Twilight Recap: After being nearly smashed to a pulp by an out-of-control van and subsequently rescued by a faster-than-should-be-possible Edward, Bella lies on the cold ground and argues with Edward about whether or not he had been right next to her moments before.
Twilight, Chapter 3: Phenomenon
"Trust me," he pleaded, his soft voice overwhelming.
I could hear the sirens now. "Will you promise to explain everything to me later?"
"Fine," he snapped, abruptly exasperated.
"Fine," I repeated angrily.
Last week, I complained that while I understand and even like the characterization that Bella is holding on for dear life to her absolute certainty that Edward was on the other side of the parking lot, I do not like that this detail is relayed in the most petty manner possible: by making Bella seem like an immature child. Of course, some of this may be chalked up to the head injury Bella has sustained -- it's probably hard to be graceful when one is battling a concussion -- but let's stay with Bella and see where we go today.
It took six EMTs and two teachers -- Mr. Varner and Coach Clapp -- to shift the van far enough away from us to bring the stretchers in. Edward vehemently refused his, and I tried to do the same, but the traitor told them I'd hit my head and probably had a concussion. I almost died of humiliation when they put on the neck brace. It looked like the entire school was there, watching soberly as they loaded me in the back of the ambulance. Edward got to ride in the front. It was maddening.
To make matters worse, Chief Swan arrived before they could get me safely away.
"Bella!" he yelled in panic when he recognized me on the stretcher.
"I'm completely fine, Char -- Dad," I sighed. "There's nothing wrong with me."
These sorts of passages in Twilight really give me a moment of pause: should I consider Bella from the singular perspective of Realistic Person or do I consider her from the cumulative perspective of Women In Literature as they are often portrayed in the general?
In the specific, Bella is a relatively realistic character. Yes, it's silly and immature of her to consider the person who just saved her life a "traitor" for accurately pointing out to the medics that she's sustained a potentially serious head injury. Yes, it shows an extreme lack of perspective and a worrying tendency towards superficiality when she cares more about the "humiliation" of wearing an ugly neck brace in front of the school rather than being allowed to attractively snap her spine into two jaunty pieces. Yes, it seems cruel of her to care less about her father's genuine worry for her than to, again, dwell on the embarrassment of a police escort to the hospital.
However, while none of these things are wonderful characteristic traits to aspire to, they are realistic ones. It's not impossible to imagine ourselves in a similar situation: nothing is wrong with us, yes we're sure, please would everyone stop making a big fuss. It's not unlikely that someone in Bella's situation would just prefer for everything to go back to normal and can we stop talking about the Parking Lot Incident now, thankyouverymuch. Very few of us are perfectly gracious in every thought, word, and deed, so I should just be pleased that here we have a realistically flawed book heroine for us to enjoy, right? And... in some ways, I am -- it's nice that in Bella we have a character that shows that girls don't have to be perfect in order to be worthwhile.
But. In the general, Bella frustrates me because her "realistic" characterization meshes so nicely with a lot of trends in female fiction characters that I find generally quite toxic. She's the childish heroine, caring more about her own (faulty) self-diagnosis and her vanity than her own safety -- and it falls on the big, strong menfolk to take care of her over her objections. She's the pouting damsel, sticking out her mental tongue at the sexy, smirking "traitor" to whose charms she will eventually succumb. She's the weary child-mother who has to reassure her overprotective dad that, no really, everything is fine, please don't worry about me. And so on.
I want to make perfectly clear that these aren't bad things for a reader to like: as sexy escapist literature, this is all well and good, and I fully support buying it, reading it, enjoying it, and recommending it. But at the same time, I wouldn't think it healthy for someone to consider "sexy escapist literature" as the perfect blueprint for the perfect life, and it's there where I have a bit of a problem with the author of this series. Essentially, we're missing the "Don't Try This At Home" warning label on the front.
Then, too, from my own personal perspective, I'm a little tired of women in literature being child-women whose day-to-day wishes should-and-are overridden by the men around them because the child-woman is unable to properly care for herself. It's not that the characterization is bad, but rather that the glut of this characterization is bad. So I come back to: Bella is not a bad or unrealistic character, but she is a character that has been done so many times before that a part of me considers the repetition of this theme to be essentially damaging.
I think this is the source of my disconnect where I can say, "No, really, I can see why people can and do like Twilight and that's perfectly fine," and "Rawr, this series has serious problems with gender, relationships, communication, parenting, and race and these things deserve to be discussed in a serious forum without shaming the author and fans". If Twilight were the only book on the market with these problems, I'm not sure we'd even notice the problems so much as we'd see a lot of individuals whose personalities and issues and behaviors should not be construed as ideal. It's the trends that are a problem, I think, and not any one individual book.
Huh. Look at all those paragraphs. I guess the site is called "Ana Mardoll's Ramblings" for a reason, because that one got away from me a bit there. Welp, moving on.
