On Critical Reception of Harry Potter and Twilight Part 9: What the Critics missed (C: Allegorical)

What allegories in Harry Potter and the Twilight Saga have the critics missed? Let’s make this simpler. You tell me the ones they have picked up. I’ll give you the three that come immediately to mind from each of these series while you search accio-quote, your news clippings file, and Potter commentary book shelf. As I discussed in Part 5, seeing the world as materialists (as we all do, like it or not), which is to say, “seeing surface reality as reality exclusive of all other understanding,” the idea of alieniloquium, one thing speaking of another thing, is in our postmodern blind spot.

Three Harry Potter allegories:

The Morality Play in the Chamber of Secrets finale: You can read what I wrote about that back in 2002 here. As Dr. Scott Moore at Baylor said in Time magazine the next year, the most remarkable thing about this depiction of Christian salvation history and Everyman drama is that it survived largely intact in the movie telling of the tale. My assumption was that it survived largely because (a) it couldn’t be improved on and (b) the film group didn’t get what it was about.

Choosing to Believe: Ms. Rowling titles the first Deathly Hallows chapter with Harry in it ‘In Memoriam.’ The title is a hat-tip to Tennyson’s ‘In Memoriam A. H. H.’ and the theme of struggling to believe through life’s agonies and the seeming absence of God which is the greater point and meaning of Harry’s adventure in the series finale and his interior victory on Easter morning in Dobby’s grave. You may read about Harry as a Christ figure in online or book commentaries about Potter, but not the more important allegory of Harry as postmodern, doubting Everyman (for that, read Chapter 3 of The Deathly Hallows Lectures, and, for the Tennyson connection, A.H.H. and Idylls of the KIng, order a copy of Harry Potter’s Bookshelf).

‘Hagrid’s Tale’: I’m busy revising Unlocking Harry Potter now — who knew that my finishing that work would be interrupted by writing two other books? — and one of the two new keys I’m adding is allegory, especially of the Chaucerian kind (about which more in a minute). Have you noticed that Ms. Rowling likes ‘Tales’ in her chapter titles, not mention ‘Tales of Beedle the Bard’? I think this is largely because the format and tradition of the fairy tale is the most advantageous for pointed allegory. Harry Potter’s Bookshelf explains how the Cave Allegory is important for understanding Gulliver’s Travels and Harry’s adventures;the new Unlocking will take a long look at ‘Hagrid’s Tale’ in Order of the Phoenix as an allegorical retelling of both the Cave Allegory and Gulliver’s experience (e.g., the gifts of Non-Consuming Fire and a Goblin Helmet are give-aways that Hagrid is the double-natured creature, the Yahoo with Reason, returning to the darkness with the light of the Idea of the Good).

Not to mention the allegorical meanings of Beedle’s Tales… Any critics not writing here or at The Hog’s Head reading those stories as allegories?

Three Twilight Saga Allegories:

Ms. Rowling, of course, is treated like a goddess compared to Stephenie Meyer. Stephen King’s evaluation (“Rowling is great, Meyer is terrible”) is typical, even among very thoughtful and charitable readers. What these critics are missing in Meyer’s work, the reason her books have been read and re-read by millions of readers, is largely the power of her allegorical meanings. Here are three that I think are hard to miss.

The Retelling of the Garden of Eden metanarrative from Genesis: Read the first book of the series, Twilight, the one with the woman’s hand holding out an apple on the cover and the “don’t eat the fruit of that tree” opening. Remember that a hallmark heresy of Brigham Young (disavowed by most Latter Day Saints) is that Adam is not the first man per se but God Himself. Then ask yourself: could this be the story of man and God, the Divine Beloved, and the difficulties of their unequal capacity and need for synergistic, loving relationship? The original title of the book was Forks. Let me say the obvious and suggest that that title was to highlight “choices” and the most important choice is to be selflessly, even sacrificially obedient.

