Twilight: Pretty People Make Pretty... Foster Children?

Twilight Recap: Bella has learned from her new friend Jessica the names and relationships of the Cullen 'children'. Although Bella takes in stride the information that many of the adopted "siblings" are dating each other, she is somewhat startled by the Cullens' old-fashioned names.

Twilight, Chapter 1: First Sight

Earlier when the ever-helpful (but not over-helpful!) Jessica rattled off the Cullen's names, we got this earful:

   “That’s Edward and Emmett Cullen, and Rosalie and Jasper Hale. The one who left was Alice Cullen; they all live together with Dr. Cullen and his wife.”

It's interesting that Bella - so bad with names herself - absorbs this as quickly as she does; to the best of my recollection, we'll never hear her ask after the Cullens' names or relationships again. Unlike poor Jessica's name, the Cullens' names and details have been quickly committed to memory, and despite caring not one whit about her surroundings or peers until now, Bella is suddenly desperate to learn more - after a quick conversation establishing the dating dynamics of the Cullen family, Bella asks:

   “Which ones are the Cullens?” I asked. “They don’t look related. . . .”

I find this question interesting for three reasons. Firstly, we have a group of four people at a table - three boys and a girl. (Alice has left the room apparently for the express purpose of letting us see how graceful she is and how wasteful with food she is. The bell for the next class hasn't rung and presumably the vampires don't have to visit the bathroom.) It's reasonable that Bella feels safe assuming that "Rosalie" is the girl at the table, which leaves three boys to suss out. We've already been told that all the boys are extraordinarily beautiful, uniformly pale, slightly varying degrees of muscular (brutish, lean, wiry), with identically dark eyes and dark bruises under their eyes. The only difference between the boys so far is that they are Color Coded For Your Convenience - more specifically, the boys are Blonde, Brunette, Redhead with Emmett having "dark" hair, Jasper "honey blond", and Edward "bronze-colored".

With all these details, I'm having a hard time understanding in what universe these boys don't look at least a little related. For myself, I have a half-sister, an aunt, and a mother. None of us look like a carbon copy of the other. We have different hair-colors, different eye-colors, different hair textures, and even different skin pigmentations. If someone vaguely gestured to us in a group and said, "The Mardolls are over there..." and someone else felt the need to say, "Which ones are the Mardolls?", I cannot imagine that they would add a trailing, "They don't look related..." statement to the end. Not because we do "look related" in some kind of identical-twin sense of the word, but because the very concept of whether or not someone "looks related" to someone else encompasses quite a large degree of variation on a similar type!

I "look related" to my mom because we're both white (though I am pale and she is deeply tanned), we both have blue eyes (though hers are light and mine are dark), and we sort of vaguely have a similar facial structure despite the fact that I out-weight her by enough that the difference is reflected in my face (she's intensely small-boned and I favor my father's stocky side of the family). In the same vein, I "look related" to my sister because we're roughly the same body shape and appearance (though she is taller than me by a good head), and our hair is a mess of unruly curls and sometimes (depending on the color of the month) roughly the same color.

All of this is a long way of saying that the Cullens "look related" a heck of a lot more than me and my own family, and we've never, ever been told that we don't "look related". I would argue that this is at least as much because of human nature than because of any superficial similarities between us - I've often seen situations where strangers gush over children or siblings having similar features and being obviously related, only to be politely told that there is no blood relation in the given case. It's human nature to find patterns and similarities, even when they aren't there (or are only there by chance).

So it's interesting to me that, when faced with almost identical facial and body features - with the only differences noted being hair color and musculature, the two things that are probably easiest to change in terms of body features - Bella immediately leaps to the correct assumption that the two Cullen boys are not blood relatives. The other thing that interests me about this question is that Bella asks which ones are the Cullens when it would be just as efficient to ask which one is Jasper Hale. Indeed, it seems like this question would be easier, since the answer could then be something simple like "He's the blond one," rather than something more complicated like "The Cullens are the one on the far left, closest to the lunch line, and the one sitting next to Rosalie on her right."