When they'd lifted me away from the car, I had seen the deep dent in the tan car's bumper -- a very distinct dent that fit the contours of Edward's shoulders . . . as if he had braced himself against the car with enough force to damage the metal frame. . . .
And then there was his family, looking on from the distance, with expressions that ranged from disapproval to fury but held no hint of concern for their brother's safety.
And now I'd like to reiterate my latest conviction that books like this should not be told from a single character's perspective. When I was younger, I didn't like it when perspectives changed around on me, and I still don't if it's done to artificially heighten the suspense (such as when an author yanks you away from something exciting to stick you in a boring character for awhile, ack!) but when shifting perspectives are done well, they add so much depth to a piece.
For instance, I'm terribly sad that we don't get to see the family counsel that will take place in the Cullen household this afternoon. (This would, of course, drop the fact that The Cullens Are Vampires, but was that ever in doubt, even for the first readers of the book? I can't honestly begin to guess.) I kind of imagine that Rosalie would be in favor of quietly "disappearing" Bella -- it wouldn't be hard to make it look like an accident, she would argue, look how clumsy she is -- while Alice tensely meditated and announced that the future was unclear. Esme would quietly fret and suggest that they just move now, but eventually everyone would decide that Jasper should be Bella's new best friend over the next few weeks until he can successfully convince her that the whole episode was a product of her concussed and confused brain.
And, of course, the money in the FOOD MONEY jar would see a mysterious jump. Am I the only one who thinks the best scenes in Twilight are the ones we don't get to see, or is it just because I find the Cullens as a concept so much more fascinating than the love story here?
Naturally, the ambulance got a police escort to the county hospital. I felt ridiculous the whole time they were unloading me. What made it worse was that Edward simply glided through the hospital doors under his own power. I ground my teeth together.
Back to Bella, we're really milking the "Bella is angry at Edward" cow for all its worth. I realize this is a very standard trope to heighten romantic tension, but it's also particularly out of place in this scene. Bella's complaints with Edward seem to be that: (a) he was rude to her once in Biology, (b) he's unattainably pretty, and (c) he has refused to tell her how he managed to get to her in time to save her life. Oh, and (d) he didn't need medical attention and was able to refuse it. (Apparently the medics listened to his protestations of not needing care over Bella's own protestations because He Is A Man? Or because he's the head doctor's son? But I really can't think the latter would make much of a different to most medics -- I wouldn't assume the head doctor himself would be able to self-diagnose after an accident like this one, let alone the head doctor's son.)
Of those "offenses", the first one (The Biology Incident) has been implicitly apologized for through Edward's very polite behavior in a later class, and the third one (The Speeding Bullet Trick) has been promised to be revealed to Bella in a more private moment, so neither of these things see like fair enough reasons to grind teeth over. The second and fourth items -- Unattainably Pretty and Unfairly Privileged -- are rather annoying, especially with Edward constantly smirking and lording it over everyone else, but it is perhaps worth remembering that he just saved Bella's life. I fully support her right to view Edward as a bit of a jerk, but you'd think there would be a modicum of gratitude sprinkled in to all this teeth grinding and general self-harm over the sexy jerkiness of Edward.
They put me in the emergency room, a long room with a line of beds separated by pastel-patterned curtains. A nurse put a pressure cuff on my arm and a thermometer under my tongue. Since no one bothered pulling the curtain around to give me some privacy, I decided I wasn't obligated to wear the stupid-looking neck brace anymore. When the nurse walked away, I quickly unfastened the Velcro and threw it under the bed.
I really don't understand this passage at all. Because the curtain wasn't pulled for privacy, then clearly her injuries aren't serious enough to warrant a neck brace? Is this Moon Logic, or am I missing something here? The only way this makes sense to me is if Bella is so vain that she'll only submit to important-but-uglifying medical care behind a closed curtain, and while that characterization makes sense with her actions, it still doesn't make the logic train flow for me here. Clearly I require assistance.
There was another flurry of hospital personnel, another stretcher brought to the bed next to me. I recognized Tyler Crowley from my Government class beneath the bloodstained bandages wrapped tightly around his head. Tyler looked a hundred times worse than I felt. But he was staring anxiously at me.
"Bella, I'm so sorry!"
"I'm fine, Tyler -- you look awful, are you all right?" As we spoke, nurses began unwinding his soiled bandages, exposing a myriad of shallow slices all over his forehead and left cheek.
He ignored me. "I thought I was going to kill you! I was going too fast, and I hit the ice wrong. . . ."
(Does this follow the logic expressed above? Tyler's curtain isn't closed for privacy, so therefore his unsightly head bandages aren't necessary, so therefore the nurse takes them off for him? Is the nurse going to recover the head wounds -- perhaps after stitching -- and if so, will that necessitate the closing of the curtain? If gauze is wrapped around a head, but a curtain isn't closed, does it really happen?
