Twilight: Being Flung From the Narrative

Twilight Recap: Just when she thought it was safe to relax at school, Bella has spotted the frightening Edward Cullen across the cafeteria. The sight of him puts her immediately off her lunch, and she must grapple with the fears he evoked in her Biology class the last time they met. 

Twilight, Chapter 2: Open Book

   I sipped my soda slowly, my stomach churning. Twice Mike asked, with unnecessary concern, how I was feeling. I told him it was nothing, but I was wondering if I should play it up and escape to the nurse’s office for the next hour.

Sometimes it strikes me that Bella rarely takes the long view of things. As a character, she's not exactly impulsive, but at the same time she seldom seems to think past her current decisions. I almost wonder if we couldn't apply this trait to every major character decision she's made thus far.

Bella decides to move to Forks to solve an immediate problem: she's a third wheel in Renee's new marriage. All well and good, but she hasn't seemed to think through what this move might entail or how she plans to occupy herself after the move -- among other things, she's disappointed to find that the school curricula will be a repeat of what she's already learned and she's surprised when the Forks library turns out to not be well-stocked, all of which would seem to indicate that she didn't do a lot of research (either online, or with her father) before the move.

Once she arrives in Forks, her father presents her with a car that almost certainly will be a huge gas guzzling expense, and though she is ostensibly quite poor (although not so poor that she'll ever seems to feel the need to get a job) she doesn't think twice about gas mileage until after she contemplates her first road trip. On the one hand, this might be a normal omission for an inexperienced teenager, but on the other hand, you'd think her somewhat unique relationship with her mother might have tuned her to consider these hidden costs more.

Now Bella is considering "escaping" Edward by pretending to be sick and hanging out in the nurse's office for all of Biology. This idea is so preposterous I'm left wondering if we're supposed to add "a little dim" to our mental characterization of Bella or if that conclusion is merely an unintended consequence. For the first thing, you don't get to go to the nurse's office with no symptoms whatsoever and hang out for a full hour until your biology class is done. You think no student has ever thought of this plan before to skip class, Bella? You think school nurses aren't specifically trained to be more suspicious than an airport security guard? Ha. For another thing, this plan is going to help in the long run how, exactly? You'll miss important information in your biology class that will no doubt be on some test or quiz later and you'll just have to go back again the next day and face Edward Cullen then, because you can't continue to be ambiguously sick every day from exactly 1 pm to 2 pm. Sorry, Bella.

I do think that Bella has the right to be frightened by Edward, although I admit to being somewhat surprised that she's kept her fear up this long despite the glowing Cullen recommendations she received earlier in the week from her father. Still, it's worth noting that her interpretation of the Biology Incident is entirely correct -- Edward Cullen was in fact struggling with a compulsion to kill her. +1 to Gryffindor for correctly reading body language, and all that. (Question: Where would the Sorting Hat place Bella? Discuss. Answers of "Sparklypoo" will not be counted.)

However, if Bella really and truly is frightened of Edward, she needs to do something more constructive than come up with laughably inept ways to avoid him from here on out. She needs to talk to a teacher, confide in an adult, and tell her father precisely what happened. These "I'll go hide in the nurse's office!" plans only serve to make her seem childish and to downplay the real and present danger she is facing. It's an attempt to crowbar the Edward/Bella meeting into a Meet Cute framing that simply doesn't work when one half of the Meet Cute pair is a decades-old serial killer.

   I decided to permit myself one glance at the Cullen family’s table. If he was glaring at me, I would skip Biology, like the coward I was.

And this little "bargain" conclusively proves that Bella doesn't realize her "nurse's office" plan simply is not going to work. Can she really be so naive as to assume she can pitch up on the nurse's doorstop without a single symptom of chills, sweats, fever, vomiting, or anything more than "not feeling well" and a cot will be trotted out obligingly for her until Biology class is over? Or does she think that despite supposedly being a "bad liar" she can somehow fake enough symptoms to get her through the rest of the day? Is she going to leap up and be cured when the 2 o'clock bell rings exactly or will she also miss pieces of her later afternoon classes?

   I kept my head down and glanced up under my lashes. None of them were looking this way. I lifted my head a little.

Readers, help me out on this one. I submit that no one outside of novels, animated films, and mascara commercials can deliberately look through lashes. Maybe it's just me, but my lashes are close enough to my eyes that I don't see them as defined lashes so much as just light, blurry filters. If I squint my eyes almost shut, I suppose I am technically looking through my lashes, but to me it's just blur-o-vision and it certainly wouldn't be inconspicuous -- if anyone was to watch me doing so, I wouldn't look casual and relaxed, I'd look unaccountably squinty-eyed.

Of course, I do have peripheral vision, but my peripheral vision has nothing to do with my lashes. Am I the only one like this or is this whole construct of dewy eyes carefully observing the hero through the veil of her delicate lashes something entirely made up for fiction?

   “Bella, what are you staring at?” Jessica intruded, her eyes following my stare.
   At that precise moment, his eyes flashed over to meet mine.
   I dropped my head, letting my hair fall to conceal my face. I was sure, though, in the instant our eyes met, that he didn’t look harsh or unfriendly as he had the last time I’d seen him. He looked merely curious again, unsatisfied in some way.

I can't understand the physics of this situation at all. Her head was already "down" so that she could "glance up" under her lashes -- a tricky thing indeed when your target is across the room from you and therefore in generally the same horizontal plane, I would think. Now she drops her head further -- how much space is left in which to drop? Is she banging her head on the lunch table? Her hair falls like a curtain to shield her from Edward; this device was also used in the Biology Incident, but it works less well here because the "hair as curtain" device works best when the two people are side-by-side, not when one was -- a moment before -- facing the other directly.

The only way this scene seems to work in my head is if Bella's nose is half an inch from the table and her hair has completely flipped over her face -- not a position I think of as inconspicuous. Surely she would have been wiser to just let her eyes move to something more plausible than Mr. Cullen -- say, the terribly interesting table next to the Cullen table?

   “Edward Cullen is staring at you,” Jessica giggled in my ear.
   “He doesn’t look angry, does he?” I couldn’t help asking.
   “No,” she said, sounding confused by my question. “Should he be?”
   “I don’t think he likes me,” I confided. I still felt queasy. I put my head down on my arm.
   “The Cullens don’t like anybody . . . well, they don’t notice anybody enough to like them. But he’s still staring at you.”
   “Stop looking at him,” I hissed.
   She snickered, but she looked away. I raised my head enough to make sure that she did, contemplating violence if she resisted.

I'm not sure what to make of this last line at all, and it bothers me quite a bit; every time I read the line, I feel violently thrown from the narrative. 

First of all, in many ways the statement seems utterly out of character for Bella. Bella isn't violent; she can barely stand up for herself verbally to her array of unwanted suitors. Nor is she confrontational; she's been put off both food and sleep by the mere thought of having to face Edward Cullen again, and now she's considering a completely hare-brained ploy to avoid him in their next shared class together.

Secondly, I can't think Bella is actually contemplating violence towards Jessica because it seems to me that if she was doing such a thing, we'd get more specifics from her internal monologue. One doesn't "contemplate violence"; one contemplates striking, pushing, shoving, pulling, and so forth. The vagueness of the statement almost completely disavows it, simply because it's not possible to "contemplate violence" without getting into the specifics of what, precisely, Bella wants to do to Jessica to force her to "stop looking" at Edward.

Thirdly, the very idea of using violence to stop Jessica from drawing the Cullens' attention by staring at them is counter-productive in the extreme. A WWE-style smackdown with Bella climbing on top of the cafeteria table and pile-driving Jessica into the linoleum with a well placed shout of "B----, stop looking at my man!" isn't exactly going to convince Edward Cullen that Bella isn't obsessed with him.

No, everything about this statement is so jarring to me, that I can only interpret it in the "story-telling" sense where people condense their experiences into a clever party story:

"What would you have done if she hadn't stopped staring, Bella?"
"Well, at that point I was contemplating violence..."
<droll chuckles as everyone breaks and returns to the hors d'oeuvre table>

But if this interpretation makes sense -- and I feel that it does -- what does this mean for the rest of the narrative? Twilight is no longer a series of events narrated from a single point of view as they unfold; now it would seem that the novel is a sanitized version, narrated from a distance, and no longer as trustworthy as before. The fan theory that the novel is a hastily stitched together story for the benefit of others -- Renesmee? -- gains traction here, I think.

   Mike interrupted us then — he was planning an epic battle of the blizzard in the parking lot after school and wanted us to join. Jessica agreed enthusiastically. The way she looked at Mike left little doubt that she would be up for anything he suggested. I kept silent.