You'd almost think that Bella already knows that Edward Cullen is the most important, special, unique, not-genetically-related-to-anyone-else, totally irreplaceable person in this story.

The third thing that interests me about this question is that despite the fact that Rosalie and Emmett have been established as being "together", they're obviously being pretty discreet about their affection if Bella can't take a rough stab at which boy might be Emmett. This in turn makes me wonder why the Cullens are open about their unorthodox and attention-grabbing relationships in the first place - not unlike their open refusal to eat food, their behavior almost seems designed to be suspicious.

   “Oh, they’re not. Dr. Cullen is really young, in his twenties or early thirties. They’re all adopted. The Hales are brother and sister, twins - the blondes - and they’re foster children.”
   “They look a little old for foster children.”
   “They are now, Jasper and Rosalie are both eighteen, but they’ve been with Mrs. Cullen since they were eight. She’s their aunt or something like that.”

Dr. Cullen is in his "early thirties" because S.Meyer's vampires are all intensely young and beautiful, and if anyone seems young and beautiful after their fortieth or - god forbid - fiftieth birthday, it's incredibly suspicious and people will quickly figure out that you're an immortal god-being.

In a completely unrelated note, before I forget, can everyone please join me in wishing Michelle Pfeiffer a happy 53rd birthday this week? I don't know why I suddenly remembered that - brains are funny.

We're not told the age of Mrs. Cullen, but it's probably safe to assume that since she is the Twilight-verse embodiment of proper wifery, then she must be her husband's age or younger. We'll set a guesstimate of 30 for Mrs. Cullen, which means that she's been fostering the darling blond Hale twins since she was twenty years old.

I would guess that the cover story here is supposed to be that Ms. Not-Yet-Cullen (Hale? We don't know if she's supposed to be a maternal aunt or a paternal one...) inherited her dear niece and nephew when their parents were untimely plucked away in their tender youth, but I'm actually fairly surprised that no one in Forks finds it odd that such a young woman would be the first-and-most-appropriate relative to absorb the two kids. I myself have a niece ten years my junior, and I can pretty much guarantee that I would have been a bad placement for her when I was in my early twenties - I would have done the best I could, of course, but "the best I could" probably would have fallen well short of the mark.

What's most interesting to me here, though, is the use of the term "foster children". I've never heard that term applied to children living with a non-parental-but-still-closely-related relative. In my experience, in those cases, the caretaker relative is usually referred to as a guardian, and the children are just called, well, children. The very term "foster" is meant to indicate a temporary situation until legal adoption can be arranged - ideally by a close relative or someone otherwise known to the foster child. The idea that the Hales have been "foster" children for ten years, despite living permanently with (a) a close relative, (b) who is in a stable long-term relationship, (c) with someone who is eligible to adopt children having already done so three times over, either with the aforementioned relative or by himself, is just...weird.

This odd refusal to properly adopt the Hale children becomes even more odd when you consider that Mr. Cullen and Ms Hale probably met and married prior to the adoption of the three Cullen children (Alice, Emmett, and Edward). At least, it seems very odd to me that a young, single doctor would be approved for adopting not one but three children in apparently quick succession - it seems far more likely that Mr. Cullen and Ms. Hale met after she gathered the Hale twins under her wings, and then married and adopted three children, despite having two perfectly nice twins under their roof that they apparently couldn't be bothered to become the legal parents of.

I think this is another example of Bad Writing and not thinking through the aspects of all your character development. Jasper and Rosalie are almost afterthoughts in the first Twilight novel - Rosalie exists as an extremely flimsy foil to Bella (she's an ineffective opposition force and an ineffective romantic rival), and Jasper largely serves as Alice's designated boyfriend-and-protector. The two characters will be fleshed out more in later books, but for the moment they seem like extras tossed into the family to round out the couplings. Edward is the hero, Emmett is the lovable brute who protects Bella and makes her feel safe, and Alice is the manic pixie girl who adores Bella and provides plot exposition. Rosalie and Jasper are there to support Emmett and Alice, so, ah, their cover story is that they are twins attached to the other "only-there-to-round-out-the-pair" character, Esme Cullen. Plus, with the Hale children keeping different last names, the distressing sexual pairings aren't incest anymore - right? The fact that their hastily stitched together backstory makes no sense whatsoever is merely a detail.

