Twilight: Falling In Love With Love

Content Note: Disabilities, Depression

Twilight Recap: Bella has arrived at the weekend beach get-away only to suddenly notice that every girl in Forks hates her for being beautiful.

Twilight, Chapter 6: Scary Stories

Folks, if we're going to go much further into Twilight, I have to make a confession: I'm not much of a romantic.

This is a problem for me. You may have noticed that I don't find Edward attractive. Now in all fairness, I should say that I find the idea of Edward basically attractive. The idea of a handsome, desirable, wealthy, socially-valued man who follows me around and compliments my every move and worships every molecule of my being is a fantasy that works perfectly well as long as I don't drag it out into the sunlight and let it wilt.

But I find the execution of Edward to be dreadfully lacking because in the harsh light of day, the rich-attractive-worshipful fantasy man becomes a controlling-stifling-abusive jackwagon. And I don't feel like that's my cynical spin on the text, as I think the Edward-dragging-Bella-forcefully-to-his-car scene speaks for itself. But then I feel bad for pointing that out and messing up a perfectly good fantasy. Especially when the person I'm most wanting to point this opinion out to is actually in fact Bella.

Now, I do try to understand Bella's perspective. Goodness knows, I've made enough moony eyes at problematic boys in my day to scare off a whole parcel of them with my overwhelming admiration. And I'll even admit that there's a piece of Twilight that tugs just a tiny bit at my heart strings. But the part of Twilight that appeals to me isn't so much the excitement of new love because I honestly cannot stand the Love Interest. If anything, the appeal for me is that of raw love, love for its own sake, without really looking at the focal point of that love very closely. And I find that interesting, because sometimes I start to think that Bella feels the exact same way.

Is the author in on this? Is the text asking me to not fall in love with Edward so much as to instead fall in love with love? I sometimes honestly can't tell, and it doesn't help that I am right now looking at a passage in The Twilight Saga Official Illustrated Guide that says, in an interview with S. Meyer, the following:

...Edward's not perfect. There were things about him that didn't make him the most perfect boyfriend in the whole world. I mean, some things about him make him an amazing boyfriend, but other things were lacking...

So even S. Meyer doesn't think that Edward is the most perfect boyfriend in the whole world? I do not yet know how to assimilate this data point. Does anyone in-text ever convey this point to Bella? If Edward is admittedly not the Most Perfect Boyfriend, can we then extrapolate that he is not the Most Perfect Husband? Is that an author-supported interpretation of the text now? While my mind tries to grapple with this new fact, let's look at some text.

   It was only fifteen miles to La Push from Forks, with gorgeous, dense green forests edging the road most of the way and the wide Quillayute River snaking beneath it twice. I was glad I had the window seat. We'd rolled the windows down -- the Suburban was a bit claustrophobic with nine people in it -- and I tried to absorb as much sunlight as possible.

I find it interesting that the only passages in Twilight that I've really liked are the scenery passages. I usually don't like scenery descriptions in text, though I will admit they can be fun to write. But as a reader I often skip over them -- partly because they are frequently so florid, but more often than not because they tend to distract me from the actual story going on. And yet in Twilight the scenery descriptions seem almost indispensable, as they're one of the few focal points where I feel like we see something about Bella's personality, straight and unfiltered.

The problem, though, is that what we see about her personality doesn't fit terribly well with what we've been told about her. She misses the sun, sure, but there's a lot of exultation in the Gorgeous Forests of Forks that seems curious to me. Within the text, we're told that Bella is a desert girl -- she hails from Arizona and she misses the beauty and splendor of the desert. I actually kind of get that, as I'm a Texas girl and while I don't precisely find the desert beautiful, I do like a relatively dry climate. Trees are nice and pretty and I've got a willow in the backyard that I couldn't live without, but if I'm in an area that has gone overboard on the whole foliage thing, like when I visit my cousins in Georgia, I start feeling a little creeped out by the excessive greenery and the overwhelming feeling that if we idle the car for too long, the kudzu will get us.

The sense I sometimes get from the text is that Bella is romanticizing her surroundings rather than really living in them. Forests are gorgeous and beautiful and dense from the inside of a Suburban, but outside that safe bubble, the same forest is itchy and sticky and filled with ticks just waiting to latch onto you under your clothes. And I most definitely feel like Bella's approach to the Forests of Forks is similar to her approach to the Vampires of Forks: she views them as beautiful and desirable from afar while seemingly discarding her actual, less-than-pleasant interactions with them. Edward's jackwagonry is forgotten as quickly as the ticks are, presumably because both those details mar the ideal that Bella seems to want to savor.

   We picked our way down to the beach, Mike leading the way to a ring of driftwood logs that had obviously been used for parties like ours before. There was a fire circle already in place, filled with black ashes. Eric and the boy I thought was named Ben gathered broken branches of driftwood from the drier piles against the forest edge, and soon had a teepee-shaped construction built atop the old cinders.
   "Have you ever seen a driftwood fire?" Mike asked me. I was sitting on one of the bone-colored benches; the other girls clustered, gossiping excitedly, on either side of me. Mike kneeled by the fire, lighting one of the smaller sticks with a cigarette lighter.
   "No," I said as he placed the blazing twig carefully against the teepee.
   "You'll like this then -- watch the colors." He lit another small branch and laid it alongside the first. The flames started to lick quickly up the dry wood.
   "It's blue," I said in surprise.
   "The salt does it. Pretty, isn't it?" He lit one more piece, placed it where the fire hadn't yet caught, and then came to sit by me. Thankfully, Jess was on his other side.