Twilight of the Living Dead: The second book of the series, New Moon, is the story of life after Eve has been expelled from the Garden and experiences life without God. In almost parable like tones, the separation is a consequence of the blood spilled on her birthday and ‘God’s’ decision this is best for her. The agonies she undergoes are neatly highlighted by Ms. Meyer’s many references in New Moon to Zombie movies. This is a satire-within-the-allegory depicting both Bella’s near catatonic condition and, along with George Romero film genre‘s anything-but-subtle message, the behavior of her American teenage friends, qua mindless entertainment consumers. This is life without God: pain and an especially vapid stupidity.

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Mormon: I’m struck, too, as the series played out in Eclipse and the beginnings of Breaking Dawn (before it broke down, in large part), by the degree Ms. Meyer seems to be writing within these debut novels, her own coming of age as an LDS writer allegory. That’s a lot to unpack here (and this isn’t a Twilight blog, right?) but the Apollonian/Dionysian polarity and ‘be true to self’ story points that are repeatedly referenced are just the sort of thing you see in an artist’s Bildungsroman like Hesse’s Demian.

Why do we miss this sort of thing? Because of how we read and our misunderstanding allegory.

There are three ways of reading, to simplify grossly. We read to enter into and experience the reality of the story, we read to interpret and understand consciously the meaning of that experience, and we re-experience that story and re-enter it to go “further up and further in.” But what if in our first reading we never enter into the story? I put it to you for your reflection that skipping to analysis or just not being able to suspend disbelief (because of the writer’s failings, of the reader’s limitations and prejudices, or of both) means the interpretation will be something like a cartographer drawing a map for a country s/he has never visited.

As C. S. Lewis wrote about a botched allegory of death in a story he was reading:

This stupidity perhaps comes from the pernicious habit of reading allegory as if it were a cryptogram to be translated; as if, having grasped what an image (as we say) ‘means’, we threw the image away and thought of the ingredient in real life which it represents.

But that method leads you continually out of the book back into the conception you started from and would have had without reading it. The right process is the exact reverse. We ought not to be thinking ‘This green valley, where the shepherd boy is singing, represents humility’; we ought to be discovering, as we read, that humility is like that green valley. That way, moving always into the book, not out of it, from the concept to the image, enriches the concept. And that is what allegory is for. (C. S. Lewis, ‘The Vision of John Bunyan,’ quoted in Walter Hooper’s C. S. Lewis: Companion and Guide, HarperSanFrancisco, New York, 1996, p. 552)

Knowing humility at some level, in other words, and experiencing it in story — rather than by plucking it Little Jack Horner like from the Christmas pie with accompanying “What a good little boy am I!” – and winding up post-story experience with a more personal and profound understanding of humility is the point of allegory. The best written work is, potentially at least, a vehicle for the reader’s self-transformation, if the reader enters into the text fully at first without pausing for analysis or deconstruction outside and away from the experience. Reading a book, entering into it in this way, is like the experience of nature’s sublimity; analysis or decryption just the opposite. Remember Wordsworth in The Tables Turned (1798):

Sweet is the lore which Nature brings;
Our meddling intellect
Mis-shapes the beauteous forms of things:–
We murder to dissect.

The misunderstanding of allegory is in assuming it has to be a tit-for-tat representation of character or event with a known referent, solving the cryptogram. The point is getting deeper into the story and our transformation or chrysalis, not plum-plucking.

Beyond that, even deciphering or “unlocking” a book works if you’re reading John Bunyan or fairy tale within a narrative but I wouldn’t look for that kind of bald allegory in stories not obviously written as Swiftian or Orwellian satire. What we need to be on the watch for in our second staged reading is exempla or allegory the way Chaucer wrote allegory.

D. W. Robertson, Jr., the great Chaucer scholar, explains that characters in medieval dramas are not to be understood as realistic portraits, individual personalities, or even types per se. They are instead exempla, “stories with an implication” (A Preface to Chaucer: Studies in Medieval Perspective, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1962, pp 366-367), or exemplars of “weaknesses and vices” (Essays in Medieval Culture, ‘The Allegorist and the Aesthetician,’ Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1980, p. 99), virtues and strengths of people known to everyone of that time. They are allegories, in other words, the alieniloquium (“saying one thing to mean another”) of medieval grammarians and biblical exegetes, in which we are meant to see pictures for our reflection and edification.