The problem with this, though, is that the backstory is there and we do have to deal with it and with the incidental characterization that it causes. Esme Hale Cullen's cover story is now that she is a young woman in her thirties who, in her twenties, quickly absorbed two small children and a new husband in a matter of probably a few months. Carlisle Cullen's cover story is that as a young, ambitious doctor with a busy schedule and mounting medical school bills, he thought it would be a world-beating idea to marry a pretty young home-maker and adopt three incredibly beautiful children with her while very pointedly not legally adopting the two children that were in her care at the time of their wedding. Then he decided to move the entire family out to a lovely house in the middle of the woods well outside town limits, and then capriciously monitor the childrens' eating habits and randomly interfere with their school schedules while encouraging (or at least not discouraging) them to form semi-incestuous highly sexualized relationships with one another at a very early age. The family doesn't socialize with the local community except in the loosest of terms and no one in the family has a job or access to monetary resources except Mr. Cullen.

In what way does that not sound like a cult, and why does Bella not think of these things? I admit I wasn't the sharpest kid in school when it came to healthy interpersonal relationships and family dynamics, but I still have to think this situation would have raised serious red flags for me.

   “That’s really kind of nice - for them to take care of all those kids like that, when they’re so young and everything.”

The fact is, if the Cullens are all that Bella imagines them to be, it is really kind of nice for them to adopt so many children in need of good homes. Ms. Hale is awesome for stepping up to the plate and taking care of her young niece and nephew even if she wasn't well equipped to do so at the time; Mr. Cullen should be appreciated for welcoming both the Hale children and Alice, Emmett, and Edward into his home. They should be particularly admired if the latter three children were adopted in their later teenage years since it's very hard for children past a certain age in foster care to find permanent homes and the people who will take in teenagers into their families and provide them with unconditional love and genuine security and a loving family life are good, wonderful, awesome people.

However, having said all that, adoption isn't an unmitigated automatic good, and both Bella and S.Meyer don't seem to realize that. Good people who adopt for the right reasons are good, yes, but bad people who adopt for the wrong reasons aren't made good by the act of adopting. In just a few short sentences introducing the Cullens, we've seen a lot of red flags and a lot of potential warning signs of abuse and trauma - particularly with regards to the young Hale twins. Furthermore, as Kit Whitfield has pointed out, it seems more than a little odd that the Cullen parents would be quite so particular in choosing their adopted children - Mr. and Mrs. Cullen may be as beautiful as the sun and moon, but adoption agencies don't therefore automatically assign you first pick of the prettiest children. The overall impression we get is that the Cullens are deliberately choosing their children, not based on the relative needs of the child in question or based on how well they will assimilate into the existing family (assuming Alice, Emmett, and Edward were acquired sequentially instead of as a lot), but rather based on how pretty the child is. And choosing children based on whether or not they are stunningly beautiful doesn't bode well for the intentions of the adoptive parents.

   “I guess so,” Jessica admitted reluctantly, and I got the impression that she didn’t like the doctor and his wife for some reason. With the glances she was throwing at their adopted children, I would presume the reason was jealousy.

Well, what other reason could there be to dislike the Cullens or question their motives?


Gordon said...

I think why people aren't talking about it more is because the "young" are much different with adults than they are with their technical peers. In a few chapters, we see Edward effortlessly charming the woman in the office. If they are like that with every authority figure, nobody makes an issue of it. To all appearances, they are well-adjusted, just antisocial. And if their teachers are anything like my small town teachers were, as long as they do their work and don't act out they'll probably be left alone.

And to top it all off, Carlisle is beloved by the people of Forks, or at least it seems that way. Charlie has a very high personal opinion of him, so I would imagine he's(and by extension, Esme) pretty involved.