The thought strikes me that a major problem I have with Twilight is how inexperienced Bella is. She's never really lived outside of Arizona. She's never had a serious boyfriend. She's never had sex. She's never seen a driftwood fire. The list of things she's never done is a very, very long list.

There's nothing wrong with inexperience, nothing bad about it. Experience is tied almost inextricably to Privilege: if you don't have the money, the connections, the ability, the safety to experience new things, then you simply can't. And there's nothing necessarily wrong with liking one's own inexperience; there are lots of things I don't want to experience. That's okay, and there's nothing wrong about that.

But. Just as inexperience isn't inherently bad, it's not inherently good either. I see inexperience as morally neutral, and fully capable of help or harm depending on the situation. It's something that someone like Bella should be aware of, in the same way that I would like her to be aware of any limitation. Bella has limited experience with forests and boys and vampires. I wish she could therefore keep in mind that as pretty as the forests and the boys and the vampires seem to be, there are things she simply does not know about them, things that could be potentially major deal-breakers.

Bella doesn't seem to be aware of the idea that her wide-eyed wonder at all things new might not pierce past the surface appearance. She sees the forest as beautiful, so therefore there are no ticks. She sees Edward as wonderful, so therefore his abusive behavior rolls lightly off her without making an impression. She sees vampires as exotic, so therefore the fact that many of the Cullens seem deeply unhappy never sinks in. This preference for opinion over reality seems to extend even into the narrative: Bella sees her constant clumsiness as nothing more than a minor irritation, and yea verily so it is.

   After a half hour of chatter, some of the boys wanted to hike to the nearby tidal pools. It was a dilemma. On the one hand, I loved the tide pools. They had fascinated me since I was a child; they were one of the only things I ever looked forward to when I had to come to Forks. On the other hand, I'd also fallen into them a lot. Not a big deal when you're seven and with your dad. It reminded me of Edward's request -- that I not fall into the ocean.

Bella has been going to Forks every year since she turned 14. The tidal pools were one of the few things she looked forward to when visiting. Does this passage mean that she hasn't been to the tidal pools since she was seven, or that she hasn't fallen in since she was seven, or that seven was when the most falling happened?

And dear sweet Xenu did we really need this passage to explicitly point out that Edward was totally correct and forward-thinking in advising a girl he barely knows to not fall in the ocean? I mean, doesn't the fact that she's aware of her disability and taking steps to remain safe point to an interpretation that she actually knows what she's doing? Do we really need Edward in her head telling her what to do as if she hasn't already made that decision?

Also, I think it's tragic that she can't get the closer look at the tidal pools that she secretly craves because of her disability and the fact that no one in her group can be trusted to help her. If Edward doesn't take her back here for a private viewing from the safety of his sparkly vampire arms, then he's Not Worth It.

   Lauren was the one who made my decision for me. She didn't want to hike, and she was definitely wearing the wrong shoes for it. Most of the other girls besides Angela and Jessica decided to stay on the beach as well. I waited until Tyler and Eric had committed to remaining with them before I got up quietly to join the pro-hiking group. Mike gave me a huge smile when he saw that I was coming. [...]
   The hike wasn't too long, though I hated to lose the sky in the woods. The green light of the forest was strangely at odds with the adolescent laughter, too murky and ominous to be in harmony with the light banter around me. I had to watch each step I took very carefully, avoiding roots below and branches above, and I soon fell behind. [...]
   I was very cautious not to lean too far over the little ocean ponds. The others were fearless, leaping over the rocks, perching precariously on the edges. I found a very stable-looking rock on the fringe of one of the largest pools and sat there cautiously, spellbound by the natural aquarium below me.

If this chapter has a point beyond Native American Vampire Legends, then I would think the point is about being heart-achingly alone within a very large group. Bella is still a stranger to her high school friends. The girls shun her out of jealousy or irritation at her clumsiness, and the boys are only interested in her for superficial reasons: she's new, she's attractive, she's interesting. Nobody really understands her, not in that soul-searching I bet you're hurting inside way that Edward displayed when he realized that Bella maybe wasn't super keen on living in Forks.

It's melodramatic, but there's a certain logic to it. I don't think Edward is super-special insightful for figuring out that Bella is unhappy; I think it's probably pretty clear to a lot of people that she's not happy. If anything, I think Edward is unusual for caring enough about her unhappiness to comment on it. I think that's valuable, and it sort of works into the "most teenagers lead lives of quiet desperation" theme that I get sometimes from the text.

