Twilight: Forbidden Fruits

Twilight, Preface

Well, here we are - my first of hopefully many posts deconstructing "Twilight". It's been a bit of a rocky road to get here; when I first started reading the Twilight Saga Complete Collection last week, I managed to get 200 pages in - with copious notes and highlights on each page - before the NookBook suddenly crashed on me and all my highlights and notes were lost forever. I called B&N and asked the customer service guy to pull up the book on HIS machine, and the book crashed his computer, too. They gave me a refund, contacted the publisher, and asked me to re-purchase and re-download the book when it was "fixed". This new version managed to behave itself all through the first book at least, but I'm still taking my notes in paper form, just to be safe. I'm trying not to see any of this as a bad omen, but if "Twilight" does turn out to be the root of all evil, this will probably have been one of the warning signs in hindsight.

"Twilight" begins (and, by the way, I'm going to stop putting quotes around Twilight from here on in the interests of laziness) normally enough with a dedication to the author's sister, Emily, who is credited as being responsible for the story being finished and sent off to the publishers. So there you go; if you don't like Twilight, you know who to blame, beside the obvious S.Meyer. But then we turn the page and first impressions get a little strange: we're staring at a quote from the Biblical book of Genesis. 

   But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil,
   thou shalt not eat of it:
   for in the day that thou eatest thereof
   thou shalt surely die.
   Genesis 2:17

A couple of thoughts stand out right away: firstly, I guess that explains the book cover art. The classic Twilight cover - the white arms cradling the red apple - has always been very striking in a "Snow White" kind of color scheme (white, red, black), but I've never really understood what it was supposed to do with vampires who, traditionally, don't eat many apples. Of course, the fact that the "fruit" is clearly an apple is a bit irksome to me - the "fruit" that causes so much trouble in Genesis is never identified and only became an apple when Renaissance painters blended the Adam-and-Eve story with Greek mythology. So the next time someone mentions the Genesis apple, you have my encouragement to be a smart-aleck and point out that the Hebrew scholars that penned that particular piece probably never saw an apple in their entire lives; your audience will thank you for the elucidation.

And while we're on the subject of the page 5 quote and Biblical accuracy, I'm also mildly annoyed to note that the quotation smells like King James Version, which is honestly one of the poorest translations out there in terms of accuracy to the source material, and I hazard to guess that it wouldn't ever be used except that people who don't know any better think the "thee"s and "thou"s sound appropriately ancient and have an extra weight of authority that plain modern-day vernacular doesn't carry. But, really, if you need to infuse your holy book with extra authority via Shakespearian dialect, then you obviously don't seem to think much of your holy book to begin with. (To be fair, some people seem to prefer the KJV for its "poetic" sound, but that still doesn't sidestep the accuracy issues.)

Getting off my soapbox, I'm a bit surprised to find this quote here for other reasons. Twilight isn't marketed as an overtly religious text (although it IS marketed as an abstinent text, to be discussed later), and very few people seem even to be aware at what level S.Meyer's Mormon flavor of Christianity permeates the series, which is why I'm surprised to find this quote here at all - as innocuous as it may be, it seems to blatantly say, "Hey, ya'll, this has heavy religious parallels!"; I can't think of any other reason to include it.

Which brings us to the obvious question of which religious parallels we're to take from Twilight. The story referenced here is the myth of Adam and Eve; God puts the first two people in the world in a garden and says, hey guys, you can eat from any fruit in the garden except this fruit over here. If you eat this particular fruit, you'll gain knowledge of good and evil, but you'll die. Of course, the humans can't resist the temptation - or, arguably, don't understand the stakes - and in eating the fruit, they gain wisdom but lose paradise and immortality.

If you wanted to really stretch for a connection, I suppose you could argue that Edward/Vampirism is the fruit that Bella has been tempted with. She is ostensibly the main character, after all, and the allegory should tie into her in some way. Yet this analogy seems to break down pretty quickly: Bella seems almost predestined to end up with Edward (and to become a vampire) - which rather takes away the "choice" implicit in a temptation story - and, in achieving her "temptation", she gains paradise and immortality. Not a bad bargain, one might argue, but this particular interpretation does give the Biblical myth a right rogering.

On the other foot, you could argue - and I probably will - that Bella is actually a decoy protagonist, and Edward is the "real" protagonist that the author wants to focus on. In which case, the intended connection may be that Bella is the fruit of temptation. This works slightly better - by literally not eating Bella, Edward gains paradise and keeps his immortality (by not committing suicide out of shame and guilt). This would thus be a "rewrite" of the Biblical myth - instead of disobeying, the couple lives happily ever after in paradise, the end. The problem with that, of course, is that without The Fall, there really is no story - the Bible would be all of a couple of pages long and no one would have bothered to write the thing in the first place because we'd all be frolicking immortally in the Garden of Eden forever. Stories and myths need tension in order for them to be (a) of any worth as deep, meaningful thought exercises and (b) interesting. Without tension you just have happy fan fiction: And then Jesus and I hung out in the Garden of Eden for ever and ever and we had the bestest fun time playing Horseshoes for eternity. The End.

While on the subject of the Genesis myth in question, it's also worth noting that this is the first instance in the Bible of a man blaming a woman for their problems (and isn't it rather depressing that it only took a few pages to get there). As the story goes, Eve eats first and then convinces Adam to do the same; when God shows up and lays down the law, Eve blames the deceiving serpent but Adam blames Eve. You can still find pockets of Christianity where preachers will insist that the story "proves" that women shouldn't be allowed to teach or "hold power" over men, because women are weak and can't be trusted not to lead men astray. I mention all this to point out that it may be more accurate to assume that this interpretation of the myth may be intended for the audience; if Twilight is "about" anything at all, it sometimes feels like it's about portraying women as weak in every sense of the word, and as unable to be trusted with anything important. I know that's a strong statement to make right out of the gate, but I think I can back up that statement as we go.

Then again, as I said before, Twilight is marketed heavily to parents as a pro-abstinence series, so perhaps we should go the rather Freudian route and assume that the "fruit" being so lavishly presented on the cover is really a metaphor for sex. Here is my innocent virginity, Bella says to Edward, her delicate arms outstretched, wouldn't you like to partake of it? And since Edward is stronger, and older, and more mature than the sinfully weak Bella, he'll turn her down until they're properly married because he knows that Premarital Sex = Death. It says so in Genesis chapter 2, kids.

Trust me.


Varina Jones said...

I am clearly very late getting in on this party, but I thought I would mention that Meyer's use of the KJV is pretty much a result of being Mormon. Like Catholics, and unlike most other protestants, Mormons don't really have a choice about which version of the Bible they use, in Mormonism the KJV is THE CORRECT ONE. See, Joseph Smith already corrected any mistranslations in the copious footnotes he made, called the "Joseph Smith Translations" that coincidentally all seem to harmonize biblical passages with Mormon orthodoxy. See here: Most are boring, but occasionally you strike gold. John 1 is completely re-written, all the poetry and metaphor completely smacked out of it, but in my opinion the very best is the first note of Song of Solomon: "This book is not inspired of God".

Post a Comment