Ana Mardoll said...

Well, I'm not sure how convinced I am of that. It is a fact that Charlie is very fond of the Cullens - he will bristle when Bella first mentions them and will intimate that people gossip unfairly about the family, but we never see why he likes the Cullens so except that the teenagers don't 'cause trouble' like he had otherwise expected. (Charlie, we will see later, has a very low opinion of all teenagers, including his own daughter.)

And it's also a fact that the Cullens don't socialize much outside of their own group - we know that is a fact because we eventually get to know and see the entire family schedule once Bella's life starts to revolve around Edward. (And they certainly don't throw house parties, since they mention the kitchen has never been used for cooking before.)

So while we would normally infer that the "tell" we've receive ("popular with Charlie") would indicate some action we haven't yet seen ("socialization behind the scenes"), we can't because we've got too many indications to the otherwise.

In the same manner, Edward can't be charming due to his implied social skills, because he very clearly doesn't have good social skills in the way he treats Bella and her friends. We must instead, I think, infer that Edward is charming because HE IS HAWT and all women under the age of 80 are his hormone-driven slaves. ;)

Cupcakedoll said...

When I read this family backstory I just assumed the characters hadn't done their critical thinking homework. That the Cullens, who've been together as vampire family for ages, just grabbed the first excuse they could think of that would make it ok (sort of) for these teenagers to be siblings and dating, and would also explain (sort of) how the young parents could have these teenage children. The story doesn't need to make sense because if anyone gets suspicious we can just use vampire mind powers on 'em!

I put that whole page down to unimaginative vampires.

Also, Hi! This is my first comment. Surfed in from Slacktivist, very much enjoying these posts! Planning to rewrite Twilight myself next time writer's block locks me out of my serious writing projects!

Carrie said...

First of all, I'd like to say that you're a tremendous delight, Ana. I'd really, really like to make comments and to participate in your dissection of these novels, but your posts are so thought-provoking and your commentary so unique (to me) that, instead of having anything to say, I am left merely being impressed by what you've said. Which is awesome for you, but I do wish I could be more useful.

Having said that, I think you're right. I'm really enjoying your careful analysis of the Cullen Foster Situation and the kinds of issues that situation implies. I'd never really been comfortable with the description of the hollows under vampire eyes being "bruise-like" and you've done an excellent job of reminding us that, not only is this unattractive, it's also pretty concerning given the rest of these ostensible childrens' situation. That's awesome.

I'm sure that someone has said this before, but, to me, this smacks of a specific kind of bad writing: impatient writing. Meyer is excited about her story. She's excited about the romance. She's excited to get to that moment in her tale that inspired it in the first place–the scene in the clearing that she dreamed about. Nothing else matters. Rosalie? Yeah, Emmett needs a wife so that Edward can be the only unattached vampire. Family backstory? Eh, foster family rich doctor schenanigans make sense, right? Jessica? Why should a character who exists, primarily at this stage, as exposition be anything but?

I empathize with this kind of writing. Goodness knows it's hard to slog through the boring stuff to get to the exciting stuff. I know why she wrote it this way. I'm ashamed that it was published this way and that the writing, even when it gets to the more "exciting" romantic parts, never gets any better. I don't know how these books happened.

hapax said...

Thinking about the family resemblance issue -- my sister and I are told all the time that we "look SO MUCH ALIKE!" even though she takes after our father (short, slender, with long sleek auburn hair, aquiline features, and an olive complexion) and I resemble our mother's side (your stereotypical Dutch peasant: solid, square, fair, with a ton of blonde frizz).

We laugh about it, but finally decided it's because our mannerisms are so similar: gestures, expressions, how we sit and walk and move.

Which makes the observation about how the Cullens / Hales (we never hear of those two being called "Hale" though, do we?) don't look related even more puzzling. They're all *vampires* -- they all have the same supernatural grace, they all have the same bored, aloof aspect, we find out later they all have "old-fashioned" mannerisms; I'd think it would be hard to tell them apart!