I think it's perfectly fair for Bella to be sad. She misses her home and her mother. She's living with a father who doesn't really connect with her and -- best I can tell -- doesn't make an attempt to connect with her. She has attracted unwanted attention from the boys at her school and she's unclear on how to dis-spell that attention. She is treated badly by the girls at her school for things she doesn't want and can't help: her clumsiness and her admirers. She seems to be clinically depressed and absolutely no one in her life is taking steps to help her. That's sad.

But... it's also frustrating for me. I feel sometimes like Bella is romanticizing her depression, romanticizing her disabilities. Maybe that's her coping mechanism, and... I'd be okay with that. But I'm not okay when I feel like the text is asking me to join in. Treating Bella's depression and her clumsiness as pretty, endearing, ladylike traits to be envied and emulated is treating Bella with a fundamental lack of respect. And when I feel like Bella is doing that to herself, I get frustrated. I feel like she's clumsy and depressed for the sake of being clumsy and depressed because "clumsy and depressed" has been internalized (by her? by the author? by the genre? by the reader?) as something a feminine hero must have, by literary law.

There's nothing wrong with having a weakness. There's nothing wrong in accepting and embracing that side of yourself. But Bella seems to revel in her weakness, and the writing seems to reward her for it. And that makes me uncomfortable.

   I was completely absorbed, except for one small part of my mind that wondered what Edward was doing now, and trying to imagine what he would be saying if he were here with me.

And because I am not a romantic, my first thought is that she already knows what Edward would be saying to her if he were there: he'd be insulting her in some way. But in Twilight it's not that simple. And this is what I mean when I wonder if Bella and S. Meyer aren't in on the swap going on here, the invitation to the reader to fall in love with love instead of in love with Edward.

The point has been made on this board -- and it's an excellent point -- that Bella's and Edward's feelings for each other are not markedly different from werewolf imprinting. Edward is drawn irresistibly to Bella because of her smell (unique to his tastes!) and her psychic shielding (the one mind he can't read!). Bella is drawn just as strongly to Edward, immediately needing to know who he is and being deeply depressed whenever he reacts violently or shunningly to her. The couple is drawn together by forces they can't fight, but though they love each other, we've seen nothing to suggest that they have any reason to like each other.

And so on the surface it seems strange that much of this chapter has and will be taken up with little pointed notes of how distressed Bella is by Edward's absence, how anxious she is to know when she will next see him, how strongly she desires to have him close by, how she imagines what he might say to her if he were there. Why should she care? This time away from him should be a reprieve, since the majority of their interactions so far have left Bella angry, upset, anxious, and sorrowful. Bella -- if she is to make any sense at all as a human being -- should not love Edward at this point in the narrative.

Yet she seems to be in love with something, if not with Edward then perhaps with the idea of Edward. Maybe this makes sense if this isn't a story of a girl falling in love with a boy, but rather a story of a girl falling in love with what that boy represents. Maybe she's just falling in love with love for the sake of love. Maybe she's falling in love with a vampire because she's a vampire in a human body. Maybe... I'm honestly not sure. Maybe she's just yearning to be with her "imprinted" mate -- imprinted on her by fate or vampire gods or her author, I don't know -- in the only way she knows how.

But still... it's irritating for me as a reader because I don't understand what Bella is supposed to be, what is supposed to motivate her, and why I should be rooting for her to succeed. It's one of the ways in which I wish this were a slightly different story. If Bella had an explicit goal -- health, college, a specific career, something -- I think it would work so much better. But she doesn't, and I'm left stumbling after her wondering if I'm supposed to be awwww, she loves Edward already or ummmm, why are we thinking about the guy who insulted you right now. I feel like Bella is as anxious to avoid showing her thoughts to us as she is to Jessica and Edward and, as a reader, that's frustrating.

   Finally the boys were hungry, and I got up stiffly to follow them back. I tried to keep up better this time through the woods, so naturally I fell a few times. I got some shallow scrapes on my palms, and the knees of my jeans were stained green, but it could have been worse.

And this just breaks my heart. Just because it could be worse, Bella, doesn't mean you should be satisfied with a bad lot in life. Please remember that when Edward comes back from his hunting trip.


Yamikuronue said...

Regarding Edward not being perfect, all I can think of is this damning quote:

"Not just true love, but Edward Cullen! None of those other heroines lost an Edward (Romeo was a hothead, Willoughby was a scoundrel, Tristan had loyalty issues, Heathcliff was pure evil, Rhett had a mean streak and cheated with hookers, and sweet Gilbert was much more of a Jacob than an Edward). "

Sure, this can be read as "every boy is different", but it sounds a lot more like "Edward is better than any prior romance hero!".

(Quote from There's a lot of interesting insight on the official site, including a description of Bella and a photo of her prom dress, but I can't seem to find any reference to Edward's flaws except that he underestimated Bella's love).

GeniusLemur said...

Honestly, I think that S. Meyer is just such a bad writer and observer of humanity that she just doesn't realize Edward is a horrible person and the relationship is appalling. This is possible: in Left Behind, Rayford and Buck are our real, true Christians, our tribulation saints. And their thoughts and actions range from creepily self-centered to outright monstrous.

thepsychobabble said...