This is another of those technically neutral sentences that nonetheless looks terribly catty in a certain light. Sure, this could just be a simple observation of Jessica having a deep crush on Mike; it could also serve as further contrast to Jessica and Bella's feelings for (as well as their chemistry with) Mike: Bella isn't interested in Mike or his rough and tumble games, but Jessica is happy with both the boy and his boisterousness.

On the other hand, that "she would be up for anything" line smacks just on this side of either outright slut-shaming (ifyouknowwhatImean, wink-wink-nudge-nudge) or more subtle criticism of losing oneself in order to please a boy. The implication almost seems to be that obviously Jessica doesn't like snowball fights (no right thinking woman would, or so Bella seems to believe) but she suppresses her feelings in order to be near Mike.

This is definitely a valid concern. Too often in our society, women are encouraged to mold themselves to the likes and dislikes of their men, and to discard their own inconvenient selves and personalities. At the same time, we know so little of Jessica that neither we nor Bella can state with any certainty that she doesn't normally like snowball fights. Furthermore, there is something of an irony in Bella chastising someone for subverting their natural personality in order to be with a man, considering that at least a good deal of the next book will involve Bella subverting her entire personality in order to mourn the loss of a man.


memst said...

Longtime lurker, but I keep wanting to post and say -- thank you for writing these! They are amazing and I look forward to them every week.

For the first thing, you don't get to go to the nurse's office with no
symptoms whatsoever and hang out for a full hour until your biology
class is done.

When I was in school, we weren't allowed to have any medications, including over the counter painkillers. Once in a while, I would get really bad cramps, and have to do exactly that, since that's how long it took for painkillers to take effect. (Sometimes longer because the nurse was not there :( ). Obviously, I wasn't lying about it, but I bet that it wouldn't have been that hard to fake -- and if Bella is nervous enough to confuse her friends and be unable to eat, she may well be having nausea anyway.

Ana Mardoll said...

I absolutely love it when a lurker speaks up - thank you! Makes my day! :)

I hadn't thought about cramps, because my schools erroneously believed periods to be something of a test of character, but that would make sense, actually.

Hmm. What will happen when Bella gets her period? Does Edward even notice?

Ana Mardoll said...

I guess Hufflepuff also "takes all the rest", right? So they could take Bella on the Riordan Principle of Unclaimed Characters (also known as the Hermes hut), but you're right in that it's a dreadful fit.

Maybe Slytherin if we include the ambition to be a sparky vampire??

Just a Lurker said...

She gets sent back to London and the Sorting Hat demands a through cleaning. ;D

Seriously, though, I don't think she'd get through the barrier to Platform 9 3/4 while human.

Antigone10 said...

I've always hated that about Harry Potter though, that "kindness" is supposed to be this meaningless trait, like "niceness".  It takes effort and will to be kind to another human being.  I mean, mind you, the books never actually demonstrate that Hufflepuff is particularly kind (they act like jerks to Harry when his name pops up in Goblet of Fire; when this would have been an EXCELLENT time to demonstrate their major house characteristic).  Also, Harry gets called "Uncommonly kind" in book 6, two chapters after he, when he could have demonstrated real empathy, slices up Draco's chest instead.  I don't think Rowling actually knows what "kind" means.

Tangent over, I still don't feel like she fits into Hufflepuff very well.  For one, including "kindness", "Hard-working and non-judgmental" are supposed to be the other traits.  She doesn't demonstrate "non-judgmental" at all, seeing as she judges everyone she sees almost instantly. 

And she doesn't actually DO anything to become a vampire, really, besides whine about it and finally get married to get to be one.   Feminist issues aside, I don't see that as really thinking long-term power.

Sam said...

Slytherin.  Undoubtably.  With her talent for manipulation and her need to be in control of the relationships around her, how could she end up anywhere else?

Kit Whitfield said...

I can't understand the physics of this situation at all. Her head was already "down" so that she could "glance up" under her lashes -- a tricky thing indeed when your target is across the room from you and therefore in generally the same horizontal plane, I would think. Now she drops her head further -- how much space is left in which to drop?

To be fair, she lifted her head after the lashes-glance, so presumably she's just putting it back to where it was.

Regarding the lashes thing - I think it can be done, but it'd be awkward to do with your head down. Looking through your lashes makes it look like your eyes are downcast; to get a straight-ahead view, your head needs to be up. If you drop your head, all you can see through your downcast lashes is the far side of the table.


The Harry Potter question: 

Positive interpretation: Griffindor. She's positively eager to take a bullet for pretty much anyone she likes. Negative interpretation: Slytherin. She's a social climber, spiteful to those she considers beneath her, self-centred and exclusive. 
Since it seems the hat pretty much puts you where you want to go, the question becomes, 'Where would she choose to go herself?' And since she spends all her time rejecting the values of the ordinary world and trying to join a group everyone considers evil - not without reason - I think Slytherin seems most likely. 

Or, to put it in more general terms: J.K. Rowling's aesthetic is very much about the virtue of ordinariness. Harry Potter himself is continually emphasised as someone who's in an exceptional position but isn't exceptionally talented or brilliant, and his main virtue is that he deals with his odd circumstances with a kind of spirit-of-the-Blitz resolution: he does what has to be done and tries to stay cheerful. At the same time, while some people don't like the fact that a lot of the focus is on the characters' personal lives and minutiae despite the great events and the way the characters are, as adults, fairly ordinary middle-class people, I'd say that was a major part of Rowling's point: the whole reason to fight a war is to create a world in which personal relationships and normal jobs are the worst thing anyone has to worry about. Decent ordinariness is more virtuous than callous hubris, and the little details of little lives have to be respected if you're not going to turn into a grandiose bastard. 

In Meyer's aesthetic, on the other hand, the virtue lies in specialness. Bella considers herself not-special, but everyone else disagrees with her, and every male she's attracted to is extremely special. The little details of ordinary lives are of absolutely no interest to her, and insofar as they're observed at all, they're mostly seen as an imposition on her attention - people expecting her to interact with them when she's got more important things to worry about. 

If you bounce those two aesthetics off each other, you're basically looking at two authors who have opposite ideas about what constitutes a hero. I heard, for instance, that a young girl at a signing once told Rowling her favourite character was Draco Malfoy, and Rowling told her with motherly concern that you really shouldn't go for the bad boys because they're not very nice. Bella and Harry couldn't operate in each others' worlds; they're artistic enemies. 

Nina said...

I've never identified kindness as one of the primary Hufflepuff traits.  Hard-working and fair seem to be their defining attributes, as well as a belief in equality of opportunity (at least, for Helga Hufflepuff herself).  Actually, with that in mind, Bella seems least well-suited to Hufflepuff.  I would say Ravenclaw maybe, since she seems to have no trouble in school, or Slytherin.  She doesn't seem to have much ambition until she falls for Edward, but then a lot of the plot revolves around her ambition to become a vampire and join the Cullen's perfect family.

Re: the contemplating violence thing: I could see using the phrase "contemplating violence" as shorthand for a series of violent images flashing through one's mind.  That would be harder to describe and would take a lot more time away from the narrative flow than the simple phrase "contemplating violence."  But I definitely think it is out of character.  Bella seems to be extremely passive.  She exerts herself to move to Forks and get out of her mother's way, but then she just sort of goes with the flow.  She accepts the car from her father without protest, even though she isn't happy about it, she quietly takes over the household chores without any discussion, she spots the Cullens' return and doesn't order lunch, but she doesn't flee the cafeteria or anything.  Contemplating violence strikes me as the kind of thing a more impulsive or more active heroine might do, but it seems very jarring here.

Jonathan Pelikan said...

Warning: Angry tirade in the distinctly Anti-Twilight category incoming.

I've honestly never seen a character, protagonist or antagonist, yank me so hard out of the narrative, slap me across my face, and -force- me to -hate- her so much as Bella Swan. The idea that I'm supposed to sympathize with her, understand her, like her is so downright offensive that I almost go into straight disbelief or rejection at the thought. Nothing is more vile than a 'Hero' who inspires deep intellectual offense, and I'm not talking about a villain-protagonist or a character with deep flaws or even a really annoying character. SMeyers meant to write a protagonist who is mostly Good, like many authors. The problem isn't just that she failed, or failed hard. She -could not have succeeded- because it seems evident that the author is so out of sync to me that we obviously share different values and ideas. It's like what Fred Clark says at Slacktivist: bad ethics can sometimes cause bad writing. SMeyers set out to write Bella as a sympathetic protag, I know she did. What is put on the page? A demon who judges absolutely everybody the instant she meets them, and sticks with that assessment with all of her might. At best, she stereotypes, belittles, and judges the people around her on a consistent basis, and that's if she deigns to realize that they aren't furniture at all.Even the logic of running into the arms of your prospective murderer doesn't particularly bother  me, because that's a choice a character can make, but Bella's entire attitude towards life and people is, in a word, -loathsome-. I loathe it. It is impossible to like this story, or its Hero, because I'm too busy feeling offended that Bella Swan just did or said -that- or -that-. SMeyers probably thinks this is all acceptable, just like the sexism, abuse, etc, litany of issues, which means I end up loathing the author as well. This series is the Left Behind of Romance.I'm terribly sorry for all that, but I've been winding up that particular punch against Bella Swan ever since I read some scanned copy of the book on some random site somewhere some time ago. Finally I can give some voice and reason to my visceral as well as intellectual hate of this character and, thus, this series. I know that was all off-topic, but in a way I would argue it's relevant every time Bella interacts with people, whether it be the Humans Who Don't Matter, Charlie, or the Vampires. I get this rant forming in my head every time it happens, even when your deconstruction isn't really focusing on it but discussing other aspects.House-sorting Bella would be tough. I'd say Slytherin if she were a real person and I knew her or something, because transparent villainy and self-centered attitude is apparently at that House's core. As a reader? Hufflepuff, just because Rowling puts so little emphasis and attention on  them that we'd rarely ever end up seeing her.