Ana Mardoll said...

Carrie, ah, shucks, thank you! I love doing this Twilight series and I'm enjoying it immensely for myself as much as for my readers (OMG, I HAVE READERS. REAL ONES.) I'm not too proud to admit that it's praise like yours that keeps me punctual on Saturday with my posts. ;)

I do agree that the book feels very rushed at the beginning - I've read elsewhere what you confirmed here; that is, that everything prior to the sparkly meadow scene was filled in AFTER the idea was born, and it feels confirmed in the writing. The most frustrating thing to me is that the Cullen family has been doing this masquerade for awhile now - they should have a solid story in place. Especially since, if anyone starts getting suspicious, they have to pack up and try again somewhere - that should be plenty of incentive to get a convincing act and story together!

Hapax, the naming really sticks with me, too. We rarely hear "Hale" again - why? Is it a made-up name, or did someone (Rosalie? Esme? Emmett?) have it before their turning? Is "Cullen" even Carlisle's real last name? It seems like every relocation would necessitate a new last name (and the documents to go along with it - I'm pretty sure doctors are LICENSED, not given a hospital-specific aptitude test). But if the family is used to changing their name, wouldn't they also need to change their old-fashioned first names? If secrecy is important, name changes would be crucial - how many young doctor + wife + children combinations are running around as Carlisle-Esme-Edward-Rosalie-Alice-Emmett-Jasper???

Karen Nilsen said...

LOL on the 'color-coded by convenience' bit. So true of far too many stories I've read. I've really been enjoying these posts and the comments and don't have much to say except thank you. A lot of stuff about these books has bothered me, but it takes reading a great analysis like yours for me to identify exactly what bothers me.

What I really don't understand after reading this post and the one from last Saturday is why S. Meyer chooses to reveal the romantic relationships among the "siblings" so early in the story. I can only think it's some weird kind of foreshadowing that she bungled. Wouldn't it make more sense for Edward to tell Bella about the true nature of his "family's" relationships right before or when she visits the Cullen home so she's not weirded out? Why do outsiders need to know that Emmett and Rosalie are a couple? They seem to be able to hide that they're vampires (except from everyone but our intrepid Heroine, of course). Why can't they hide their sexual relationships?

All I can think is that Meyer added the public incestuous dating into the mix to show there's something a little (or a lot) off about the Cullens to outsiders, which means the Cullens aren't smart enough to maintain their cover well (not what I think Meyer intended.) The more realistic alternative for the Cullens would be for them to hide their romantic relationships with each other when they're in public. Unfortunately, that means they wouldn't be able to date anyone lest some human touch their cold marble hands and find out the truth. And being single and not dating in high school is just not cool, and the Cullens above all have to maintain their coolness. So it's either date their sibling or be seen as single and uncool. The dilemma, oh the dilemma . . . so their open demonstration of beautiful siblings dating plays into the Cullens supposed uber-coolness. Become one of us and you'll be beautiful and youthful and perfect too. Oh, and you'll get this really HAWT partner to spend eternity with. It doesn't matter if we defy social norms. We're too cool to care, and you will be too. And because we're so cool (and beautiful and young), no one will say a word to us or suspect anything is amiss in our little cult.

Impatient story-telling . . . that's a great point. I think anyone who writes and gets excited about a particular moment in the story suffers from this. I know I do. That's why I have trusted writer-reader friends who read the whole 1st draft through for me and give me an idea where the weak spots are before anyone else sees it. Was Meyer in a critique group before she got an agent and got published? I'm just curious because from what I've read, editors don't, well, edit, as much as they used to. They don't have time with the ever shrinking bottom line and ever burgeoning demands of corporatized commercialism. Twilight reads like a 1st draft in some ways, which I think is a shame because it has its moments as a story and is an interesting concept.

Chelsea said...

"...I got the impression that she didn’t like the doctor and his wife for some reason. With the glances she was throwing at their adopted children, I would presume the reason was jealousy."