Yeesh. As though not having the flaws listed (which could be debated. It certainly looks like Edward has a mean streak, and could be hot-headed) is reason enough to ignore the flaws he does have (controlling, abusive, stalker-ish and fighting the urge to drain her blood)
But hey, he could cheat with hookers instead, so...

Dezster said...

Re: Bella waiting til Eric and Tyler had chosen to stay

I think it's just more that she doesn't want all three of her admirers to deal with in the forest and at the tidal pools. She wants to be able to enjoy them without the boys, who have already shown that they can't just leave her alone, all trying to vie for her attention when she just wants to look at tidal pools. I don't think it really has anything to do with making sure the other girls are protected.

cjmr said...

I agree with Dezster about why she waited before heading off on the hike. She wanted to do what the fewest possible of her unwanted hangers-on were going to do.

I read Twilight last night (for the first time) and ended up identifying with Bella more than I thought I would. Which shocked me quite a bit.

Maartje said...

I thought Edward being in love with Bella and Edward thinking she smells like his own personal favourite food weren't linked. I remember her being his 'singer' was a complicating factor to her also being his 'soulmate' - normal vampires whose soulmates are still human when they meet them only need to be a little cautious, but Edward needs to be ULTRAcautious because most vamps eat their singers straight away.

And same with the mindreading. He loves her AND he can't mindread her, not BECAUSE he can't.

I think Edward would've been perfectly happy with falling in love with a not-as-tasty, perfectly mindreadable girl. Just his bad luck that HIS mate is uniquely equipped with frustrating features...

*jazz hands* and of course this means that Edward is even more wonderful for being able to resist her, or something like that.

Kish said...

I also thought she meant, not, "Some men better be staying or I'll have to stay and guard the other women*," but rather, "I'll wait until as many annoyances as possible have committed to staying...oh darn, Mike's coming! Oh well."

*Fascinating and quite un-Bella-like bit of characterization that that would be.

jmerry said...

From an experienced tidepooler - first, it takes planning. You not only have to know where the right beaches are, you have to go at the good low tides, which come for a few days at a time maybe once a month. You don't get to go on a whim when the weather is good. (The best low tides are at new or full moons, which might mean something if this series' werewolves had anything to do with the moon)

Second, slipping is a big deal - you'll get yourself scraped up on the sharp bits of the rocks, twist ankles, and get soaked on top of that. The footing is often very unfriendly as well; you're out on rocks that are underwater most of the time, and they have plants or algae growing on them. Some of those are decent footing, and some are incredibly slippery. With someone as clumsy as Bella, taking sensible precautions and not going out very far, I can't see her enjoying the experience much at all.

Fluffy_goddess said...

I agree with everyone saying Bella just picked whichever activity had the fewest suitors attached. More importantly:

You linked to the perfect song for this book! For 90% of this genre, really.

(Though I have a strong desire to blast Tim Minchin's If I Didn't Have You at most of these characters, this is by far the more descriptive song. *applauds choice*)

Nathaniel said...

"Yet she seems to be in love with something, if not with Edward then perhaps with the idea of Edward. Maybe this makes sense if this isn't a story of a girl falling in love with a boy, but rather a story of a girl falling in love with what that boy represents."

As with everything that doesn't make sense in this novel, Bella falls in love with Edward because The Author Wills It.

jill heather said...

I was a depressed teenage girl who knew a lot of depressed teenage girls (some of that was people feeding off each other, but it was still real depression, a real illness), and let me tell you: we (almost) all romanticised our depression. It took me until near the end of university to get to the point where "The severe, nearly incapacitating depression I have is the most/only interesting thing about me" was not an obvious truth. (When I think that now, I at least know it's the depression saying it, that it's not actually true.)

So it's normal for Bella to do this -- but I think, also, that it's pretty hard to sympathise with this when you see it in other people, and even more so if it's not something you have gone through. So making this particular issue sympathetic to the reader is . . . arguably a good thing. I don't, honestly, remember the details of the books well enough to say anything else, but understanding that someone would believe that their depression is endearing and interesting because without depression, what are they? If the depression is off-putting, then aren't they off-putting?

It's hard to word this properly, but it always struck me as very true, that people romanticise some mental illnesses, especially in women -- look at Plath, Woolf, Sexton -- and that they do it in themselves, too, for many understandable reasons. It's a bad way to live, but it's a hard trap to leave.

Rikalous said...

Bella's reaction to the blue flame doesn't mean she isn't familiar with the color salt burns. I know my reaction would have been "Blue flame? Oh, right, driftwood. It'll be full of salt from being in the ocean, and that's what changes the color." Bella's reaction might have been the same, but Mike gave her the explanation before she could deliver it herself.

Post said...

Honestly, I think Bella and Edward are in love because they're meant for each other. It's fate, or authot fiat, which makes it very similar to imprinting, but also not very useful to reflect uppn. They're in love because that's what it's about.

cjmr said...

I don't know that I would have automatically thought 'sodium burns blue ==> 'oceanic driftwood burns blue'. Especially since all the driftwood I've ever seen burning was Great Lakes driftwood...

Patrick said...

