband. Bella hears this story in a half-asleep state beside a campfire; she strongly identifies with the mortal woman’s love and sacrifice for the superhuman beloved, and wonders if she could do the same.

    The climax of that book occurs in the snow. Bella spends a night in a tent, freezing, with Jacob acting as space heater on one side of her and Edward, out of concession to love, on the other. The two quarrel like Ron and Hermione–bickering and insults–and like Severus and James, in endless one-upmanship, both of them in love with the woman between them. Sometime in the night, though, Bella (again in a half-asleep state) thinks she overhears a conversation in which the two come to some mutual vulnerability, trust, and respect.

    In the morning, a split-second fumble turns them on each other again. Then Jacob accidentally overhears Bella mention her new engagement to Edward; in the resulting emotional explosion he blackmails her into kissing him, forcing her thereby to admit that she loves them both, and leaving her to experience the push and pull of polarized feelings during the dual-scene battle that follows. Bella picks up a piece of sharp rock and prepares to sacrifice herself for Edward and younger werewolf Seth, if necessary, but Edward prevents her and wins his fight.

    Bella chooses Edward, but only barely; after a final talk with Jacob Black, she spends an evening and a night weeping into Edward’s cold white chest. (Fully clothed, thankfully.)

    Here I get even more vague and speculative. Maybe you all can help me sort this out.

    Edward and Bella marry at the beginning of Dawn, mortal to immortal, fully putting an end to her revulsion at the idea of marrying young. Jacob makes an appearance, but leaves, barely avoiding disaster, when Bella carelessly tells him that she plans to consummate her marriage.

    Bella and Edward do consummate, which union produces a strange, hyperintelligent child whose growth from conception is wildly accelerated. Jacob returns in time to be with Bella for the last few days of her pregnancy and humanity; he is both repelled and drawn to her bedside. It is his mental suggestion, albeit sarcastic, that leads to Bella’s drinking donated blood (see, I told you it was gross) that had been provided by Dr. Carlisle Cullen for her own health. Her taking in of given blood, though no human died for it, preserves her life and possibly that of the baby.

    Edward had tried to convince her to abort the child to save her own life. She refused. When the placenta detached and the suffocating half-vampire infant desperately injures her in an attempt to escape, Bella basically dies in the ensuing C-section. Edward and Jacob, working together, keep her just alive enough through CPR and vampire venom to accomplish her passage into the immortal vampire life.

    Vampire sister Rosalie adopts the quasi-orphaned baby until Bella is remade and safely able to receive her. The baby is given a name that is a conglomerate of Bella’s parents’ names and those of Edward’s adoptive parents: Renesmee Carlie, from Renee + Esme and Carlisle + Charlie.

    From there, the story goes through Bella’s transformation and first experiences as a vampire. In the mean time, Jacob has “imprinted” on the baby, effectively breaking his romantic tie to Bella and uniting him permanently to Edward and Bella as friend to their child and probable future son-in-law.

    The story goes further, but I’m actually getting sleepy now and should probably close. But to summarize what I’ve thought over so far: reconciliation of polar opposites (hot and cold, mortality and immortality, vampire and werewolf, sulphur and quicksilver); progression through the hot black nigredo, cold wet white albedo, to the red-flushed rubedo; a trip underground; possible alchemical wedding references; possible philosophical orphan; and sacrifice–lots of it, as Bella nearly dies or at least prepares herself to die for someone in every book. It looks to me like there might be alchemy here.

    I’m very much a first-year student here and could be as woefully wrong as what’s-his-name, the guy Dumbledore said “believed the time was ripe for a cheese cauldron”. I’ll be very much interested to hear any responses.

  47. Library Lily, I’m almost eager to pick up these books now.

    My daughter Sophia, a self-directed learner, just finished New Moon and said the Romeo and Juliet references were laid on hard and thick. She spent October studying that play, reading it, listening to three versions, and watching more so she has it almost by heart. New Moon, she tells me, is R&J except for the stack of bodies at the finish…

  48. Arabella Figg says:

    John, because of your questions I began rereading Twilight. I find it better the second read because I expect the disappointing writing style. I find the story itself compelling and wish it had been told with more finesse, and character development/insight.

    I’ve been jotting notes as I read (I’m trying to use the 5 Keys) but haven’t gotten far, what with the holiday weekend. However, remembering the story, and noting things, here goes, certainly nothing to Library Lily’s great stuff.

    The name Twilight symbolizes the depressed state of Bella, the gloom of Forks and the murkiness of her understanding of both herself and Edward. This may constitute the Nigredo period of the book. Her interaction with the Cullens, the Albedo and the Rubedo I’ll get to.

    It rains constantly, is foggy, the vampires are white, (even Bella is white) their car is silver, their house in the dark woods is (surprising Bella) all white and lit up (“here is the only place we feel safe”)–all white imagery. Their eyes after feeding on animals instead of humans are gold.

    This is a story of transformation for both Bella and Edward. Bella is transformed from a glum, self-confessed coward with no perceptible direction who faints at the smell of blood, to a heroic self-sacrificing young woman who willingly faces slaughter at the hands of James, the hunter vampire, to save Edward. She emerges a confident person who knows what she wants and is determined to be–a vampire (white), so she can live eternally with Edward.

    Edward also undergoes a transformation in the book. He is white, which symbolizes purity, although he isn’t perfect (neither was Dumbledore). From a lone person without a mate in the family, he finds love, yet struggles against it and himself. He must fight his deep yet unhappy desire for Bella’s blood, which would satisfy his hunger for her, but also kill her.

    When he and the family arrive at the ballet studio to rescue Bella, who has been tortured by James, she’s bleeding copiously from a head wound and other wounds. The Cullens discover that James has venemously bitten Bella, which will vampirize her. While Carlisle the doctor is tending to her wounds, he tells Edward he must suck the venom out from Bella’s hand. Edward is loath to do this, fearing he won’t be able to stop. But to save Bella from becoming a vampire without choice, when she can be saved, he puts lips to palm and sucessfully sucks out the venom. He later tells Bella it was impossible to stop drinking her blood but he did (you don’t see this inner struggle in the story); it is his most triumphant moment because he has mastered himself. I think the bloodied lips of triumphant, self-sacrificing Edward point to Rubedo in his character development.

    With both, I think we see Hero’s Journey. I’ll watch out for more. After Library Lily’s comments I think I want to read the rest of the books, too. And I think the Twlight book written from Edward’s perspective would be far more interesting than from Bellas; I’ll have to check that out.

    Red Rocker, I think you expect too much from teens as far as their reading material. The only horror I was exposed to in jr. high was Poe. I only read Dracula a year ago, at John’s recommendation in a podcast at Torrey. I’m not a horror fan myself and Drac was the first vampire book I read (for which I’m glad, as it sets the gold standard for comparisons).

  49. I hate to do this but here goes, and believe me more essays from me will be coming in the future regarding Bella and Harry.

    Dracula vs. Harry Potter: A Sublime View (Essay available by following link)

Speak Your Mind

*