My brain made that needle-scratching-on-a-record noise at this quote. WHAT? It's probably safe to assume that Meyer was blissfully unaware of the creepy undertones present in the Cullen family, but then comes that quote. Jessica is jealous of the Cullen's...parents? Wow. So is the whole town just straight up assuming that the Cullens are having sex with their adopted kids? There's just a sex slavery ring up there in the nice mountain cabin? And Forks seemed like such a wholesome place...

I think I can see what S.Meyer is trying to do here, which is say that Jessica doesn't like Ma and Pa Cullen because they don't discourage the semi-incestual relations between their kids. Jessica may even assume that the Cullen and Hale kids are forbidden from dating outside their little family. But the way to express that one of your characters may be feeling that complicated mix of emotions regarding two people she's never met is not to say "jealousy" and just move on.

Kit Whitfield said...

Why can't they hide their sexual relationships?

I'd theorise two things.

The first is to avoid the moment of horror where Bella sees them kissing and thinks, 'Aaagh, incest!!!' Most people have a fairly strong visceral reaction when they think of incest, and discovering later that the characters aren't related might not entirely remove the bad taste. The Cullens may be many things, but they can't afford to be disgusting.

The other is that a big part of Twilight's charm is sexual secrets - or rather, secrets half concealed and half flaunted. Being with Edward means that Bella gets the thrill of a big, big secret that she can hide from other people, but because he's conspicuous in town, she also gets the thrill of attention, status, exhibition. Everyone's looking at me ... if only they knew! is an exciting thought.

The Cullens having a slight air of sexual strangeness from the beginning sets that vibe in motion. Foster-sibling relationships have a tang of transgression without being seriously deviant: they convey a kind of sexual outsiders' glamour.

As the Twilight world is an early-adolescent one, I think there may also be an appeal in this alternate family that provides both the safety of home and the passion of a sexual relationship. Bella's at the age where you want independence and romance and sex and all those things that matter so much to you, but you're not really old enough to go it alone. The Cullen menage offers a single place where you can get everything you need.

In other words, the Cullen relationships balance the thrill of transgression with the cosiness of home. Meyer may not be a perfect stylist, but she's extremely good at hitting sweet spots.


Impatient writing is a good point. In my experience, it's not a good idea to plough through stuff you find dull to get to the scenes you want to write, though. If you're boring yourself, you'll almost certainly bore your readers. If the getting there would really be dull, it's probably one of two things: either it's not necessary to the story, or you need to find things about it that actually interest you. The latter is often where the richness comes from.

Phil said...

Have you seen this site?

SkyknightXi said...

So...the onset wasn't just a precept, but that specific gleaming-in-the-meadow image?

...I'm wondering how she went straight to vampires, there. Granted, the only supernatural creature I can think of that even remotely matches up to that image is the spriggan (a stone-bound...maybe...faerie of Cornwall, said to be a reborn giantish spirit, capable of adopting its former giant's stature to protect the place of its shrine. Change "readopt giant stature" to "readopt stone aspect"...). Still, vampires are supposed to be creatures of everlasting FLESH (and blood is pretty closely allied to flesh, yes?); how do you go from there to a creature of stone? Just the conceit of stone being longer-lasting than flesh? But vampires are hardly the only everlasting mythical creatures out there...

Carrie said...

I'm with you, Skyknight. Absolutely with you.

Given that she wasn't big on the whole "researching vampires" thing and given that she's not the BFF of the horror genre at all (which really puts later pregnancy-related events in a really bizarre light), I'm not sure why she thought "Oh, clearly this dream was a *vampire* dream" as opposed to "Oh, this dream is a *faerie* dream," or anything, really anything else. "Oh, this is an *angel* dream," even makes more sense to me than vampires. Perhaps she saw a superlatively sexy dude in a dream and thought, "What's superlatively sexy? Oh. Vampires are supposed to be superlatively sexy. Cool. Vampire boy. Solid."

Aside from that, though, I really have no idea why she'd choose vampires.

Kit Whitfield said...

