Content Note: Death, Murder
Twilight Recap: Bella has been carried by Edward to the nurse's office after nearly fainting in Biology class.
Twilight, Chapter 5: Blood Type
"You were right," I moaned, letting my eyes close.
"I usually am -- but about what in particular this time?"
"Ditching is healthy." I practiced breathing evenly.
I quote this exchange for two reasons.
First, I think this can reasonably serve as evidence in support of the theory that Edward's ha, ha, Bella feels faint and it's hilarious behavior is probably meant by the author to seem endearing. I say that because Bella seems to take Edward's shenanigans in good spirit and even jokes a little with him here, while she rests and recovers. So while that's not really my thing and I still think Edward should have verified that Bella had a bit of gallows humor before he started snickering up a storm, this can at least be taken as a sign (finally!) of chemistry. So...yay?
Second, words alone cannot express how amused I am at Edward's announcement that he is "usually" right. I haven't read the whole series, but I have seen all the movies and I honestly cannot off the top of my head think of a single time when Edward is right. He's wrong about needing to avoid Bella in order to be happy. He's wrong when he leaves her alone and she nearly dies as a result. He's wrong about Jacob pretty much all the time. He's wrong about Bella's pregnancy and how to respond to it. Edward is wrong more often than he's right. And this isn't a new thing. Edward has been wrong lots of times in the past. He was wrong when he struck out on his own from Carlisle and ate humans. Being wrong is kind of what Edward does.
Why does he say here that he's "usually" right? I honestly don't know. I can't tell if this is meant to be a bit of self-effacing wit -- in which case it doesn't make a whole lot of sense because Bella lacks context for the twist that he's actually usually wrong, but then again when has Edward ever let a consideration for his audience stop him from making in-jokes? -- or if we're supposed to take this at face value. Is Edward's claim to rightness an informed attribute or a subtle demonstration of his ego or something else entirely?
I honestly wonder if Edward does think he's usually right. His actions certainly seem to stem from this attitude -- throughout the series, he repeatedly makes unilaterally bad decisions on behalf of Bella and he carries out these decisions with the attitude of one who has never known self-doubt. As much as he angsts about his past and what he has done and what he has lost (which isn't often, mind you, but it does crop up from time to time) there's no real sense to me that he's learned anything from his long life. I realize that getting older doesn't guarantee learning and growing and discovering that one is not always right -- I had a grandfather who could give Edward a run for his money on the self-assured jerkface scale -- but it seems that what with Compassion!Carlisle and Loving!Esme and the rest of the scooby gang around that Edward might have learned a little... humility? compassion? something! in his 100+ years. He seems not to.
And I know there's the whole "vampires don't undergo personality changes" theory, but that one just plain doesn't make sense to me. How can Edward become a husband and a father if he can't grow mentally and emotionally?
"You scared me for a minute there," he admitted after a pause. His tone made it sound like he was confessing a humiliating weakness. "I thought Newton was dragging your dead body off to bury it in the woods." [...] "Honestly -- I've seen corpses with better color. I was concerned that I might have to avenge your murder."
This is an interesting exchange to me.
If Edward had been relying on his mental telepathy to keep dibs on Bella via the other students, he would have known what was going on with her well before he saw Bella and Mike emerge from the building. He seemed not to know what was going on, however, given his shrill is she okay, what's going on questioning, which seemed to point to him being in a panic on seeing Bella incapacitated. So I think we can assume that Edward in that moment was not mentally stalking Bella, but was rather relaxing in his car listening to music as he claims. Score one point for Edward not being as creepy as usual.
Then, if we believe this statement of his, we have to assume that he had a moment of panic for Bella before barging into Mike's head to get the short story on what had happened. (Either that or Mike actually was thinking about killing and burying Bella, but I think we can disregard that theory based on Edward's lack of overt hostility to Mike both now and in the future.) This isn't the first time that Edward has been so concerned for Bella's safety that he's disregarded everything else around him (that honor goes to The Parking Lot Incident), but there is a consistent pattern here that he is worried for Bella first and only manages to take stock of the situation after. I'm not going to give him a cookie for that, but I do vastly prefer Frightened-For-Bella Edward to Laughing-At-Bella Edward. Score one point for Edward caring about someone other than himself.