Chaucer’s portraits, on the other hand, are not “types” at all. The Friar, for example, as he appears in the General Prologue to The Canterbury Tales is not a “typical” friar. He is instead an exemplar of the weaknesses and vices commonly attributed to friars in the late fourteenth century. This or that friar on the streets of London might have one or two of them, but a great many friars had none of them. It is true that Chaucer’s little portrait, which is essentially a collection of attributes, has considerable verisimilitude on the outside, just as the other collections of attributes we call “characters” in the General Prologue display a similar verisimilitude. But the verisimilitude simply serves to give the underlying concepts a local habitation and a name. The reality of these portraits is a conceptual reality, the reality of the virtues and vices depicted in them. In the fourteenth century, when people lived together in small tightly knit groups, this kind of reality was very practical indeed, the immediate and daily concern of everyone in Chaucer’s audience. Perhaps I need not add that the friar and his companions do not have “personalities.”

When I read criticism of Meyer’s work — criticism that as a rule offers no explanation for the books’ popularity beyond the supposedly universally acknowledged poor taste and idiocy of young women and romance readers — I am struck by the common thought that she doesn’t write “believable characters” and this necessarily means she is a “terrible writer.” I’d suggest instead that the “idiot readers” who love her book embrace the idealized and fractured exempla of her allegories — the Divine Man as image of God in Edward and Jacob the very human manly-mensch wolf in Jacob most notably — which the sophisticated critical readers, unable or unwilling to enter into Ms. Meyer’s sub-creation, miss entirely.

To sum up, on the allegorical reading of the Twilight Saga, we have the Garden of Eden metanarrative re-write in Twilight, in which God and Man are played by Edward and Bella, and the play is re-imagined as a gothic romance. New Moon, similarly, is the Morality Play/Harlequin romance version of the agony experienced by God and Man after Man has been expelled from the Garden and no longer walks and talks with God. Eclipse and Breaking Dawn finish the Eden Everyman re-telling by relating in story form the competing demands of world and the divine for the human heart in a fallen world and, ultimately, of the sacrifices, agony, and rewards to be expected in union with God.

The unreality of the stories, their bizarreness, the “UFO lands in Mayberry” aspect if you will, even the “poorly drawn characters” are largely the intrusion of the allegorical exempla into the mundane life-and-times story of a High Schooler living in a small town. Missing that reflects never having entered the story and perhaps a critical apparatus that is too modern, which is to say, insufficiently Medieval or Platonic.

Tomorrow, the anagogical and the series finish. Stay tuned!

To be continued. For Part 1 of this post on genre criticism, click here. for Part 2 on culture war critiques left and right, click here, for part 3 on artifact criticism, click here, for part 4 on derivative dismissal, click here, for part 5 on why there are four layers of meaning, click here, for part 6 on using traditional tools to interpret modern best sellers, click here, for parts 7 and 8 on what critics missed at the surface and moral levels of meaning, click here and here, or just scroll down the home page.


  1. Well, I have seen and will post later on, Song Of Solomon, Lots of Shakespeare, other classical gods and heroes tales, Wuthering Heights, etc… This is what I can see from reading it and I am sure none of the drive by media saw any of that, and, if they did, they ignored it.

  2. reneegladine says

    So now I’m wondering, besides Rowling & Meyer, what other contemporary authors are writing allegorically and/or anagogically?

  3. Here are some of the possible allegories in HP that I’ve considered (can’t say what the media/critics have said as I haven’t followed them that closely):

    The story of Snape’s life as the story of the Prodigal Son.

    Snape as Eve, cast out of the Garden of Lily’s friendship (think of the scene in the leaf-shaded glen by the river in The Prince’s Tale) by God (Lily), with Voldemort as the serpent/Satan tempting him with knowledge of the Dark Arts. Snape is forced to suffer the pain of “childbirth” (remorse) as he becomes a surrogate father to Harry upon Lily’s death.

    Harry’s sufferings in The Order of the Phoenix as the Story of Job, who loses everything and demands of God, “why?” (the “patience” of Job being a complete misnomer as I recall).