I'm wondering how she went straight to vampires, there.

Well, why not? Dreams often cobble together different things. Presumably it was a vampire in the dream and she thought she could do something with it. It seems like a perfectly reasonable way to start a story.

The sparkling skin is a much-mocked detail, but actually I think it's not a bad idea. You could read it as cheesy, but you could also read it as genuinely uncanny; it wouldn't look out of place in a Susanna Clarke story, for instance. It manages to combine inhuman with attractive, which is suitably vampiric, plus it goes with the images of marble-like coldness. I think Meyer over-uses certain similes in a way that undermines it a bit - saying he glitters comes across as less eerie when she also keeps comparing him to fashion models and actors and people you could expect to wear make-up - but I reckon it's one of the more imaginative elements of the story.

And come to that, dream imagery has a perfectly good vampiric tradition. Bram Stoker apparently based 'Dracula' on a dream of the three succubi. Those women are in fact a minor part of the novel, but they're one of the most resonant and vivid scenes, and hence probably have a lot to do with its power.

Vampires are a traditional repository for our sexual fears and fantasies, and tend to operate by a certain dream-like or nightmare logic anyway. I think Meyer's origin makes perfect sense.

Ana Mardoll said...

I would assume that S.Meyer went to "vampire" over "angel" or "faery" because the other aspect of the 'epic love story' here is that Edward is dangerous to Bella and persecuted by humans. If Edward were an angel, presumably he wouldn't be obsessed with constant thoughts of killing and eating Bella, which is supposed to be an aspect of his overwhelming passion and her attractiveness to him. And if he were a faery, I'm not sure the Masquerade would be necessary anymore, since faeries aren't hated, feared, and hunted in the same way that vampires traditionally are (in literature).

(I mean, sure, they play pranks and steal children, but it's not the same immediate threat as someone who sees you as a large Capri Sun juice bag.)

Catherine said...

Regarding Meyer's choice in writing about vampires, it always struck me at how phenomenally awkward she depicted them. Such as when she writes about them 'eating people', I think, "I thought you guys sucked blood!"

SkyknightXi said...

Ah, didn't realize it was a dream, not a waking visualization. My error, then. Although I wonder if you could make a case for vampires being a sort of Romanian faerie (really, if dullahans and banshees can be regarded as faerie...), at least the moroii (the so-called "living vampires").

Kit Whitfield said...

Such as when she writes about them 'eating people', I think, "I thought you guys sucked blood!"

I don't see a problem with that. It's fairly clear what's meant, and since it's all in character speech, it seems like a reasonable colloquialism for it.


Still, there ARE some genuinely deadly faeries in British Isles lore

They're fairly obscure, though. Meyer's trick is to combine several elements that have dug so deep down that they've penetrated the layer labelled 'pop culture' and into the one labelled 'collective subconscious'. For that, you need familiarity.

Among other things, Edward needs to be something that Bella could guess - and once guessed, be immediately obvious in its implications. Without that, the tension-building phase of their relationship and the big revelation scenes wouldn't work, and they're crucial to the romantic drama. If Bella says, 'You're a vampire!', that's one thing, and Edward can reply 'So you can see why we can never be together...' and away we go. If Bella says, 'You're a powrie!', the likeliest answer we'd expect from Edward would be 'How the heck did you know that!?' And boom goes one of the major aspects of their relationship, which is that they understand each other without having to be told - which I suspect is a big part of the appeal, real life romances involving communication and misunderstandings and all that tiring stuff.

Phil said...


I've actually been doing quite a bit of research into early vampire literature for a series of drawings I'm doing.

Stoker was far from the first to write vampires that could blend into human society. He was building on nearly a century of similar stories. The first piece of English vampire fiction was John Polidori's The Vampyre in 1819 (which was itself inspired by an idea of Lord Byron's that never got written). The character in the story - Lord Ruthven - was handsome, suave and aristocratic. He was actually based on Byron himself, who Polidori apparently didn't care for. The story became very popular in its day, bolstered by a play-adaptation. It established the pattern of Byronic vampires that's been largely adhered to since.