Amarie said...

If I may, (and I hope I don’t get flamed here) I’d like to say something in defense of Bella Swan:
I believe that, as human beings subject to fundamental attribution error, stereotypes, emotional baggage, etc…we have a natural tendency to judge people at a moment’s notice. On the first day of school, when we walk into a classroom, I DO believe that we do what Bella does; we make snap judgments about people…for good, or bad. “Idiot”, “teacher’s pet”, “thug”, “gossip girl”, “jock”, and so on and so forth. We do that to other people…and in turn, we are recipients of such judgment ourselves. Of course, I’m no exception to that rule. So, in Bella’s defense…I think it’s just a natural human tendency to judge on sight.
HOWEVER. The problem with Bella is that SHE NEVER CHANGES HER JUDGMENT OF PEOPLE. Mike remains “overly helpful” and Eric stays the “chess club type”, for examples.  It may be naive of me, but I believe one of the most pleasant experiences of life is finding out that you’re wonderfully wrong about someone. I remember that I LOVED sitting by that “gossip girl”…and finding out that she was one of the smartest, nicest, and funniest friends that I would ever make in middle school. Or, I loved finding out that that “jock” actually liked to go home, and play piano after basketball practice. Needless to say, I still have those wonderful experiences now. And, there were certainly times when I was sadly wrong; I would judge a person to be “nice”…and in all honesty, they were pretty rude and snobbish. In real life, it goes both ways.
That being said, one of the main problems that I had always had with Bella is that she never gave anyone a CHANCE to change her opinion of them. I understand being shy/introverted…but there is a very, very, very, very, very, very thin line between being that and just being a borderline, rude misanthrope. I mean, when you CHOOSE to sit beside someone at lunch? LISTEN to them…and CONTRIBUTE to the conversation; I believe that (usually) you’ll be surprised that someone like Jessica doesn’t really ‘prattle’…she’s actually pretty intelligent and witty (just for an example). But, all throughout the series, Bella never does listen…unless she wants something. Everything and everyone remains compartmentalized no matter what. Even when I was a Twilight fan, this was what cut me off from connecting with Bella instantly…and you can see that that’s pretty early in the book. *winks*
And, of course, that’s one of the main problematic themes of Mrs. Meyer’s books: the characters are static. The situations change…but the characters do not. The Edward and Bella that you see at the end of Breaking Dawn is the exact same Edward and Bella that you see at the beginning of Twilight…only they BOTH sparkle. Mrs. Meyer says this herself; that the vampires in her novels are literally stuck the way they are and there is no going back.
Now, I’m going into foreign territory, here…because I’m about to talk about religion. I believe that-PLEASE correct me if I’m wrong-Mormonism is slightly…cultish. Meaning that it is not about inclusion, but EXCLUSION. So, I believe that the Cullen’s not socializing with anyone is a metaphor for that; you don’t go outside the familial unit. As far as Bella is concerned, it’s the same thing; she doesn’t go outside of taking care of her parents. And then, when she wants to become a member of the Cullen family, she completely gives up everything and anything to be with them (umm…not that I think she had anything going for her to begin with…but that’s another post). In my mind, that’s always been a perfect, subconscious analogy that Mrs. Meyer has made in regards to her religion and her stance that the familial unit is the most important aspect/accomplishment in one’s life. Hence, if we asked Mrs. Meyer why Bella and the Cullen’s are so anti-social, she probably wouldn’t comprehend her character’s behavior as such.
About the Hogwarts placing…I have to rudely say that Bella can just be Mr. Filch’s help. Minimum wage, so she can have something else to complain about.

Nathaniel said...

Jonathan, you are a man after my own heart. I feel pretty much exactly as you do.

As for the Hogwarts question, Slytherin. To the extent Bella can be roused to action at all, it is to emotionally manipulate or control someone.

MJSS said...

I actually kind of like the "contemplating violence" line, and I don't think you need the narrative voice to be at a remove in order for it to make sense. Bella having actual violent urges doesn't make sense, but Bella getting angry and thinking "wow, I'm angry enough that I should be thinking violent thoughts right now" feels pretty reasonable to me -- and to my mind the very nonspecificity of it makes that a plausible reading.

I may be giving Meyer too much credit, though.

Kadia said...

And, of course, that’s one of the main problematic themes of Mrs.
Meyer’s books: the characters are static. The situations change…but the
characters do not.

That fits in with what you said about how Bella never really changes her opinions of most people after her first surface judgment. She doesn't do that because she doesn't have to -- the dorky, over-eager chess-club type really is just that, and so is nearly everyone else she meets except for the standoffish Cullens. Her off-the-cuff judgments are not like the ones we make based on stereotypes because she is always right and the human characters really are exactly who they appear to be. Which is a good thing, I guess; you wouldn't want to provoke any anxiety or tension in the reader, right? It might distract them from the extremely linear love story between Edward and Bella.

Kit Whitfield said...

I think the problem with 'contemplating violence' is that it's almost certainly a joke, a comically hyperbolic way of saying 'I was angrily concerned .' It's also something of a saying, if not quite a cliche. And in general, Bella doesn't seem the proverbial type, and she's certainly not a joker. It's an unexpected swerve into levity.

That's a break with the character voice, but it's also a bit off tonally. Edward is very serious business as far as Bella's concerned; playing up her feelings towards him in a joky tone just feels odd. It's that oddness, I think, that raises the question of whether she's genuinely contemplating violence. It's probably a joke, but this doesn't feel like a situation she'd joke about - so is she serious?

Probably not; I think it's more likely to be a conveniently sassy and modern-sounding phrase and Bella's supposed to be modern. I think it might also, unusually, be a way of reining in Bella's verbal aggression. In that situation, you'd probably be thinking all sorts of uncharitable thoughts about the girl who was making you so uncomfortable; a joky 'contemplating violence' disclaims any serious bad intentions towards her where an more naturalistic description of Bella's thoughts ('You ditzy bitch, why the hell can't you shut up?') would come across as more aggressive.

Bella's an odd mixture of aggression and deference: she tends to think unkind thoughts but not actually assert herself. I think this is a moment where a literal rendition of her thoughts would be too unkind, and that would push her too far over the line. So instead we get her thoughts hidden behind a semi-cliche to keep her on the right side of mild femininity. 

Dav said...

Bella loses a lot of control when Jessica steps in.   She doesn't deal very well with loss of control; we've already seen her take over household duties (unasked, seemingly), and deal with her mother pretty rudely when she wasn't driving the situation herself.

I can read this a couple ways.  When I'm so frightened that I'm queasy, anger's pretty close to the surface - I think it's an adrenaline flight/fight thing, and Jessica is a much, much safer object for anger than Edward is, both from Bella's point of view and in reality.  So it could be a sign that Bella is more terrified than she's letting herself believe, and the stress of coping is putting her on edge.

Less charitably, Bella likes to have minute control over the subjects of conversation, what kind of attention is paid to her, and how others relate to her.  She is very judgmental when others don't do what she expects, especially when they're her peers.  Inappropriate focus or reaction from Mike or Jessica is usually cause for Bella to comment or make plans to redirect their behavior.  I can read the "contemplating violence" line there as a sign of her very low tolerance for being the butt of teasing, or the focus of attention in a way that she doesn't explicitly condone. 

I can see Bella in Slytherin, but she doesn't have the loyalty that even, say, Crabbe and Goyle show.  I think she'd be isolated, but I think isolation in Slytherin would be more comfortable than in the other Houses; she could still make situational alliances, and if she were useful, others would help her.  Which is more or less how she treats her peers, so it's not a bad fit.

Chelsea said...