So if we take the gist of Edward's statement here as true -- that he didn't know that Bella was okay and that he experienced a moment of worry -- I wonder if we can't take the rest of his statement as true, by which I mean the dead-body-on-the-way-to-be-buried part. Earlier I ranted that Twilight keeps the sexual danger confined to Big City Strangers when I personally think Mike fits a rapist profile much better, so at first glance this exchange felt like more sugar-coating by having Edward go over-the-top with the threat rather than refer to the more obvious danger Mike represents. But on further reflection, I decided that this is actually a case of Edward projecting: he wants nothing more than to kill Bella and cover up his crime (so that his family won't have to move), so in a moment of panic his subconscious assumes that Mike wants the the same thing. That's my theory, and I'm sticking to it.
"Poor Mike. I'll bet he's mad."
"He absolutely loathes me," Edward said cheerfully.
I'm also interested in Bella's surprisingly on-target statement that Mike must be angry. Mike is angry, we'll see that later, and Bella correctly surmises that he is and she voices that opinion out-loud. Up until now, Bella has kept most of her critical thoughts about Mike (and everyone else) in her head, and now that she has a safe and sympathetic audience in Edward, those thoughts are seeping out.I'm not sure how I feel about that.
A major problem with Bella is wrapped up in her thoughts. Not all first-person narrated novels are meant to have a reliable first-person narrator, of course, but I think Bella is meant to be pretty reliable as far as these things go. So when she narrates her impressions about people, I think we're meant to take those impressions to the bank as generally truthful. The problem is, those impressions are rarely expressed... kindly.
Because Bella's thoughts towards the people around her are so negative, there's a very understandable backlash from a lot of readers. We feel sorry for Jessica and Mike and Erik and the rest of the high schoolers for being so maligned by Bella, simply because they aren't pretty and sparkly and mysterious like the Cullens. At least, I certainly do: I'm still irked at the "chess club type" moniker applied to Eric simply because his face isn't crystal clear, and the "prattling" from Jessica that Bella can't be bothered to listen to. Who died and made you princess, Bella?
And yet... is that a fair reaction? If Bella were a real person, I'd say no. Douglas Adams once called telepathy "that most cruel of all social diseases", and I think a large part of that boils down to the fact that most of us are not very nice people in our heads. A huge part of being "nice" comes down to censoring our words, but it's pretty much impossible to censor thoughts. There are days when I hate pretty much everyone on earth and while it wouldn't be appropriate for me to voice those feelings, if one of you happened to have a streaming audio of my thoughts into your ear, I hope you wouldn't judge me for having a bad day. And even if I consistently thought bad things about the people around me, I'm still not sure that would make me a bad person if I was also consistently polite and kind to them. I mean, I've got co-workers and family too, you know? (*rimshot*)
But... Bella's not a real person. I can't keep saying that authors Make Choices and that those choices Matter and then not apply that same reasoning to Bella. Bella isn't cranky at everyone on earth because she exists; she's cranky at everyone on earth because S. Meyer made her that way. And... I'm not sure what to do with that. Is she a cathartic character meant to show that Good Girls are allowed to have Bad Thoughts? (And coming as I am from a religious upbringing that absolutely considered Bad Thoughts to be sinful, that message can be pretty dang cathartic indeed.) Is she negative because S. Meyer wants us to agree with her that Mike and Jessica and Erik and the rest of them really do suck? Is she a clever interpretation of a clinically depressed character? I seriously do not know. Maybe it's all of the above.
But now Edward is here and Edward -- being that he is Bella's super-special-soulmate -- will share in the snark. Edward is just as negative as Bella when it comes to other people! They can bond over their amusement that Mike is mad!
Again, I'm not sure how to feel about that. On the one hand, I kind of want to point at Edward and say "here is a fantasy fulfillment character because he doesn't judge Bella for her Bad Thoughts. In fact, he shares and validates them. And that is okay." And I'd be lying if I said I've had a romantic relationship where there wasn't bonding over some shared annoyance -- most frequently a person who was a mutual co-worker or co-student or relative or something. So there is a measure of realism here. On the other hand, I'm on record feeling that Edward has a dreadful attitude towards people, so it's hard for me to be all "yay, Bella has someone to hate humanity with! Go on with your cool alternative selves!"