    I’m not sure if this counts as allegory, but my pre-tween daughter all on her own told me that she thought Dumbledore was like God the Father, Harry was God the Son, and Snape was the Holy Spirit and that, on the Dark Side, as a parallel, Salazar Slytherin was the Father, Voldemort was the Son (Heir), and Lucius Malfoy was the (Un)Holy Spirit!

  4. Since I’m the “very thoughtful” and “charitable” reader linked, I’ll note just a few things from my admittedly limited, PRUBONICic perspective:

    I’d maintain that, even if people are responding to the stock, archetypal elements of Edward and Jacob, it doesn’t absolve the writer for having written unbelievable, un-unique characters. The criticism stands despite the response to the archetype. Archetypes are supposed to invoke those responses. Poorly written characters are still poorly written characters.

    I also don’t think this means I never entered the story, because I always read to enter the story, and to let the story enter me. On the contrary, I made every effort to enter this story, and was very much hoping it would be a good one. It’s just that while reading Twilight, I felt myself being expelled from the story right back into the seat I was sitting in. I just could not enter this story, because I didn’t believe it. And I believe a lot of really fantastical stuff!

    Example: This is the second book in recent memory that I’ve picked up earlier than planned because I was asked to write or comment on it. The previous one: The Golden Compass. I finished Pullman in less than three days, entered the story, and while I was disconcerted at the end by his obvious trajectory, I entered that story because it was well-crafted. Instead of three days, it took me almost three weeks to finish Twilight. Just could not get into that story, despite my attempt. I’ve yet to move forward in either series, but if someone put The Subtle Knife and New Moon down in front of me, and told me I had to read one of the two, I know which one I’d pick up. (And I really dislike Pullman’s agenda.)

    I think there are probably lots of people who fall prey to skip-to-criticism, so I think your critique stands for some, even many. But I don’t think I’m “missing” the allegorical; I’m just of the opinion that it wasn’t well done, its popularity notwithstanding.

  5. I’ll echo Travis’ comments, except for that I haven’t read any Pullman.

  6. Please forgive me for using your Twilight criticism in such a way that my consequent comments all must have seemed like arrows aimed at your back! And, no, I don’t think that missing the allegorical meaning means necessarily that one failed to enter into the story or that failing to enter the story was necessarily a function of jumping to the critical or that not entering the story is necessarily or, better, entirely the fault of the reader. I suspect that you are the exception in these cases that proves the rule.

    And we’ll have to agree to disagree, I guess, that your reading experience — against that of many others — proves in any fashion that the Twilight Saga‘s allegorical meaning “wasn’t well done.” I don’t see how that’s a tenable position beyond de gustibus. That it worked largely on the unconscious level and hit home so spectacularly with so many readers speaks to its having been done masterfully.

  7. Nothing to forgive! I didn’t think the post was necessarily aimed at me, but figured that since I was linked in the intro to your explication of what the critics missed, I’d explain a bit further.

    As to our agreeing to disagree – I most certainly don’t think my experience proves anything of the sort. In my judgment, the first book wasn’t well done, but my experience with the story doesn’t prove anything, and as I’ve said, I still have the PRUBONic plague. I’m just not prepared yet to accept the assumption that its popularity was due to its allegorical meaning, when I know that many things without any depth of allegorical meaning are also wildly popular. In other words – and this is the thing I’m reserving final judgment on until I’ve read all four books – I don’t yet know if there’s anything overly “spectacular” or “masterful” about the allegorical elements of Twilight that work as an explanation for their popularity. Like I said in my post at The Hog’s Head – the jury’s out for me, and I’ll be weighing evidence as I read your continued commentary and eventually get to the other books. While I don’t think “they’re popular because they’re so bad” is any kind of an explanation, I also don’t think the only other position is, “They’re popular because they’re so good.”

  8. While I don’t think “they’re popular because they’re so bad” is any kind of an explanation, I also don’t think the only other position is, “They’re popular because they’re so good.”

    I agree that this last is not “the only other position,” but, as a default response to wildly successful books with religious content and a boat load of allegorical meaning, it is perhaps the best place to begin a serious look at Ms. Meyer’s work.