To me, the "contemplating violence" line seemed like a joke, but it's jarring because Bella doesn't seem to joke around at all. Which is a shame, since a good amount of snark can make people absolutely love a character. Even if you interpret all of Bella's comments in the meanest possible sense, they could still have been funny, ala Mean Girls. ("Those fangs are the ugliest effing thing I've ever seen.") A snarky Bella, with no other story element changed, could have made Twilight fantastic.

As for which House she'd be in, I'd say Slytherin, because once Bella has decided that she's going to accomplish something, it's going to happen. Granted, throughout the story her only real goals are 1.) become a vampire and 2.) sexytimes with Edward, but she's willing to go through four books of Edward's whining, several murder attempts, and turn down Jacob's abs to accomplish this. She is laser-focused.

Amarie said...

Kadia, you made me laugh, haha! No, we wouldn’t want misdirection in a story and we CERTAINLY wouldn’t want a human Bella that is capable of being wrong every now and then. No, no, no; Bella is extra special because she has an ‘incredible sense of intuition’. Hehe.
Now, this all goes well with what Ana said a few posts ago; that Mrs. Meyer either can’t or won’t write misdirection. Bella (and a whole lot of other painfully obvious foreshadowing/spoiling methods) serves as that vehicle to not misdirect. Like Ana said, in Twilight, if Bella says something…it must be true. SIMPLY BECAUSE BELLA SAID IT. And, again, Mrs. Meyer justifies this in the text by saying that she has an ‘incredible sense of intuition’, that she picks up on things almost instantly. Hence, why she immediately figures out that that Cullen’s aren’t ‘normal’.
Frankly, I think it’s the epitome of lazy writing. First off, Twilight is told from the first person perspective; this means that we’re inside this ‘intuitive’ head of Bella’s. Secondly, it takes absolutely little to no planning on Mrs. Meyer’s part to introduce surprises and/or create mysteries; we already knew Victoria was coming in the first chapter of Eclipse, for example. So, why do that if you already have a character that magically tells you everything?
Necessity is only the mother of invention.

aravind said...

Regarding the lashes, I think Meyer's sort of right here. I was a dirty cheat using that trick at hide-and-seek when I was about five. The problem, of course, is that it looks like you've closed your eyes, and staring across the room at a table with your eyes wide shut would just look weird. Because of that, she tilts her head down slightly, so they'll have a harder time picking up on it. I don't know that that would actually work though, since looking through your lashes cuts out your (or at least my) peripheral vision, making the whole thing impossible.

In the end, I think the whole point of this scene is to get Bella to talk about how Edward has stared at her to some one else while in his vicinity, so he realizes that she has picked up on his "interest" (via mind reading of the other person).

As for the House, I really don't know. I've always thought that Hufflepuff and Slytherin were more opposite than Slytherin and Gryffindor - since Hufflepuff was practically an anarcho-syndicalist commune of equal members while Slytherin was this crazy archaic and hierarchical douche-fest. On the other hand, the methodically-thought out Ravenclaws would be the opposite to the fiery and ill-prepared Gryffindors. Given that, I always expected Ravenclaw to be the house with the students who looked over the available information again and again until the figured out the clear mistake and the Hufflepuffs to be the real hostile enemies of the Slytherins. The Gryffindors would just be a new money and start-up alternative to the Slytherins - people who fought for their individual privileges rather than being born to them. 
So, read through that bizarro alternate universe interpretation of the Houses, I'd place her in Gryffindor, since she's fighting to be moved from being a mundane member of the unwashed hordes into super special status.

Kadia said...


I agree that it's definitely a sign of lazy writing. I don't think it's a thematic choice by Meyer because Jerry Jenkins (the Left Behind 'author') does it too. They both forget that the author isn't the protagonist and end up blending together both perspectives. We're not really supposed to be drawing a conclusion about Bella's personality when she makes fun of Eric or Jessica; those scenes aren't characterization -- they're exposition, and it's Meyer speaking through Bella's mouth.

Jenkins does the same thing; his characters leap to inexplicable conclusions and judgments that are  always, always correct. It's lazy writing; they just stick their exposition into the mouths of their protagonists.

Silver Adept said...

Just when you think you've got the character on the mat, and the referee is counting the pinfall, one, two... That was an especially violent kickout there, Bella. Can't have your readers able to fully understand you within the first thirty pages, so they can skip the next several hundred to get to the action point, huh?

The problem with the contemplation of violence, in Bella's case, is that it continues to keep her passive.

-How will I deal with the Biology Incident?
--I'll try to avoid the person who perpetrated it.
-How do I shut up this catty bitch?
--Well, I'll think about hurting her, but instead I'll take smug satisfaction as she throws herself at an obviously inferior specimen and watch the inevitable train wreck.
-How will I choose between these two men that both want to possess me?
--Well, I'll just...hang around whomever is available and just gently remind the one I'm not obsessive over that he's a rebound (or a Friend Without Benefits) whenever he tries to get close, until, that is, I can't get the one I want, and then I'll lead him on...
-So how do I get rid of the other guy, again?
--Well, maybe I'll foist my daughter on him after I get everything I wanted out of life? Stop asking me such tough questions.

Isabella Swan is a character designed to have things happen to her, not to do things herself. This makes her a great reader stand-in character, as she doesn't have to act on her personality, but it also makes it very hard to get a sense of who she actually is. Even in first-person video games, where one might very well be Grunt Zed in terms of the scale of things, they spend time developing the character. After all, Mr. Freeman, haven't you ever wondered why we were so interested in you? Or, perhaps, you have been looking for cake, instead?

Kit Whitfield said...

I'm not sure lazy writing is a charge that really applies to Meyer. Her writing's obviously faulty from a stylistic standpoint, but it doesn't read to me like it's supposed to be read for style. It feels less lazy than dreamlike: a flexible fantasy in which the reader is more or less encouraged to ignore the elements that don't fit her fantasies and home in on the elements that do - and in a way, the inconsistencies of tone encourage that still further, because we can all ignore the elements that don't fit our tastes and find ones that we prefer. 

I wouldn't say it comes across as carefully written, but carefully written prose isn't always the most captivating. Stuff with a more dreamlike feel can come across as more vivid and visionary, or just livelier. While I wouldn't call Meyer's writing visionary, it's very effective at capturing the reader's interest - even reading it for flaws is a sign of finding it interesting - and it does what it sets out to do, which is appeal to female romantic fantasies, with unquestionable success. 

21stCenturyBird said...

Question: Where would the Sorting Hat place Bella? Discuss. Answers of "Sparklypoo" will not be counted.

This is a surprisingly tough question.

It seems like Bella would be a shoe-in for Hufflepuff - because, c'mon, Bella isn't especially brave, smart or ruthless - but have you ever seen her hard at work at, well, anything? Or show an above-average amount of kindness? I guess she sort of wants to avoid hurting people, on some level, but it seems to be less out of actual empathy and more because she can't be bothered with conflict.

So what about Slytherin? As it's been pointed out, Bella can be quite manipulative and she obviously doesn't think very highly of her fellow students, other than as nuisances - or, perhaps, potential temporary allies, if they're lucky. But then again, I'm not detecting much of an actual drive there. "Sitting around and trying to make everyone go away" isn't the road to power, and it doesn't sound like Slytherin.

Gryffindor is... well, pretty much right out. She's got the impulsiveness, sure, but not the bravery or loyalty.

So, based purely on it being the least terrible match, I'd put in a vote for Ravenclaw. Bella doesn't seem very intellectual, sure, and the narrative keeps painting her as sort of a ditz, but she doesn't seem to have trouble succeeding in school despite her overwhelming apathy, so perhaps she just has a case of The Booksmarts. know, coming to think of it... if you put it this way, it seems like Bella exhibits the vices of every house, but hardly any of the virtues. Now I feel sort of sorry for her.

Ana Mardoll said...

If Gryffindor is bravery and loyalty, maybe it's the best fit after all?

Bella is loyal to Edward and never even considers giving him up as her life partner, no? And she offers to take a bullet (or, in these cases a bite) for both Renee and Edward, at least once each.

She is also brave/impulsive in hanging out with Edward at all...

I do like the "laser focused" idea though. Ha.

Gelliebean said...

I've always had an appreciation for Hufflepuffs.  They came across as very salt-of-the-earth; the practical people who keep life moving while certain others are off having adventures and thrill-seeking - like the Sendars in the Belgariad, for example; strong, responsible and dependable.  They may not have the glitz, or the charm, or draw much attention to themselves at all, but they Get Stuff Done.  And they have to deal with a fluffy teddy-bear isn't-that-so-cute house name while doing it - really doesn't seem fair at all.  :-(

Out of all of them, I could see valid arguments for Bella being in either Ravenclaw and Slytherin.  Ravenclaw if we accept her description of herself as being at least book-smart, well-read, and ahead of her class in all her subjects as an overriding trait; Slytherin if her ambition (to have Sparkleboi all to herself; to become a vampire) is the stronger trait.  Bonus points to Slytherin if you draw a parallel between vampires and pure-bloods, and compare Bella's attitudes toward all the ordinary folk around her to most Slytherins' behavior toward mudbloods.

chris the cynic said...