Possible double comment: I don't think it's useful to reflect onBella and Edward being in love. They're in love because it's a love story - to be exact, they're in love because they're meant for each other, It's Fate, it's automatic, it's author fiat, and similar to imprinting in that way. At the very least, in the Twilight universe Fate is a reality, and it conspires to have people fall in love against their will. Bella had to deal with being forced to love Wdward. It's a shame she never really doubts her love or reflects on it herself. THAT would be fodder for discussion.

Patrick said...

Also, I thought that Bella went to the pools because Lauren stayed behind, and Lauren was mean to her. Thus, "it was Lauren who decided for me".

Silver Adept said...

Ah. It makes sense that it would be about not having to deal with hangers-on or not wanting to deal with Lauren, instead of some sort of imposed cultural values. Probably says something about this story that I'm starting to ignore Occam or that some things thatare fairly complex seem like they're the simplest explanations possible.

And that Bella might know and Mike is just providing the explanation so Bella doesn't have to.

@Kish - I'm not sure that it would have been "I have to protect the other women" - Bella has no reason to. But she might have thought "those women are so X and Y that they wouldn't be able to hold off anyone."

Amaryllis said...

Never mind the ticks, are there snakes in those woods?

And I ask this as resident of an state whose woods have only two species of venomous snakes-- but two is more than enough! And their bite is not necessarily fatal-- but it's bad enough!

A walk in the woods can be a lovely thing. But sometimes, not. It does seem as if "the boys" could have stayed a little closer to Bella.

Speaking of the boys, I find that I'm confused: were there any girls along on this expedition? Does "Most of the other girls besides Angela and Jessica decided to stay on the beach" mean most but not all? Or that all the girls except Angela and Jessica stayed, but Angela and Jessica joined the hike? If there were girls on the hike, did they get hungry, too? Or do only boys get hungry in this book?

I kind of like scenery in stories, I like to get a sense of what a place feels like. But yeah, there's an art to writing description that's relevant rather than distracting.

@jmerry: thanks for the voice of experience re tidepooling. I mean, I know that technically speaking, tide pools form between rocks. But in my, er, neck of the woods, we tend to also use the term for what I now learn are called runnels, which are surrounded by nice safe sand.

chris the cynic said...

Speaking of the boys, I find that I'm confused: were there any girls along on this expedition? Does "Most of the other girls besides Angela and Jessica decided to stay on the beach" mean most but not all? Or that all the girls except Angela and Jessica stayed, but Angela and Jessica joined the hike?

The phrasing is incredibly awkward, but as near as I can tell if we are to assume that it means what it says, we have to believe that some portion of the not-Jessica not-Angela girls joined the hike as did, presumably, Jessica and Angela.



"Eric and the boy I thought was named Ben..."

Hello, Ben. Unless a better name comes to mind, female you shall be named Bella.

depizan said...

The idea of a handsome, desirable, wealthy, socially-valued man who follows me around and compliments my every move and worships every molecule of my being is a fantasy that works perfectly well as long as I don't drag it out into the sunlight and let it wilt.

And this would probably be why things like Twilight don't work at all for me. I don't know whether I'm a romantic or not, but there really isn't any part of that that appeals to me. Okay, I could live with handsome and desirable, depending on how we're defining those. (How Edward is described, however, isn't either.)

My romantic fantasy would be to have adventures with an attractive, desirable-to-me, intelligent, imperfect man with a great sense of humor who's supportive and who makes a good team with me. Ideally, they should trip over their feet roughly as often as I trip over mine, have their sense of humor extend to their failings, and be good at a few things I'm not (and vice versa). I can understand the appeal of romances where the two start out snarking at each other, but I do not get the "Superior Man is Superior" kind of romantic fantasy. (I'm not saying it's wrong, fantasies are never wrong, just that it does not compute, at all, for me. It's the romantic fantasy equivalent of your kink is not my kink, I guess.)

There's no partnership in Twilight (or many other teen supernatural romances), and my romantic inclinations require partnership. And, without Bella ever cluing us in on why she finds Edward desirable and romance-worthy, my mind just keeps getting stuck on "but he's an enormous ass!" and "he's awful to you!" Not that Bella is particularly nice, herself.

I'm actually not even sure I comprehend romance without partnership. I know it's something that turns up in romantic things, but it's just an out of cheese error for me.

Ana Mardoll said...

Jill, thank you so much for being willing to share this.

Ana Mardoll said...

It's a favorite song of mine, ha. That whole musical is awesome. (And a multi-racial cast!)

Ana Mardoll said...

It'd be impossible to pick the one thing I like most about these decons, but definitely on that list would be comments like yours where I learn things I'd never imagined. Thank you!

chris the cynic said...

I'm not sure if this can really fit because as near as I can tell when Bella gets back she meets Jacob*, so there might not be much opportunity to for it, but it is what popped into my head. No idea why it's Erica saying this, it just is.


I didn't think it was that obvious I'd hurt my hands, I wasn't dripping blood or anything, but apparently it was noticeable because pretty much the moment Erica saw me she asked, "What happened to your hands?"

My reflex was to hide them, and I said, "Nothing."

"I can see it's not nothing, let me see."

"I fell in the woods a couple of times. It's no big deal."