I'm oversimplifying for the sake of brevity, of course. There have been lots of exceptions and a lot of interesting trends. Fangs, for example, were first introduced in Elizabeth Caroline Grey's "The Skeleton Count, or The Vampire Mistress" in 1928, but popularised by the 1940's penny dreadful "Varney the Vampire, or the Feast of Blood". Lord Ruthven used his teeth on his victims but they were never described as sharp. Apparently the French translations didn't even mention teeth at all. As a result, French vampires of the period used methods like hairpins and sharp tongues to retrieve blood. There was one French novel that featured a vampire who would rip the hair and scalp off her victim and wear it as a wig, soaking up the blood (I haven't read that one yet, but it's on my to-do list).

Twilight isn't the first to have sparkly vampires either. La Ville Vampire had vampires that glowed phosphorescent green.

As an aside, has anyone read this blog? It corrects all of the grammar mistakes in Twilight in a humourous manner.

Phil said...

Oops. I said 1928 and 1940's when I meant 1828 and 1840's. My bad.

Ana Mardoll said...


How interesting! Regarding the history of vampires in literature, have you read Dundes' work?

I own the book, but I haven't gotten around to it yet - I'm hoping it will be good + accurate. :)

Charleen Merced said...

You are still torturing yourself Ana?

I actually have to confess that I liked the series. Yes, yes, bad writing, hurried, nonsensical, etc...I still liked it. I have read each book at least twice.

/me bangs head against the wall.

Anyways Ana, keep up the good work. I enjoy reading these. Also, have you seen "Alex reads Twilight"? I guarantee you will get a chuckle out of this. I love when he becomes exasperated:

Kit Whitfield said...

@Charleen - that's interesting. Could you share a bit about what you liked?

Phil said...

I haven't read that one. My drawings are portraits of the vampire characters from the period (like Dracula, Varney, Carmilla, etc) so I've been reading fiction rather than theoretical work. I only have thirteen drawings done so far, which isn't even half of the stories I've read (and there are so many I haven't gotten to or haven't found copies of). Not to mention that I've gotten sidetracked of late on a series about UFO conspiracy theories.

Still though, I'll try to check it out. Every little bit of knowledge helps, right?

JohnK said...

I always thought he was charming because he is a vampire and he has magical power over human beings (yes, even female human beings over the age of 80). In fact, that's how I always thought all of this worked. I mean, yes, good looks can get you very far (halo effect and all that) but eventually there's going to be someone who is suspicious.

Charleen Merced said...

@Kit - Well, it was an addictive storyline. The writing was frenzied, fast, pushing you to keep reading. I guess that's why these books are so successful; they really are page turners.

My favorite character was Jacob and just to know more about him I kept reading. The cookie-cutter-everyone-is-happy at the end kinda was a downer. I expected some fighting.

Kit Whitfield said...

The writing was frenzied, fast, pushing you to keep reading.

I'm curious about that, because I simply didn't find it so. It really didn't hold my attention and the pacing felt odd - a lot of time on the anticipation of the relationship, a lot of time on being in the relationship, and in between, boom, sudden get-together with no real sense of a relationship forming: it felt like it skipped over the part that would make me find the relationship compelling. Did that feel like fast-moving plotting to you, then?

Gordon said...

It really didn't hold my attention and the pacing felt odd - a lot of time on the anticipation of the relationship, a lot of time on being in the relationship, and in between, boom, sudden get-together with no real sense of a relationship forming: it felt like it skipped over the part that would make me find the relationship compelling.

And then the last 150 ish pages are from some other book.

There's a reason why it feels like that. Twilight is just over two months of "real time." Bella meets Edward in mid-January and the events of Twilight are finished by mid-March. Roughly nine weeks. It's week eight that they are officially dating, and week nine ends with her in the hospital. Edward ignores Bella from week 3 to week 7.

So in less than a week they go from virtual strangers to "TWU WUV 4EVA."

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