The thing that jumped out most at me was the second sentence, especially in the context of the first:

"I sipped my soda slowly, my stomach churning. Twice Mike asked, with unnecessary concern, how I was feeling."

She can't eat, worse than that it seems that she can't even drink at her usual rate.  That her stomach is churning is probably giving off at least some minor, "I'm uncomfortable," vibes and the root problem is enough that she's contemplating going through the production of faking class skipping worthy illness just to put it off for one more day.

Mike doesn't know that last bit, but it should be obvious that something is wrong and the concern would seem pretty well placed.  We don't know exactly how he asked those two times, or exactly what she said, but we do know that he can see there's something very wrong with Bella and that he has no idea what it is.  That seems like an ideal time to be concerned.

Bella certainly has every right not to talk to him about it, and depending on the exact nature of the first time asking a second time might have been uncalled for and rude, but the wording "unnecessary concern" keeps coming back in my mind.

I can only think of two ways to interpret that.

The first is that the problem, which is obviously very serious for Bella, isn't worthy of concern.  Given how big of a deal it seems to be for her, I don't see a way to look at it that way without also seeing Bella as unworthy of concern.  That says some very not-good things about Bella's self worth (which fits well with my conception of the character as being depressed.)

The other is more or less the opposite.  Bella is so far above Mike that his concerns are unnecessary because he could never hope to help with anything that's causing troubles for her.  She'll take care of it herself and he need not take notice.  But I'm not sure I can really see that as clearly.

When is concern about a very real and severe problem unnecessary?

Ana Mardoll said...

Good points! Maybe, as a third option, it's a proprietary issue? Bella is not Mike's girlfriend (despite him wishing it were so), and never will be, so it is not his place to express concern over her? That ties into your superiority theory, perhaps...?

chris the cynic said...

I definitely hadn't thought of that.  If one views people as inherently insular with compassion only extended to those with whom one has a special relationship I can see how one might see concern for those outside of such a relationship as out of place, inappropriate,  and unnecessary.

It sort of throws me that Bella doesn't seem to care for the company she keeps, so I find myself thinking from a starting points like, "They're having lunch together by choice, of course it's appropriate for them to show concern for each other," which may be the entirely wrong perspective to be having when evaluating the text.

If the reason that it's not his place is simply that she's not his girlfriend then then it would be completely distinct from what I said about superiority, if the reason it isn't his place is that he isn't good enough (either in general, or specifically not good enough to be her boyfriend) then it would tie in pretty well.


Though overall I still tend towards being on the "She's suffering from depression" team.

Redwood Rhiadra said...

No, loyalty is a *Hufflepuff* trait, not Gryffindor.

Gryffindor: Brave, heroic, considered reckless by other houses
Slytherin: Cunning, ambitious, considered evil by other houses
Ravenclaw: Intelligent, studious, considered unwordly by other houses
Hufflepuff: Hard-working, loyal, considered stupid by other houses ("duffers", to quote Hagrid)

With Slytherin in particular, the most well-known members (of Harry's age) don't actually seem to fit the qualities all that well. Draco is ambitious, but is far more reckless than cunning. Goyle and Crabbe are neither - they might actually fit the 'Puffs description better (hard-working, if only as thugs, and loyal to Draco).

Honestly, the Hat seems to end up sorting more often by family lines than by actual personality traits, at least for non-Muggleborns.

Ana Mardoll said...

Somewhere I read a fan theory that the four "main students" (debatable, with the rise of Luna and Neville and others, but...) were "originally" meant to represent the best of each house: i.e., Harry would be Gryffindor, Hermione would be Ravenclaw, Ron would be Hufflepuff, and Draco would be Slytherin.

I liked this idea -- in addition to the symmetry it seems to entail it also removes the unfortunate implication that when there's a-savin' to be done, the school has to count on one or more Gryffindors (Harry, Hermione, Ron, Ginny, Neville, etc.) to save the day. I'm a little sad that this fan theory wasn't used in the novels -- I think I would have liked that framing a lot.

Redwood Rhiadra said...

If Rowling *had* put Hermione into Ravenclaw and Ron into Hufflepuff, it would also have made the four houses a lot more equal, instead of Gryffindor and Slytherin being on top and the other two being also-rans. Which also would be good.

Although of the main Gryffs, I think Neville would be a *much* better 'Puff than Ron.

Although one fan-sorting I particularly enjoyed had Harry placed in Slytherin (almost canonical, after all), Hermione in Ravenclaw, and then the Hat put both Draco and Ron in Hufflepuff - just to hear them scream...

Amarie said...

Hmmm...everyone here keeps talking about the "Let Behind" book(s). I think I have some research to do, soon. Hehe.
And, Ana...about Bella possibly being a Gryffindor because she's loyal to Edward? Honestly, I feel that Bella isn't so much loyal to Edward as she is DEPENDENT on Edward...for everything. To me, when loyalty comes from someone that already has a sense of identity, plan for life, self-esteem, etc...then it means something. It means that this INDIVIDUAL has been standing up on their own all their lives; they have no true dependency on the person they are loyal to. Therefore, they could easily turn away from that person, betray them, etc. But, the fact that they don't MEANS something; they care about that PERSON...not what the person gives them (fabricated, or otherwise). Ron and Hermione are loyal to Harry not because he’s simply ‘The Boy Who Lived’ but because he’s actually a darn good friend, even with his flaws.
This is one of the problems that I have with Bella’s ‘love’ for Edward. Just as you foreshadowed in New Moon…Bella’s entire IDENTITY is dependent on Edward. Now, is the loss of a true love tragic in real life? Of course; you just might be catatonic for a little while. You might become depressed, and not talk to anyone for a month, or two. Heck, you might even consider jumping off a cliff…
But after a while, you take a deep breath, you pick yourself up, and you walk again. You carry on because life carries on. Bella never does this. At all. All throughout New Moon, she continues to chase after Edward. Loyalty is a two way street; why did Bella never think to herself that HE wasn’t loyal to HER when he left her? Why did she continue to pine for someone who abandoned her in such a cold way? In my opinion, true loyalty isn’t blind; that person that you’re loyal to consistently EARNS that loyalty. And Edward’s actions don’t constitute such a gift.
Therefore, I see Bella as woefully dependent; not loyal.

Will Wildman said...

One thing I think gets skipped over on occasion is that the Hat doesn't put people in a house according the traits that they most prominently display, but the ones they personally value the most.  If not for the sudden eruption of the War On Magic Terror, Neville could easily have gone through school and perhaps life without displaying any remarkable courage (setting aside Dumbledore's point at the end of the first book).  Hermione is clearly devoted to the book-intensive Ravenclaw Way Of Life, but quite firmly believes that courage is more important.  Harry seems to think it's odd that the Sorting Hat put him in the house that he asked for, but to my reading, it just allowed him to see its standard operating procedure at work as a lesson/morale boost.

So it seems safe to say that Bella would end up in the house that exemplifies her favoured virtues, not the other way around.  And given that Bella rather sneers at both honed intellect and intense effort, that's Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff* off the table.  At this point, it's not entirely clear to me whether she values courage or cunning more - on the one hand, she seems resolved to 'solve' her problems with Edward without telling anyone else that she's been given reason to fear for her safety, which is the kind of 'brave to the point of foolish' quality that the Gryffindor lion rolls in like catnip.  On the other hand, she functions on a day-to-day basis by carefully controlling (where possible) her presentation and exact modulation of communication with other people, and seems to view them mostly as props, which is the kind of 'pragmatic to the point of sociopathic' quality that Slytherin falls into.

*I have a rant when people complain that Hufflepuff is the 'all the rest' house or that it doesn't have meaningful virtues.  (If rubber stamps worked on the internet, I would carve the whole thing into one big plate and the sound of stamping would fill the night through every forum where people slight Hufflepuff for its supposed weakness until my name vanished into antiquity and I was known only as the Mad Stamper of the Valley.  So it's just as well that stamps don't work on the internet.  I could copy and paste, but it doesn't make that vitally important THWOP sound.)  Helga Hufflepuff filled her house with the students who honestly believe that it doesn't matter what kind of advantages you're born with: you can only earn respect through diligent application of yourself to the problem.  Granny Weatherwax would have been a Hufflepuff.  Hufflepuff is hardcore.

Gelliebean said...

"Granny Weatherwax would have been a Hufflepuff." 

May I just say that in my opinion, you have won The Internets?

Brin Bellway said...

Hmmm...everyone here keeps talking about the "Let Behind" book(s). I think I have some research to do, soon. Hehe.