She held out her left hand, palm up, "If it's no big deal then there's no harm in letting me take a look." I hesitated, then put my right hand on top of her left. It didn't want to open and I had to will myself to override that desire. "Ben, this is terrible."

"I've had worse."

"If the best thing you can say about something is, 'I've had worse,' then that's a sure sign it's pretty bad." She looked back at my hand.

"You sound like my mother."

She said, "Then your mother sounds smart," without looking away from my hand.

"So anyone who agrees with you is smart?"

She let go of my hand and looked me in the eyes, "Only the ones who agree with me when I'm right. Ben, you didn't even clean the wounds, I could see dirt in there."

"They're scrapes, not gashes. Who ever heard of cleaning a scrape?"

"If it's deep enough for dirt, it's deep enough to clean. Now look, I've got..." she checked her pockets, of which there were many, eventually finding what she was looking for on one of the inside pockets of her coat, "I've got some disinfecting wipes-"

"You carry those around everywhere?"

"More or less," she offered them to me. "You should use them."

I did, and many words went through my mind, most of them derivatives of, "Fuck," but I said nothing.

"I know it hurts, but an infection would hurt more."


And so on. I actually need to got to bed now.


* I have already figured out in my head how this meeting will go in the Edithverse, this figuring did not take into account the Twilight version at all, and I fully intend to completely ignore any parts of Twilightness that don't match my plan even if that means ignoring the entire scene.

Brin Bellway said...

Chris: "Eric and the boy I thought was named Ben..."

Hello, Ben. Unless a better name comes to mind, female you shall be named Bella.

My first thought was Run! Get back to your AU where it's safe!
Okay, maybe "safe" isn't the best word.

"I've got some disinfecting wipes-"

"You carry those around everywhere?"

"More or less,"

Who doesn't? Then again, I have noticed most people don't wear a utility belt whenever leaving the house.

depizan said...

Who doesn't? Then again, I have noticed most people don't wear a utility belt whenever leaving the house.

I totally would if I thought I could get away with it. I did carry ductape for a while. And I still do carry a Swiss Army knife. (No... I haven't seen too much 80s television, why do you ask?)

Ima Pseudonym said...

Okay, the whole 'driftwood burning blue' thing made my inner chemist prick up his ears. After some thought and a bit of research, I have no idea why driftwood would burn blue.

According to Wikipedia ( ), the main dissolved ions in seawater are sodium and chloride, with a whole menagerie of other stuff at lower concentrations. This means that if there's anything in driftwood that's going to make it burn at a different color than normal wood, it's going to be sodium chloride. The problem is that sodium ions impart a YELLOW color to flame, not a blue one, and chloride doesn't affect the color at all. (At least according to these folks: and my own recollection of general chemistry).

I suppose you could make the case that it's some other, lower concentration ion is causing the blue color, but that really wouldn't make sense to me. Copper is the only ion I can find that causes blue flames, and that's only present in trace amounts. Anyways, I would think that the intensity of the sodium yellow would wash it out even if the amount present wasn't vanishingly small.

I've been looking up YouTube videos to see if driftwood actually does burn blue or if Stephanie Meyer is just taking a bit of artistic license. So far all I've found are regular yellow fires and a couple of tunes by a lovely folk duo called Driftwood Fire. Has anyone here actually seen driftwood burn blue? (Or did Mike just splash some alcohol on the wood when Bella wasn't watching? That might not be a bad idea given their apparent lack of kindling.)

Ana Mardoll said...

I honestly do not know, but this link claims it's an absorbed mineral issue, that the smoke can be toxic, and that some communities have burn bans. Can anyone weigh in on this? I'm curious.

Amaryllis said...

How about a nice melancholy driftwood-fire poem?

O flames that glowed! O hearts that yearned!
They were indeed too much akin,
The drift-wood fire without that burned,
The thoughts that burned and glowed within.

(Longfellow doesn't say whether his flames were blue, or not. Do you suppose we're meant to relate Mike's driftwood fire to the blues in his heart over Bella?)

Ima Pseudonym said...

That was... frustratingly vague on the source of the colors. C'mon About-dot-com Lady! What ions are responsible? What energy level transitions are involved? What does the spectrum look like?! We want to know!!!

As for the dioxin thing, it sounds kinda weird, but I have no idea. I've never studied that particular problem, and combustion chemistry is so complex that I don't feel comfortable hazarding a guess. I could see communities having burn bans for other reasons, though.

I've found a couple of other websites about driftwood fires, and they seem split between "yellow and green" and "blue and lilac." I dunno. My gut instinct is that any blue in driftwood fire is going to be the same subtle trace of blue you get with any wood fire, and not some eerie 'welcome to exotic La Push, Washington' solid blue flame. But hey, I'm just guessing here. I'd love to hear people's stories.

Amaryllis, that is a beautiful poem. I have goosebumps here. I think memorizing it is going to be my next project.

Silver Adept said...

If it were, in fact, copper, burning that would be a Very Bad Idea - one of the labs that I did in high school was taking cupric sulfate and getting the moisture out with a hot plate. The instructor was very clear - if the pan started smoking, turn the heat off and everyone gets out until we have cleared the air. No lung poisoning for us, please.