    And, of course, it is my conditioned, reflex response! No sense denying that, right?

  9. Another allegory (?) in Harry Potter, which I can’t imagine no one has discussed before, would be the reflection of themes and characters from Hamlet, especially in the later books. There’s probably a lot more Hamlet-ness than I’ve come up with, and I don’t really see exact “tit-for-tat” relation between the two stories, but some examples, in no particular order:

    The theme of revenge and struggling with whether to kill the person who killed someone you loved (Snape and/or Harry as Hamlet and/or Laertes).

    The Spinner’s End chapter as the Mousetrap play within a play designed to trick someone into revealing betrayal.

    Narcissa in Spinners End as Ophelia — she is described as looking like “a drowned woman” and she acts in a rather mad manner.

    Hamlet’s use of soliloquies to reveal his thoughts and feelings to the audience – Snape’s use of the pensieve/the Prince’s Tale in DH to reveal his feelings to Harry and the reader.

    Laertes pierces Hamlet with a poisoned blade; after a scuffle, Hamlet takes the blade and fatally wounds Laertes. In his dying moments Laertes is reconciled with Hamlet and reveals Claudius’ murderous plot. Hamlet kills Claudius. Not tit for tat, but Voldemort (with Harry looking through his eyes) pierces Snape with poisonous fangs. In his dying moments Snape is reconciled with Harry and reveals Dumbledore’s plot for Harry to sacrifice himself. Harry is “killed” by Voldemort. Harry kills Voldemort by causing Voldemort’s killing curse to rebound on him.

    James or Sirius as Yorick?


  10. reneegladine says

    I thought your insight into the allegorical layer of ‘New Moon,’ was right on target. Coincidentally, when I was researching another topic, I ran across this on wikipedia: “Genesis does not tell for how long Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden, but the Book of Jubilees states that they were removed from the garden on the new moon of the fourth month of the 8th year after creation.” (Jubilees 3:33) I wonder if Meyer had this connection in mind when she titled the second book.

  11. John,

    I don’t have any thing to say about Harry Potter. However I would like you to know that Cpl Jenkins and Cpl Durham aka Buddy and Jay would like to have a chat with you and chat about the old days. We are both still in Japan.


  12. May I gently suggest, John, that you’re seeing rather more in Meyer’s books than is there. I hope you never turn your erudite mind’s eye on Dan Brown!

  13. Ah, the patronizing dismissal and pat on the head…

    The difference between Mr. Brown’s success and Ms. Meyer’s is (a) their beliefs (or, in Mr. Brown’s case, his lack of belief in anything more coherent than, say, logical positivism or materialism or just “what he likes”) and (b) the quality of the supernatural their fictions offer a secular audience desperate for experience of anything unconventional and about “greater things.” Mr. Brown clumsily attempts to debunk religious beliefs and reveal the reality beneath the forms and rituals; Ms. Meyer provides something like an imaginative mystical experience of union with the LDS God for those able to enter into her story.

    Profoundly different, even opposites — but both are successful because they satisfy the same longing for Mystery and Revelation in the secular reading public.

  14. Like Travis’s, my experience may not prove anything, but it may at least support the idea of there being more to Meyer’s fandom than hormones and escapism. I have read all four of the novels three times in three months, and I find it impossible to believe that Ms. Meyer is just another harlequin writer with perhaps a moderately larger cult following than most of them get.

    Granted, if I had not had all four books shipped to me by a friend, I might never have gotten past the first, but as it is I got sucked into the story so powerfully that the only way out was through and through again. Now I can honestly say that I love it, that I return to it to re-read Bella’s thoughts, her progress through knowledge of good and evil and her repeated self-sacrifice.

    I am fascinated by the Eden/separation from God/union with God theme of the books (and at the end of Breaking Dawn, some of Stephenie Meyer’s ideals are put openly forward when a vampire convert makes a very blatant defense of the “peaceful life of self-sacrifice” by those who “deny their very natures” and thereby bring about the Cullens’ “family” relationship). How extensively the allegory was directly intended, I don’t know, but it’s very difficult for me to imagine that none of it was.