That's because a lot of us first met because of a shared liking of Fred Clark's Left Behind deconstructions. (The link gives the posts in reverse chronological order, so you'll need to click "Older" for a while to get to the beginning.)

Amarie said...

Oh, wow! Thank you!
I actually found Ana while looking for Twilight analysis/crtique that wasn't littered with a million curse words, etc...
Glad that I found her! :D

chris the cynic said...

I find that the index at Right Behind is useful for sorting through Fred's posts on Left Behind.

Unfortunately it comes with some caveats.  It hasn't been updated in almost a year (meaning that it is almost 150 pages out of date) it wasn't entirely complete even when it was up to date, and when the posts are finally removed from the old place the links will all end up dead.  But until that happens I find it a quite useful aid to navigation.

Ana Mardoll said...

I'm so very glad you found the deconstruction - I hope you stick around!!

And, yes, you simply must read Fred Clark's Left Behind deconstruction - it's a thing of beauty, in my opinion. :)

Silver Adept said...

Ah, I forgot to weigh in on Isabella's Sorting Hat experience.

Her recklessness and single-mindedness suits her best for a single house, in addition to her nominal book-smarts and her ambition. She just doesn't follow what the supposed first love of that house is.

Bella is clearly a Ravenclaw. But her myopia is not for books, but for Edward (and then Jacob, when Edward is unavailable). The single-minded focus and the bearing of all her faculties to solve the problem of Edward is pretty much the thing that Ravenclaws are known for being.

She doesn't have the willingness to draw in follwers and manipulate them (Slytherin), the ability to lead, even when totally confused and unsure (Gryffindor), and she's not the kind of person who's okay with doing solid support work and letting others take both glory and heat (Hufflepuff). She wants to be the smart person that's admired at a distance, and to be able to avoid having to do anything other than what she wants to do. She's definitely a Ravenclaw.

Kit Whitfield said...

She doesn't have the willingness to draw in follwers and manipulate them 

I dunno; the Cullens and the Blacks all end up pretty much focusing their lives around her. She doesn't take active authority, but she functions as a kind of Queen Bee who everyone wants to please. That's a distinctively female kind of authority, but I'd say that 'followers' is, in functional terms, what most of her friends and family become. 

Ana Mardoll said...

Hmm. Does the fact that Bella charms people naturally (Edward, the Cullen clan, Mike, Eric, Jacob, Jessica, too many to list) make her a sort of natural Slytherin? (Dare we say, "The Heir of..."?)

Will Wildman said...

Oh sweet Vishnu, I did not need my brain to suddenly be filled with atrocious entendres involving Bella seeking to command a mighty immortal under-serpent that has slept for many decades.  Thanks for that.  Yeah.

But yes, Bella defaults to Slytherin behaviour most of the time, as I read it.  The one thing that I still question is the way she apparently goes into a total shutdown and months pass meaninglessly without Edward around; that doesn't seem a Slytherinny sort of breakdown in any way.  I'm not sure which house would be most vulnerable to that - perhaps Gryffindors with no one to fight for?

Ana Mardoll said...

I almost choked on my soda, that was lovely, thank you. :P

Now I'm pondering what the "standard" breakdown would be for each house. Which one would be most inclined to the classic Rage-Quit-Flounce? 

Orion Anderson said...

It seems to me that the Potterverse is a very gendered world.  Male members of Slytherin might be spending their time looking for lost magic and secret rooms, starting secret societies and assassinating rivals, but we don't really see the Slytherin women doing anything like that.  I think that in the Potterverse, "ambition" among women mostly means a strong desire to marry up and raise privileged children, which is exactly what Bella wants and gets.  I vote Slytherin.  

Amarie said...

Well, of course I'll stick around, Ana! I love you guys! :D
And this deconstruction is certainly fascinating. :O
By the way! I managed to find comics of ElfQuest online; you got me hooked on them! :D

Ana Mardoll said...

Ah, come for the Twilight and get hooked on the ElfQuest - not a bad switch there!! ;)

Amaryllis said...

"Granny Weatherwax would have been a Hufflepuff."

Perfect. Of course she would.

Orion Anderson  Male members of Slytherin might be spending their time looking for lost
magic and secret rooms, starting secret societies and assassinating
rivals, but we don't really see the Slytherin women doing anything like

Well, if we count grown-up Slytherins, may I mention Bellatrix Lestrange?

I do agree that the female Slytherin students seem to take a back seat, but I submit that that's one of the things we're meant to find questionable about Slytherin House (in almost its first introduction, we're told that there are no girls on its Quidditch team). I don't think it's "the Potterverse" in general that's so strongly gendered-- although, as was discussed on the Percy Jackson/.SmartGirl thread, writing non-stereotyped gender is hard, and there's room to quibble about some aspects of Rowling's implementation.

But naturally a political movement founded on notions of bloodline purity, is going to be rather constraining as to what's a suitable ambition for a young woman, at least until she's safely married to a suitable mate and has produced the suitable children. It's part of the corruption of Slytherin House into a training ground for the Death Eaters that its boys are more important than its girls.

Ana Mardoll : Now I'm pondering what the "standard" breakdown would be for each house.
Which one would be most inclined to the classic Rage-Quit-Flounce?

Snape seems rather prone to that sort of thing, doesn't he? I vote Slytherin, the water element, flouncing off and flouncing back, like the tides.
(Yet be be they never so rampant and hollerant,
The Ocean is tolerant.
Except a couple of times a day it gives up in disgust and goes off by itself and hides,
And that, my dears, accounts for the tides.

-Ogden Nash)

Gryffindor, the fire element, goes off like fireworks. And maybe it ends in harmless sparks, and maybe it ends in scorched earth and relationships burnt to ashes.

Hufflepuff, the earth element, holds grudges. Although they'll apologize if proven to have misjudged, until then  they'll make you feel that weight of  cold anger at every turn.

Ravenclaw will just make sure that every knows they're above these trivial, petty earthbound concerns.:"What fools these mortals be," spoken in a chilly, airy tone.

Ana Mardoll said...

A thornier issue may be whether or not Hermione's "book learning" and Luna's friendliness fit with the traditional "passive female, active male" narrative.

It's also worth noting that Hermione's and Luna's efforts unfortunately seem to end up being more... supportive of Harry than actively useful on their own? I'm definitely coming off of Movie Knowledge here, but it seems that Hermione's research into the basilisk doesn't keep her from getting comafied, and I believe she abdicates leadership of DA to Harry pretty early in the process? (SPEW is, I think, a black mark on her record as it seems intended to portray her as over-zealous to the point of ignoring the desires of the people she wants to help. Or So I've Heard.)

So it may be less that Women Are In The Kitchen and more that Women Just Get To Help A Little.

Incidentally, I was sorry to see that in the latest movie, in an attempt to butch Ron up a bit, Hermione had to be diminished an awful lot in order for Ron to be strong and smart and sponge-worthy in her eyes all of the sudden. :(

Loquat said...

Do we even get to know any Slytherins besides Malfoy and his two goons? I can't really think of any. 

If we assume ambition and self-centeredness are primary Slytherin traits, I could easily see the rage-quit flounce being a Slytherin thing - "What do you mean, you DON'T think I'm the greatest thing since sliced bread? I'll just deprive you of my amazing presence, then you'll see how important I was!"

Ana Mardoll said...

Well, if we count grown-up Slytherins, may I mention Bellatrix Lestrange?

I've always wondered if some of the fan frustration at the "Not my daughter" issue isn't so much that Molly is "just" a housewife but rather that Bellatrix is one of the few really vibrant, active female characters in the 'verse (again, in the movies anyway, maybe the books have Tonks kicking butt and taking names all over the place but...) and for her to get blown away by a character that has been implied to have not much in the way of combat/duel training is something of a Worf Effect in a way.

I mean, sure, Bellatrix is EVIL but it's hard not to like her at least a little for showing that the girls can be just as active onscreen as the boys. By all rights she should be a total support character -- loves the bad guy, etc. etc. -- but on screen she steals the show in pretty much every scene she's in. Voldemort's scenes are tame compared to hers; when Bellatrix is on-screen stuff starts getting real. :p

Ana Mardoll said...

Gryffindor, the fire element, goes off like fireworks. And maybe it ends
in harmless sparks, and maybe it ends in scorched earth and
relationships burnt to ashes.

Seems to fit Hermione's Angry Birds spell, no? :D

Will Wildman said...

Warning: I was expecting to type up a few short thoughts and apparently I ended up with a gigantic post instead.  I hold a greater number of strong opinions on these subjects than I realised.  Teal deer: grr, Harry Potter books, your flaws are sometimes justifiable and yet so often came within handspans of instead being really awesome, grr.


maybe the books have Tonks kicking butt and taking names all over the place

Sadly, no - she gets to appear awesome when we meet her in book 5, and the fandom rejoiced with the addition of a young adult female Auror with unique powers, but then she spends book 6 pining after unrequited love (though she's indicated to be taking part in fighting that we never really see) and then book 7 is basically the same as the movies (pregnant, then dead).