Also, can anyone explain why Tyler is bleeding from a head wound and scratched all over his face and neck? It seems to me that Tyler shouldn't have sustained any injury other than (a) an airbag to the face -- which could yield a broken nose, but surely not neck scratches and what sound like forehead bandages -- and (b) the side of his car door being crushed inward, depending on where the van hit, which would surely be more likely to injure his arm and side, no? I'm not an expert on car crashes -- can someone help set this scene, please? Thank you in advance.)
It's actually interesting to me that Charlie Chief of Police isn't there in the hospital with Bella. I suppose we're meant to assume that he's gone to question witnesses, but that wouldn't make sense to me because I would think that since he's related to the victim, he would need to excuse himself from the investigation and leave the work to someone else in the police department. Maybe he's speaking to the doctors on behalf of Bella... or calling Renee to let her know what happened... but we haven't seen Charlie since Bella entered the hospital and that seems rather surprising to me. I'm not one to judge parents, but it just strikes me as odd.
And if Charlie were here, it seems like he might want to prevent Tyler and Bella from having a long heart-to-heart -- some kind of investigation is going to happen regarding this near-fatal collision, and it's probably not appropriate for the driver and the victim to be chatting to each other in the hospital. I get that this was an accident and I'm not saying they should lock Tyler up and throw away the key, but it's entirely possible that he needs to have his license revoked or suspended until he learns not to drive 40 mph in icy conditions through a crowded parking lot. Assuming that's what happened, which we really don't know because Deputy Not-Charlie hasn't finished his investigation yet.
So I have to assume that Charlie not being here and the hospital staff sticking Bella and Tyler in the same room together is a narrative convenience, but it doesn't reflect well on either Charlie or the hospital staff to me.
"How did you get out of the way so fast? You were there, and then you were gone. . . ."
"Umm . . . Edward pulled me out of the way."
He looked confused. "Who?"
"Edward Cullen -- he was standing next to me." I'd always been a terrible liar; I didn't sound convincing at all.
"Cullen? I didn't see him . . . wow, it was all so fast, I guess. Is he okay?"
"I think so. He's here somewhere, but they didn't make him use a stretcher."
I knew I wasn't crazy. What had happened? There was no way to explain away what I'd seen.
So I was trapped in the ER, waiting, harassed by Tyler's constant apologies and promises to make it up to me. No matter how many times I tried to convince him I was fine, he continued to torment himself. Finally, I closed my eyes and ignored him. He kept up a remorseful mumbling.
And here's another case where I kind of feel bad for Bella despite her seemingly cruel behavior. I mean, it seems kind of mean to just gloss over Tyler's repeated apologies with an oh my how annoying I can't hear you la-la-la narrative, and I do feel for Tyler and the therapy that he may very well need after nearly killing a fellow student, but at the same time Bella is likely having her own issues with mortality to work through at the moment and it's not her job to keep helping Tyler through his.
(This, incidentally, is another reason why the Forks hospital staff really shouldn't have jammed them in the same room together.)
Too often women in fiction are forced into a nurturing role where their job is to soothe and fix everyone else's emotional problems at the cost of their own. It's refreshing to see a heroine who doesn't immediately leap to stroke Tyler's troubled head while he falls asleep like a distressed child, murmuring apologies to himself. In the most polite (some might say passive-aggressive, but I confess I'm all about passive-aggressiveness at times in Real Life) way she can imagine, Bella side-steps the issue and chooses not to step up to the nurturing plate and instead feigns sleep to get some peace and quiet.
Cold? Maybe. But Bella has the right to be "selfish" and take care of herself first, and I'm proud to see her exercise that right.
"Is she sleeping?" a musical voice asked. My eyes flew open.
Edward was standing at the foot of my bed, smirking. I glared at him. It wasn’t easy -- it would have been more natural to ogle.
So here's the thing: I get that Edward is gorgeous, and I like that Twilight embraces the concept of female gaze and visual arousal. That's nice, and it's good to see more of it in fiction, considering that the more frequent stereotype is that women are "emotional" creatures who only become aroused by tender hugs and kind phone calls. So I'm very much in favor of Bella scrawling EDWARD IS HAWT on the inside of her copy of "Sense and Sensibility" and then giggling to herself every time she sees her little double-joke there.
But this language I cannot and do not understand. I'm still not certain how a voice can sound musical without being sing-song, and I do not think we're meant to hear Edward in sing-song. (Although I would like that re-write of Twilight immensely.) If one of you readers has a YouTube clip to a "musical" speaking voice, can you please share, because I'm still not quite understanding this commonly used description.