    Mrs. Figg, I’m very interested to hear your ideas about Twilight’s pointing to the triune importance of body, mind and spirit, if you’ve got the time and interest to share them.

  15. Arabella Figg says

    LibraryLily, as I have only read Twilight and Midnight Sun, any thoughts I’d have on the triune importance in the series would be undeveloped as yet. I merely feel that it’s there. I’m not good at literary analysis, lacking the education and training for it. But here’s a short wack.

    In Twilight alone, Bella and Edward come together in unlikely union first through spirit–they are drawn to each other, strongly compelled to be with each other, though neither understands why. As their relationship develops, they adhere more firmly through the mind, during relevatory discussions, where Bella discovers the true nature of Edward. Then, in the glade, they come together physically through kissing and holding. Only when Edward is able to bear Bella’s touch and respond in love and not bestiality, is their relationship sealed. I would imagine this plays out further through the other books.

    Although I don’t know if it reflects the divine relationship exactly, our relationship with God is through spirit, mind and body and we are his Spirit-filled, “have of the mind of God,” physical body on earth. He wouldn’t put his Spirit within something “bad.” Our full restoration (body, mind, spirit) begins at the moment of our commitment to him, when he forever seals us as his, even if it’s incomplete at this time.

    In that vein, I think in Twilight that Bella’s restoration to wholeness and ability to really love and be loved (shattered by her family) begins with her spirit/mind/body relationship to Edward.

    John, of course, can correct me where I’ve got it wrong.

    Kitties, however, are never wrong, just misunderstood…

  16. IstariErangua says

    After reading the beginnings of these discussions and having nothing but hearsay to back up my opinions of Twilight, I decided I’d rather be able to speak from my own experience, and purchased the first book. I read it quite quickly, and agreed with my friend, a high school teacher, who called it “book-crack”. I got sucked into the story, but was so annoyed by most of the characters that several times I seriously wanted to throw the book. Bella, for all her self-sacrifice, still bemoans far too much the fact that despite having the “perfect guy”, every female high school student’s dream, she still can’t “have” him forever, and Edward, for his part, though he is acting in her best interests, is far too manipulating and secretive for my liking. Understandably so, but for so many young people, not just girls, who read these books and try to relate to them in terms of their own relationships, or the ideal ones in their minds, even, this is like the handbook of how not to do it. I’m working on the second book, but progressing slowly, I lost interest quickly, and it remains to be seen if I’ll bother with the other two.

    I know this has nothing to do with allegory, but I did wish to voice my thoughts thus far. As for allegory itself, while it certainly is applicable to many books, it was thoroughly despised by one of my absolute favorite authors, Tolkien, and I tend because of that preference not to look for it anywhere else if I can avoid it. However, there were some very interesting parallels pointed out here that I’ll definitely have to look for as I read and consider both Harry Potter and however much of the Twilight series I end up reading in future. As for Pullman, btw, I enjoyed The Golden compass, but had a very difficult time getting anything like the same kind of absorption from the second book, and still haven’t finished it. It was like a huge departure from the world and characters that I was so intrigued by in the first one, not to mention the animals. I love the bears in particular, but that’s just me.

  17. Actually, Meyers and Rowling are doing the same thing that Lewis and Tolkien did. They put mythology, gods, and heros in the same book with Christian themes under the surface.

  18. If mythic resonances explain popularity, why didn’t the critically praised Darkangel trilogy by Meredith Ann Pierce become a megahit? It’s superior to Meyers in imagination and quality of prose. Here is the heroine’s first glimpse of the vampyre in DARKANGEL:

    “Then he opened his wings, and Aeriel found she could not move for wonder. Before her stood the most beautiful youth she had seen. His skin was pale and white as lightning, with a radiance that faintly lit the air. His eyes were clear and colorless as ice. His hair was long and silver, and about his throat he wore a chain: on fourteen of the links hung little vials of lead.”

    The Darkangel sounds a bit like Edward but the vials contain the souls of his 13 previous brides. The heroine does not become a vampyre nor are vampyres depicted as ontologically superior to mortals. It would be interesting to compare Pierce and Meyers but I’m not volunteering.