I always got the opposite effect with the Molly/Bellatrix duel - far from cutting Bellatrix down (she's very clearly the deadliest lieutenant Voldemort ever had) it's the last of the long crescendo indicating that Molly Weasley is, in fact, ridiculously powerful and just happens to like being a housewife.  (She keeps an entire houseful of spells going pretty much nonstop and is implied to have built the Weasley clock that keeps track of the status of her immediate family members at all times, and then on occasion Death Eaters go too far and she has to crush them, crush them to pieces and grind the pieces to dust and then burn the dust down and then possibly prepare a nice soothing broth.  Broths are trickier than people think.)


I'm definitely coming off of Movie Knowledge here, but it seems that
Hermione's research into the basilisk doesn't keep her from getting
comafied, and I believe she abdicates leadership of DA to Harry pretty
early in the process?

Hermione does effectively abdicate 'leadership' of the DA to Harry quickly, but that's because he's the one with the knowledge and experience that everyone wants; meanwhile she's still in charge of organising meetings and controlling security (with a morally questionable zeal).  The basilisk thing is more or less a straight-up Smart Girl thing (knows enough to arm the hero but not enough to become the hero) but is also about the larger sequencing of the books: in book 1, through the climax, the trio works together to the end; in book 2, Hermione is injured and sits it out; in book 3, Ron is injured and sits it out; in book 4, Harry is alone and everything gets worse than ever.

All of which is to say, 'Yes, Hermione is definitely a Support Character, but just about everyone else is too, because the story is always intensely about Harry'.  Really, the only major victories that get shared anything like evenly are the various Horcrux-shankings (though: yeah, ick, Hermione is basically 'granted' her turn instead of stepping up like Ron or Neville).

SPEW is obviously flawed, in that grand arrogant way that teenager-designed solutions usually are, but given that Rowling stated that Hermione's career post-books was to greatly improve magical-creature-rights under the law, she's moving in an authorially-approved direction; I don't think we're meant to take the very concept of 'free the elves' as daft.

I'm far less irritated about the overall treatment of Hermione than I am about Ginny - particularly since Rowling was queried about her and made vague indications that she would really shine in book 7, and that turned out to mean "She will be around when the final battle happens".  I remember more about Trelawney's contribution (skulling Greyback and other with ballistic crystal balls) than I do Ginny.  The movies were on track to do better with this (slightly more Ginny presence than in the books, and in a more assertive role) but then may have actually featured her less through the climax.


On a bizarre but wonderfully related note, I would dearly like to read a fic titled "Bellatrix Swan and the Vampires of Forks".

Emmy said...

I think we have to give the Slytherins a pass on the women-as-baby-machines thing. Narcissa Malfoy only had one kid, and the other purebloods we know of seem to have had one (the Potters), two (Sirius and Regulus), or three (the Black sisters)--compare that with the Weasleys, who managed seven! I'm not saying that the Potterverse is devoid of gender issues (after all, the four key players in the war are all men), but I don't think this is one. :)

I am going to have to put a vote in for Ravenclaw for Bella. She's not very hard working and doesn't play fair; she's not brave or loyal or active; and she's not very cunning. But apparently she has Read All Those Books and Done Those Labs. 

Orion Anderson said...

I chose my example of founding clubs and looking for secrets fairly specifically to preclude Bellatrix from functioning as a counter-example.  Bellatrix fights and tortures people, but she never goes out and invents or discovers or organizes much of anything, and I really do think that's an important distinction.   Let me give a few more example of what I think Slytherin house would consider "masculine ambition."

Voldemort: Founds the Death Eaters, opens the Chamber of Secrets, creates horcruxes.
Snape: Invents Sectumsempra and other spells
Lucius: Wields influence in the Ministry
Draco: Repairs the Vanishing Cabinets? (he's not very ambitious really)
Hermione: Creates the DA coins, starts SPEW, etc etc.
Marauders: Become Animagi, create the map.
Harry: $Protagonist$
Dumbledore: $Mentor$
Luna: Befriending the ghosts?
Molly: The clock?

Yes, there are some women who create or discover things, but to the best of my knowledge none of those women are Slytherin.  Although Bellatrix is FIERCE, I think she's fundamentally the same as Narcissa.  Both of them attached themselves to Slytherin men and devoted themselves entirely to being their support systems.  Given that the self-motivated slytherin characters are all male, we don't hear about any past female dark lords, and none of the female authority figures are known to be Slytherin, I have to assume that Slytherin house trains men to rule the world and women to assist them.  

Amaryllis said...

@google-dad616cb686291a27b9ecacacb936e60:disqus : I know, I was agreeing with you about Slytherin House. I just assumed that its "men rule, women help" culture was meant to be taken as a sign of its fundamental unsoundness, just as unsound as "purebloods rule." (And what Dumbledore was thinking of, to let it get so corrupted...I suppose you could make some analogies here about Dumbledore as a "God-the-Father" figure, and free will, and letting people, even children, choose allegiances for themselves...but that's another tangent entirely.)

Your original comment referred to "the Potterverse." Is it your contention that the virtues and vices of the other houses express themselves in similarly gendered fashion? We just had, or are having,  that debate about Gryffindor courage. Do you feel that it's true about the other two houses?

I think Rowling meant to present the magical world as generally egalitarian regarding gender; we're told, for instance, that there have been women Heads of Hogwarts and Ministers of Magic and such. Whether she succeeds entirely, again, is a little debatable.

@anamardoll:disqus  I have to agree with you about movie!Bellatrix, anyway: Helena Bonham Carter was amazing as Bellatrix. (And very funny as Hermione-playing-Bellatrix.)

@55230220304cae6fb842dea8e5e1274d:disqus And I just saw your lovely teal deer, just before clicking Post, just in time to go to work, out of time to respond.

But on a quick skim, I think I agree with everything  you say. :)

Will Wildman said...

That is a really intriguing analysis and I wish I could get into it more, but I'm so far over in camp #1 that I'm not sure what to do.  Molly taking down Bellatrix didn't in any way strike me as a 'twist'; it seemed like a very natural conclusion to her character arc.  So it's hard to make myself go back and try to see it as a twist and then engage from there.

We don't actually know what Molly's been doing off-screen/page, any more than we get to hear about the secret missions that Kingsley or Tonks or Moody get up to.  Which is again both justifiable (focused Harrycentric POV) and rather a weakness.  My refrain here seems to be "Oh, books, I realise that's justified, but couldn't you have tried a little harder and justified something even better?"

(With Dumbledore, I definitely got the in-text impression that he had a thing for Grindelwald, though I was still slightly surprised when Rowling made her announcement.)

I had various problems with the climactic sequences of the final movie (the part between Neville's epic resistance speech and Voldemort's death) but perhaps the part that grates on me the most is the thrown-in bit where Neville says he wants to find Luna to tell her he's 'mad about her' in case they're about to die.  I realise he deuterocanonically marries Hannah later, but in my Potterverse he's gay, dagnabbit.

Ana Mardoll said...

This is where coming only from the movies is such a handicap - we saw the movie last week, and we all came away thinking Neville and Luna hook up at the end: there's a cute "shy" scene where they sit together at the end of the battle. I assumed it was another "and they all married their childhood sweethearts" plug...

Orion Anderson said...

There's nothing between Neville and Luna in the books, as far as I know.  It was a really popular fanfic pairing.  After book 7 came out, people kept asking Rowling if Neville and Luna would get together and she answered "no never" three or four times before finally saying "okay, you guys win."  

Amaryllis said...

Well, Molly's husband and sons seem to have a healthy respect for her abilities-- the most effective threat Hermione can make to keep Fred and George in line is "I'll write to your mother" -- but I suppose that doesn't exactly count!

Molly is a member of the OotP, but we don't see her on any of their missions; but then, we don't see any of those missions that don't involve Harry. We do see her directing the "disinfecting" of Grimmald Place's accumulated dark magic: cleaning? or combat?  (Harry himself refers to it as "making war on the house, and the house was fighting back.")  Then there's the famous scene where she has trouble with a boggart: insufficient combat strength? or understandable combat fatigue? (She appears to think it quite probable that she might die during the course of her activities for the order; doens't that mean she's doing something dangerous?)

 I find that, like Will, I've been in Team 2 all along. so that the "twist" didn't strike me as a twist either.

There was a lot I liked about the movie, but I too had problems with that final battle scene. Seemed to me to remove a lot of what made the scene, in the book, the proper conclusion of the themes of the entire seven-book work.

Bificommander said...