Then, too, there is the ogle. When I try to imagine ogle, I have a facial expression that is something I wouldn't display in public without being considered very rude: sort of a raised eyebrow, suggestive smile, knowing smirk sort of face with maybe some self-deprecating growling noises or something similarly deliberately silly. It's not something I can imagine being easy to do in public, to an almost perfect stranger, whom I am not currently happy with. Now, I can perhaps imagine that it would be pleasant to stare and that is perhaps what is meant here by ogle, but I can't even imagine staring as being something easy or natural under the circumstances. How odd.
Then a doctor walked around the corner, and my mouth fell open. He was young, he was blond... and he was handsomer than any movie star I'd ever seen. He was pale, though, and tired-looking, with circles under his eyes. From Charlie's description, this had to be Edward's father.
Here's hoping that he looks like a young Robert Redford. *wink*
I do have to take some issue with this passage. How many of you have had your mouth fall open just because a pretty person walked into the room? S.Meyer is writing this scene like a classic animated cartoon and it's...very cutesy, but I'm not so sure it's realistic. What frustrates me is that I never get a good sense for what the Cullens look like -- they're almost like a Somebody Else's Problem field, but instead of being a blind spot that no one notices, they're a pretty spot where that's all anyone remembers. It's a frustrating narrative technique, and also largely ensures that the movie personas are who I remember when going through the book because I have nothing else to replace them with. And while I'm not going to suggest that Peter Facinelli is anything less than lovely, I can honestly say I don't think my jaw would hit the ground if he entered the room, so there's this tension between the effect that Bella tells us and the reality that we see on-screen and in-text.
OK, a few more quick points:
He walked to the lightboard on the wall over my head, and turned it on.
"Your X-rays look good," he said. “Does your head hurt? Edward said you hit it pretty hard."
"It's fine," I repeated with a sigh, throwing a quick scowl toward Edward.
The doctor's cool fingers probed lightly along my skull. He noticed when I winced.
"Tender?" he asked.
"Not really." I'd had worse.
I heard a chuckle, and looked over to see Edward's patronizing smile. My eyes narrowed.
Haha, Bella's constant self-injuries are hilarious! I'm going to give a pass to Bella for being a jerk to Edward from here on out. I mean, yes, he saved her life, but he's also apparently highly amused at the notion that she hurts herself a lot. Charming.
"Can't I go back to school?" I asked, imagining Charlie trying to be attentive.
"Maybe you should take it easy today."
I glanced at Edward. "Does he get to go to school?"
"Someone has to spread the good news that we survived," Edward said smugly.
"Actually," Dr. Cullen corrected, "most of the school seems to be in the waiting room."
"Oh no," I moaned, covering my face with my hands.
Words cannot express how much I love the fact that everyone at Forks High School piled into their cold cars and drove the icy streets to the hospital -- not to check on their dear friend Bella, of course, but as an excuse to miss school and soak in Serious Drama. It's a nice, realistic touch on high school life and I'm pleased to find it here, only having said that, I'd like to know why Chief of Police Charlie didn't radio his deputies on the drive over to block off the roads and get the truants back in school.
And, for that matter, it's a bit odd that so many of the students in Forks own their own wheels. When I was a kid, that wasn't a given -- and isn't the Forks community supposed to be relatively working class?
Dr. Cullen raised his eyebrows. "Do you want to stay?"
"No, no!" I insisted, throwing my legs over the side of the bed and hopping down quickly. Too quickly -- I staggered, and Dr. Cullen caught me. He looked concerned.
"I'm fine," I assured him again. No need to tell him my balance problems had nothing to do with hitting my head.
I actually think Dr. Cullen might be a good person to tell about Bella's chronic balance issues. We talked about how awesome Twilight would be if Bella's motivation for becoming a vampire was something more complex like then I wouldn't be in pain all the time; would it not be equally awesome if her relationship with Edward developed gradually while Dr. Cullen used his decades of experience and research (that he is no doubt doing in his not-sleeping hours) to help her?
"It sounds like you were extremely lucky," Dr. Cullen said, smiling as he signed my chart with a flourish.
"Lucky Edward happened to be standing next to me," I amended with a hard glance at the subject of my statement.
"Oh, well, yes," Dr. Cullen agreed, suddenly occupied with the papers in front of him. Then he looked away, at Tyler, and walked to the next bed. My intuition flickered; the doctor was in on it.
I'm really disappointed in the Cullens. You'd think in their hundred plus years of hiding their true nature, they would have much better poker faces. I really want Carlisle to clap Edward on the back here with a proud grin and some beaming statement about his boy placing well in his last school's sprinting competitions or something. Acting normal would be a lot better than this oh yes hmm well ah I suppose ah how do you say WHAT ABOUT THOSE PACKERS HUH? suspicious behavior.
I know it's inserted here for the reader's sake and so that Bella can continue to be super suspicious, but it's like these vampires are complete newbies at the whole Masquerade thing.