  19. reneegladine says

    I’ve been thinking more about your comments about the series having autobiographical elements. Are you referring to Bella’s mental shield? I recall Meyer saying in interviews a few things that might be relevant to this line of inquiry. First, Meyer is obviously shy like Bella and not someone who is comfortable letting others into her head. She has said in interviews that most of ‘Twilight’ was written in secret because she was too embarrassed to tell her husband that she was writing a vampire story, and yet, like Bella, who, in the end, let Edward inside, Meyer has, through her writing, let him and all of us into her head to analyze both her conscious and unconscious. It also sounds like there are some similarities between her husband and the overprotective, pessimistic Edward and her sister and Alice who is always pushing Bella into the spotlight. Meyer’s husband actually tried to discourage her writing when he found out about it because he didn’t want her to be hurt by the rejection he saw inevitably coming, while her sister encouraged her to finish the novel and try to get it published even though that was never Meyer’s intent. Additionally, Meyer has said that ‘Breaking Dawn’ is all about the weakest link in the family being transformed into the strongest by developing her gift. It occurred to me that this is also what has happened in Meyer’s life since she has gone from being a stay-at-home mom to the family’s sole source of support since her husband retired to take care of their sons. Bella’s pregnancy also seem to echo some of Meyer’s experiences. She has talked about how getting pregnant made her suddenly realize how much she wanted children, which were not really a priority before and how it altered her plans for law school. This parallels of some of the criticism of ‘Breaking Dawn’ when, seemingly out of nowhere, Bella develops a fierce desire to become a mother and the unexpected baby throws a wrench into Bella’s plans and the plot trajectory Meyer’s readers thought they were on. Ironically, Meyer has said that one of her regrets was not having a daughter, so she decided to bring one in to the primarily masculine literary world that she has already created.

  20. Thanks for sharing, Mrs. Figg! I enjoyed your thoughts and it makes sense to me, at least, that Stephenie Meyer would understand the triune nature of the human person and use that when structuring the relationship of Edward and Bella.

    Perelandra, I don’t think anyone is suggesting that Meyer’s work is popular merely because it contains mythic elements. Even a cursory glance at the juvenile fiction shelves in a bookstore shows that a goodly percentage of the books have some sort of supernatural content. Meyer’s books are popular, not because they have vampires and werewolves, but because the story speaks to its readers on several levels and moves them to desire and believe greater things than they may have before.

  21. rosesandthorns says

    I’d like to hear other people’s thoughts on: Edward representing “god/God,” when, as a vampire, he has what could be termed unnatural, sinful desires (for feeding on and killing people … even though in the Twilight series itself Edward doesn’t, I think only Carlisle of the “vegetarian vampires” has not drunk human blood, and Edward, if I recall correctly, does admit at one time that he left Carlisle and Esme for a time and apparently killed human beings). Edward also doubts that he even has a soul, and doesn’t want to change Bella to be “like him” because he feels he is a monster, though he does at her insistence eventually grant her a partial immortality (partial as in a vampire can still be killed by other vampires [gods?] and werewolves) … seems kinda opposite to God, who already made us in His image, and who encourages us to be “like Him” on earth, and also views us as His bride whom He will exalt after our physical deaths into a true forever immortality. Thoughts?

  22. Arabella Figg says

    I decided to read the whole Twilight series (as our library finally bought more and the wait’s not long) and am almost finished with New Moon. Library Lily and reneegladine, I am in your (and John’s camp). Having read John’s thoughts above, I really do see the allegories below the surface.

    First I reread Twlight again, and liked it even better (despite the need for judicious edting). In New Moon, Bella is much more three-dimensional, and surprisingly, in her near-catatonic grief, jumps off the page to me. Meyer has written believable characters who have depths for the discerning eye (some of it quite subtle). I completely *get* Bella and what she goes through in NM. Ditto Edward. Their actions and reactions are real as real. Given my own life experiences, I resonate with them.

    The psychological, emotional aspects of the characters are both subtle and powerful, and I think any serious reader should consider them. Will all readers see them? No. But I’m betting the series’ popularity partly rests upon them, some of which I’ve written about here and at the Hog’s Head.