And it also doesn't help that Mike keeps being loathsome so I can't even really feel sorry for him. So I guess I'm saying that I just want all the Forkians to go die in a fire. Just please don't judge me for thinking that right now!
I could see she was about to make me lie back down, but the door opened just then, and Ms. Cope stuck her head in.
"We've got another one," she warned.
I hopped down to free up the cot for the next invalid.
And then Mike staggered through the door, now supporting a sallow-looking Lee Stephens, another boy in our Biology class. Edward and I drew back against the wall to give them room.
"Oh no," Edward muttered. "Go out to the office, Bella."
I looked up at him, bewildered.
"Trust me -- go."
I spun and caught the door before it closed, darting out of the infirmary. I could feel Edward right behind me.
"You actually listened to me." He was stunned.
"I smelled the blood," I said, wrinkling my nose. Lee wasn't sick from watching other people, like me.
FLAG ON THE PLAY.
Edward has zero right to be stunned that Bella listened to him, unless his stunnedness comes from "the last time she listened to me, I totally went back on my word and proved I was not at all trustworthy, and yet she listened to me again despite having no reason to." Edward, you do not get to pretend that Bella is oh-so-hard-to-reason-with when she has (a) kept your secret all this time without any reason to do so, (b) has given you astonishingly little flack for breaking your word to her, (c) agreed to drive out of town with you on a day-trip over the weekend, and (d) came running to your beck-and-call at lunch when you waggled your finger for her.
"People can't smell blood," he contradicted.
"Well, I can -- that's what makes me sick. It smells like rust . . . and salt."
I don't even understand this one. Of course people can smell blood. Blood, in fact, has a pretty strong smell depending on quantity and how long it's been out of the host body. You don't have to make a habit of visiting abattoirs to know this, as every mystery book ever will have the moment where the protagonist creeps through the dark room and gets the shivers as they smell the pool of blood that they are currently tromping through. Or, really, if you're a woman, you can just have a period once in awhile! (Although we have decided that period blood isn't the kind that the vampires lose control over because otherwise Jasper doesn't work.)
I think Edward means that people can't smell the teeny tiny little pin-prick of blood that Lee Stephens is cradling from his stuck finger. That I probably would agree with, although if there are super-tasters then it wouldn't surprise me if there are super-smellers. (My mom, who has strong reactions to a good many scents, can smell the slightest hint of cigarette smoke and most perfumes from practically a mile away. Eerie!) But I'm dinging Edward anyway for having such imprecise speech, especially on a subject that he should know a little bit about. Forget the doctor training for a minute and remember that a vampire really should know something about the smell of blood because the gig is up if someone gets a whiff from your breath or clothing. Ten points from Gryffindor, Edward. (OF COURSE Edward is in Gryffindor. He's a MAIN CHARACTER. Gosh.)
Now shall we have a nice Two Minutes of Hate for Mike? Oh, I know it's more satisfying when I lob it at Edward, but we've got a good thousand or more pages to go for him and Mike will only be with us a short time longer. Let's savor him while we can.
Mike came through the door then, glancing from me to Edward. The look he gave Edward confirmed what Edward had said about loathing. He looked back at me, his eyes glum.
"You look better," he accused.
Yes, thank you, Mike, and don't think I don't note your accusatory tone.
I appreciate your implication that I may have been faking in order to get out of class, which very nicely manages to obscure the real pain I've been feeling. I also gather that you feel like I've gotten better because of my proximity to Edward -- you have no doubt picked up from my facial expression that being near him makes me feel happy -- and that you want to register your disapproval of this method of recovery. Obviously, I owed it to you to get better with you by my side because you've called "dibs" despite my turning you down once already for a date to the school dance.
You may consider your concern for my well-being registered and filed away in my mental registry and you can keep on thinking that treating me with hostility is likely to convince me to change my mind and give you a chance at a romantic relationship with me. I mean, I already have hostile-but-hawt Edward here by my side, but maybe you still have a chance to carve out a niche with your hostile-but-decent-looking repertoire. Because if there was one thing I needed less of in my relationships, it was physical attraction.
I feel better now.