Considering it was a beach bash somewhere in a small town, there's a good chance there was some alcohol involved somewhere. If it was alcohol that high school students could might have been put to better use as an accelerant for the fire.

Makabit said...

The clutz factor seems to get weirder and weirder. I've fallen down a few times as a grown woman, but I've simply never seen anything like this in an adult who doesn't have some sort of weird inner ear problem.


Makabit said...

I grew up on the West Coast, and have seen many a driftwood fire. Never seen blue flame, although it could be some chemical present on this particular stretch of coast...maybe...?

But no, burns yellowy orangy fire color in my experience.

jill heather said...

Dioxin is a organic ring and fine; chlorinated dioxin (something with the same ring [which is benzene plus some oxygens] and maybe other rings and also chlorine) is a bad, dangerous substance that's formed by combustion in the presence of chlorine, like say in the presence of burning driftwood. These are corrosive and toxic and possibly carcinogenic and don't really ever go away from the environment or from our bodies (don't dissolve well in watery things like urine). Agent Orange is a chlorinated dioxin. This is why we don't (shouldn't) burn garbage.

I have no idea why it burns blue, it appears to be CaCl2 that burns blue, but my knowledge of flame spectroscopy is pretty much zero now.

However interesting driftwood chemistry is, to Bella:

My take on it is she is being treated badly by the girls in her class because she treats them badly. Oh, occasionally she throws them a crumb of kindness, but mostly she finds them irritating and she doesn't make any effort to hide this. Yes, she's also taking all the boy-attention, and yes, she's depressed and people who don't already love you are uninclined to be sympathetic when you are an ass because you are depressed, but generally high school kids honestly care about and worry about their friends, and are understanding. But Bella isn't a friend, and this isn't entirely her fault, but it mostly is. And, as Amarie mentioned, she resents the fact that these girls aren't her friends, and that they and the boys treat her as useless even as she does -- though I don't recall it coming up, she must resent the fact that none of her friends from Arizona have ever called or emailed her, though she probably didn't call them, either. But "I won't X until they do because it's their turn" is another pernicious, if normal, problem of Bella's.

Again: when I was depressed, I *felt* like I didn't have any friends at all, and that no one cared about me. But I knew, deep down, that I did have friends, that they and my family cared. It didn't much matter, because the feelings were more important. Bella is a weird embodiment of what it feels like to be depressed, without the underlying reality that most teenagers have. It's oddly reminding me of the high school years in Buffy, where instead of what people feel turning into monsters, it's what people feel turning into the truth, but a monstrous kind of world.

jill heather said...

And also: if we assume that Bella was intended to have depression, as opposed to it being an accident of the genre, what is she supposed to do about it? She's in a small town, she has no money, and she has at best neglectful parents. She cannot just magically get drugs even if they were appropriate for a 17 year old as a first mode of treatment (I assume that they would be covered by insurance her father has, but first she'd have to see a doctor -- in a small town, where everyone knows everyone, and in in a world where we might know a lot of people who are depressed, but where it's still stigmatised), she almost certainly has no access to a counsellor of any type. Plus, of course: she's depressed. How is she going to get herself together enough to get herself help. She has no one who will get help for her. Of all the reasons to roll my eyes out of my head at Bella, her inaction in the face of depression is not one of them.

Launcifer said...

I don't know if this came up when the whole "objective scale" thing was discussed previously but is it ever made explicit how this actually works? I think I'm wondering whether this is just an informed ability, there's actual evidence for it or I'm somehow supposed to know what SMeyer meant through some weird process of cultural osmosis (which, being English, I'm not likely to have anyway). If it's the latter, well, what I see in my head certainly isn't what I'm supposed to see in my head.

Also: where are the subcultures? I know Forks is a small town but, aside from werewolves and Cullens, there don't seem to be the usual (hah!) social groups I'd expect in an American high school novel. I mean, you'd think SMeyer could've rustled me up a solitary, clich├ęd goth kid or something.

Brin Bellway said...

Refreshing is what makes you lose what you're working on.

What, in Disqus? I don't think it loses posts-in-progress when refreshed. Let's check.

...nope, still here. Twice in a row without giving it time to recover?

...not that either.

Though what with other places that do lose posts, I've gotten into the habit of writing posts of significant length in a note-taking program. (Or OpenOffice, when I'm using Windows.)

GeniusLemur said...

I think the reason none of Bella's Arizona friends call her and she doesn't mind (or notice) is that S. Meyer never worked out that kind of backstory. It seems that as far as Twilight is concerned, Bella's life starts when she gets to Forks. Notice how everything about Arizona is either never mentioned (like friends) or talked about once and then completely ignored, even when it should have an impact on her personality (like her relationship with her mother).
The biggie for me is the backstory with being the "parent" in the relationship with her mother. With a background like that, she should be mature beyond her years and thinking about things like Charlie's bank account. Instead, the moment she sets foot in Forks, she's positively infantile.

chris the cynic said...

In chrome, for me, refreshing will make one lose a disqus post in progress if and only if the post is a direct reply. I just tested and that has indeed happened again.