    Critics may think Bella and Edward are too melodramatic and over the cliff in their young love (a concern of many parents, especially Bella’s depression, inability to function and risky behavior when Edward leaves). Yet I think Meyer places a very strong hint in the beginning of NM, with the part where the two watch Romeo and Juliet. You don’t see criticism of the youthful R & J’s behavior and overwrought drama (ditto other great works which oversharpen the effects of love and loss). Pedestrian love doesn’t make for compelling drama. Just as no kids slid into the occult with HP, I think most teens won’t have a problem with distinguishing what is real with the Twilight series; they’ve been raised on fantasy.

    Roseandthorns, I also strugggled at first regarding Edward as an allegory of God. But as I pondered both Bella and Edward discovering love for the first time together, it struck me that as God has an individual relationship with each of us, then he also experiences an individual and different love relationship with each of us. Meaning, if Edward represents God/divine love, then would he not (in his blush of first love with Bella) also represent God’s new and fresh love with each of his beloved? This explains in my mind how Edward can allegorically represent God while being a fallible monster. I think it takes looking at this a bit “diagonally.”

    So, Red Rocker, I’ve drunk the Kool-Aid, so far. Scoff all you want. I went into reading these books with a negative view, not improved much with my first reading of Twilight. I think that’s saying something.

    I look forward to John’s iconological input…

  23. Red Rocker says

    Oh Arabella, please put the cup down.

    It’s not Twilight I care about. It’s things of greater value which are lowered through the comparison. Shakespeare, for example. It’s sad that his teen-age lovers kill themselves because their families are at war. But what raises it compelling drama – and poetry – is the writing.

    And if it diminishes Shakespeare, to be compared to Meyer, then how much more incomprehensible would it be to see God and his divine love in Edward?

    I am not a believer. But I respect and value the idea of God. And as profoundly ironic as that may be, I find the idea of comparing Edward to God sacrilegious.

  24. Arabella Figg says

    One must differentiate storytelling ability from writing caliber. (For example, a hunter friend of ours is a born storyteller who can enthrall you with painfully ungrammatical stories.)

    Great writing “artistry” can present a dull story, or get in the way of a good one; I’ve returned plenty of those books, unfinished, to the library. Even though I’m a writer (and picky), I get impatient with writers so besotted with their prose that it (like poor writing) obscures story and distracts the reader. Yet a good pedestrian writer can spin a gripping, emotive story that isn’t restrained by less-than-stellar prose. Like our hunter friend, a good storyteller can transcend their communication skills, if you allow it.

    When you get both great writing and great storytelling, you’ve won the literary lottery.

    We all have our standards; one of my criteria is that writing caliber (either way) doesn’t hinder a good story and characters. For some, Meyer’s writing skills will bar readers from enjoying her books (as it did for me on the first read of Twilight); I respect that. But her story shouldn’t be summarily dismissed on that count alone.

    This isn’t to say I don’t prefer really good writing; it’s just that Shakespeare and august company aren’t the only ones who can tell a tale.

    I don’t believe my comments diminished Shakespeare, nor did I favorably compare Meyers’ abilities with his. I’m happy that you “respect and value the idea of God” and can feel an outrage at sacrilege. But I’m not devaluing God in saying Edward and Bella’s story allegorically and metaphorically hint at higher things. I never directly compare Edward to God (and represent may have been a poor word choice). I see Meyers’ story as “one with an implication” as John quoted above. Implications and metaphors regarding God and his nature can be found everywhere.

    Still sippin’…

  25. rosesandthorns says

    Thanks, Arabella Figg. You have a unique take on the whole Edward thing.

    I do think the Edward as “god” comparision is even more compelling when you consider Bella’s feelings toward Edward. Would that we all were as devoted to God as Bella is to Edward!

    Edward is one of my favorite characters in the series. I’ve only read parts of Midnight Sun, but it definitely shows more of his inner self … and it’s a good thing.

    (All in all, I’m neither a Twi-lover a Twi-hater. Some things I like about the series, some things I dislike. Some things I can’t quite wrap my mind around.)

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