Sorry that I can't join in on the current discussion (I haven't read the Potter books, and only saw a few movies), but that first quote in the Twilight post bothers me.

I sipped my soda slowly, my stomach churning. Twice Mike asked,
with unnecessary concern, how I was feeling. I told him it was
nothing, but I was wondering if I should play it up and escape to the
nurse’s office for the next hour.

Why was Mike's concern unneccesary? She's worried a classmate might kill her and is becomming physically ill because of it. She condems the concern, and in the same sentence wonders if she should cheat her way to get away. I know we've already had a ton of evidence of Bella dismissing her classmates for no good reason, but I think this is a pretty bad example.

So, based on just this and the posts about the houses, let me cast my vote for Slytheri. She may not have much ambition, but she seems to only care about people as far as they are able to get her something she wants. 

Will Wildman said...

I puzzled for ages over the "unnecessary concern" bit as well, and the only interpretation that in any way makes sense to me is (as others have noted) that Bella thinks Mike is overstepping his boundaries by presuming to think that he's allowed to show concern.  It's "unnecessary" not because there's no reason for anyone to be concerned (Bella is feeling ill and suffering impaired decision-making abilities out of fear for her safety), but because concern from Mike will always be unnecessary, because he is Mike and that is unforgiveable and also have you noticed how he is always trying to help, that [REDACTED].
Then there's the famous scene where she has trouble with a boggart: insufficient combat strength? or understandable combat fatigue?

Well, given that Molly already had a large swath of her immediate family put through the Potterverse Character Mulcher in the last war, she's got a lot of reason to fear that the same will happen again when the PCM gets running for the last few books.  Most of the other Boggart forms we see are based off phobias or a certain, shall we say, limited perspective (Ron's giant spiders, Lupin and the moon even though medical advances keep it safe, or Hermione being told that she failed every exam).  Molly's is immediate, mundane, probable, and precedented.

At this point I become skeptical that it really turns into 'what you fear most'.  Does Ron really fear spiders more than the deaths of his entire family?  But spiders are probable and mass family death is not (at least back then).  So either the Boggart insists on becoming something that you think really could pose a threat, and/or it just grabs the foremost fear in your mind, regardless of whether something else, deep-down, would really scare you more.  Maybe the best preparation against a Boggart is to not know what you fear most.

Ana Mardoll said...

So either the Boggart insists on becoming something that you think
really could pose a threat, and/or it just grabs the foremost fear in
your mind, regardless of whether something else, deep-down, would really
scare you more.

This makes sense to me. Exhibit A being (IIRC) Neville fearing Prof. Snape instead of, say, Bellatrix Lestrange. Bellatrix is "safely" locked up in Azkaban; Snape is wandering the halls giving out demerits.

chris the cynic said...

I'm sort of on the fence between two theories brought up two days ago, though they are by no means mutually exclusive.

One is that she sees herself as undeserving of concern as what I've seen so far tends to make me think she's dealing with depression.

The other is that she doesn't think it is Mike's place.  He is overstepping his bounds.

They can actually go together pretty well because there is nothing about believing yourself unworthy that necessarily stops you from thinking other people are wrong.  Bella seems to use her whatever-the-opposite-of-rose-is colored glasses on every human being.

Brin Bellway said...

whatever-the-opposite-of-rose-is colored glasses

Jade, I believe.

Ana Mardoll said...

They can
actually go together pretty well because there is nothing about
believing yourself unworthy that necessarily stops you from thinking
other people are wrong.  Bella seems to use her
whatever-the-opposite-of-rose-is colored glasses on every human being.

I think Groucho Marx said he wouldn't want to belong to any club that would have him as a member. That would seem to be in the same spirit -- "I'm unworthy and if you think otherwise, then there is something wrong with you."

Gelliebean said...

Re. "Unnecessary concern":

This might be a little convoluted, so bear with me.  If we (1) assume that Bella's narration is reliable so far as her own thoughts and perceptions are concerned, and (2) also assume that her perception is not necessarily an accurate reflection of the actual situation or of the people around her, then we can conjecture that she believes (3) her only outward sign of distress is "sipping my soda slowly" and (4) Mike is therefore overreacting, and overplaying his concern in an attempt to seem caring.  Because we already know that Bella puts very little stock in people being generally nice for the sake of being nice, and that she sees Mike as excessively interested in her for ulterior motives.

On the other hand, working from assumption 2 that Bella isn't exactly a reliable narrator when it comes to recognizing reality as it stands (which makes the whole series suddenly more palatable, IMO), it seems pretty safe to me that we can say she was probably grimacing, hunching over, holding her stomach occasionally or making other small outward physical indications of ailment besides just the speed with which she consumed her beverage.  Of course, she sees herself as such a stoic, long-suffering noble figure that she probably wouldn't even realize she was doing these things, and Mike asking not just once, but twice, whether Bella was okay would threaten her carefully constructed self-image.

Ana Mardoll said...

Wow, that may be the secret decoder ring right there, Gellie -- Mike's concern is "unnecessary" because Bella JUST SAID that all she did was sip her soda a little slowly and GEEZ GUYS GIVE ME A BREAK.

We're assuming that she is giving off more signals than just casually slurping her beverage, because that's how humans work, but she doesn't see it. I wonder if S. Meyer doesn't see it either (i.e., Bella is an inhuman character who doesn't show any sign of stress because SHE JUST SAID SHE DIDN'T) or if we're meant to take her as unreliable.

The problem with the latter is that if she's meant to be seen as unreliable, then the implication is that we're also meant to dislike her for her snide dismissal of Mike's concern. o.O

Bificommander said...

Hear hear, it really is Left Behind all over again. We read along with our protagonist's narration and can't figure out if we're looking at unreliable narrators or not. Or rather, we wonder if we're looking at intentional unreliable narrators, since what the protagonist say and what they do often doesn't match up. But we're wondering if the author didn't realize that Buck/Bella isn't being awesome/nice.

Kit Whitfield said...

Here's a thought. The topic keeps coming back to the question of whether Bella's a reliable narrator - but I believe we hear narrative from other characters in later books? If so, do they seem reliable? Do they have different voices and attitudes from Bella? And when they describe Bella, do their accounts of her tally with her self-descriptions?

Caretaker of Cats said...

My primary exposure to these books has been through your deconstructions and, but Bella seems repeatedly unaware of her expressions and bodily functions until encountering them through some sort of secondary stimulus, such as feeling tears fall on another body part, instead of directly noting that she's crying.  I find it plausible that she's exhibiting more signs of distress than mentioned, since she wouldn't notice she was hunched over until she hit the table or  stuck herself in the eye with the soda straw.

Ana Mardoll said...

stuck herself in the eye with the soda straw.

*snerk* I would pay good money for a new Twilight edition that has that addition. :P

Anna said...

"I'm definitely coming off of Movie Knowledge here, but it seems that
Hermione's research into the basilisk doesn't keep her from getting

True, but it does keep her from getting killed (which is a lot less reversible than a coma).

Interestingly, the male basilisk-victims in book 2 avoid death only by sheer luck - Colin happens to see the basilisk through his camera; Justin happens to see it through Nearly-Headless Nick. In contrast, the female characters avoid death thanks to Hermione's research: she figures out what's going on and instantly warns the first person she meets (Penelope Clearwater) to look round corners using a mirror. It just so happens that there is an approaching basilisk round the corner, and bam: Hermione saves their lives. This is therefore one situation that I wouldn't accuse of falling prey to the "passive female, active male" trap.

Will Wildman said...

Male members of Slytherin might be spending their time looking for lost
magic and secret rooms, starting secret societies and assassinating
rivals, but we don't really see the Slytherin women doing anything like

We don't see much of anything beyond what Harry is personally aware of.  For that matter, when it comes to finding lost magic, my first thoughts leap to Hermione inevitably knowing almost everything about everything, and Luna readily befriending wise and/or powerful spirits and beasts; when it comes to secret societies, again I think of Hermione founding Dumbledore's Army (and, to a drastically lesser extent, SPEW).  Someone like Goyle is hypothetically 'ambitious', but in my interpretation of the books (as posted previously), what that really means is that he believes [read: has had it ingrained] that ambition is the bestest thing ever.

There totally are gender issues in Harry Potter, but I'm not sure this is one of them.

Antigone10 said...

Question: Where would the Sorting Hat place Bella? Discuss. Answers of "Sparklypoo" will not be counted?

But Sparklypoo is the most likely one.  The major traits of the four houses of Hogwarts are: courage, intelligence, ambition, and kindness (Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Slytherin, and Hufflepuff, respectively).  I guess she could go into Ravenclaw, as it is shown that she is pretty good at school and apparently can coordinate a household pretty well, but that's mostly elimination.  She isn't terribly brave, she doesn't seem to have any ambition to do anything, she is quite catty and manipulative so that's the rest of them.

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