I've been known to write in other things a lot, though not as much as I used to, but one of the problems with that is that disqus has a habit of doing all kinds of weird to formatting when you paste something into it.

chris the cynic said...

The biggie for me is the backstory with being the "parent" in the relationship with her mother. With a background like that, she should be mature beyond her years and thinking about things like Charlie's bank account. Instead, the moment she sets foot in Forks, she's positively infantile.

That's actually discussed in an early post that was recently commented on for entirely unrelated reasons.

Lliira said...

The biggie for me is the backstory with being the "parent" in the relationship with her mother. With a background like that, she should be mature beyond her years and thinking about things like Charlie's bank account. Instead, the moment she sets foot in Forks, she's positively infantile.

Actually, in my experience, being the "parent" to your parents does make one lag in emotional and practical growth.

You're forced into being the emotional crutch for your parents. You don't have any time to spend on your own growth. What will you do with your future? Maybe you have some ideas, but they're fuzzy, because no adult has taken much time to discuss your own life with you, unless you luck out and have a family member or teacher step into the parenting role. And you know everything about this situation is wrong -- you're trying to protect the people who are supposed to protect you, and you don't have the tools to do so because you're just a kid, so you can never be safe.

Once you're finally in a situation where you feel safe, like you're being taken care of for once, you'll tend to revert to a childlike stage in some ways, because that's the last point you weren't just faking it. And there's a tendency to lean, hard, on the person who makes you feel safe.

This can actually work in the context of a romantic relationship, but everything has to be out in the open, there can be no abuse, and I don't think it's appropriate for a teenage romance novel about sparkling vampires. But every time I see Bella interact with Edward, I see this dynamic. She feels safe with him and he does prioritize her safety and try to take care of her. He's rotten at it, he's an abusive jerk, but no one else has ever even cared to try, so Bella gloms onto him and doesn't let go.

GeniusLemur said...

That makes a lot of sense.

thepsychobabble said...

It's possible someone threw some copper wire in there, too.
Not that I know any teens that used to do something like that. ~shifty eyes~

Silver Adept said...

@chris the cynic -

Parallels between the two are completely apt - and yes, the PCs around Tsukasa start by caring about Tsukasa and investigating the problems. In Twilight, nobody cares about Bella except as an object to further their own ends.

@Launcifer -

I think that some of the circle that Bella (unwillingly) interacts with are supposed to represent the token subcultures - the photography nerd, the chess club type, the perky goth (Alice, I think), and so forth. Since Bella's not interested in anything other than Edward, though, she doesn't pay attention where she normally would.

Fluffy_goddess said...

I really like this explanation for the timing of Bella's transformation into (apparently) a sullen child, though it seems like she starts a little earlier than Edward really gets involved in her life. (Then again, I know how easy it is to skew your mental social circle by obsessing about someone you spend relatively little time with, so if we date this to when she starts obsessing over Edward instead of when they start hanging out, it works well.)

Though I still think Bella seems to conveniently forget many of the skills I'd expect her to have learned whilst taking care of Renee, some of her common reactions do seem like they could've come from this kind of childhood. If you're a child trying to take care of an adult, and the two of you have forgotten to take care of bills, your first instinct is probably to make excuses and try to spin it so that it's not your fault, so that nobody can blame the two of you. It's not a very adult thing to do, and it's not a very effective thing to do, but it's very natural, especially if the more responsible party is one who hasn't got the resources to actually fix the problem.

Or, in other words, Bella couldn't have learned the practical coping skills we keep expecting to see as a result of her "always taking care of people" childhood, because as a child trying to steer an adult about the world of adults, her best tactics would be to avoid ever responding directly and trying to muddy the waters as much as possible. Anything more effective would be practically-speaking beyond her, because while you can tell your Mom not to buy stuff she can't afford on a credit card, you can't tell the credit card company to just put it in your name, damnit, you'd do a better job of keeping all this straight. Subterfuge and conflict avoidance very well could be her most-practiced skills. And we certainly see Bella (sullenly!) trying to avoid ever having to give a direct negative answer and trying to sidle out of any potentially uncomfortable conversation.

Fluffy_goddess said...

I wonder if in Bella's subconscious, part of the reason she so desperately wants Edward to be there is so he'll pick her up and carry her around, since we've had him doing that already. If he did show up to rescue her, I'd be surprised, but it would certainly be a good idea.

Plus, if she could count on him to keep her off her feet, she could wear impractical shoes. She strikes me as a girl who would really love to wear impractical shoes, and doesn't only because she figures she'd break her neck. Like these!

Which are, if you're in a sears store in Canada this spring, actually called Cullen. Because someone in marketing apparently decided to give (one of) the least practical shoes on the shelf a name currently synonymous with mysterious angsty sparklepires who don't let their girlfriends wander around on their own two feet.

vega said...

Heh, speaking of not being a romantic- one of the things I liked about the fanfic Luminosity was its exploration of the tactical applications of the vampire mating bond. As established in that fic's universe, the bond is instantaneous, mutual, cannot be tampered with using psychic powers, and overrides all previously existing loyalties.

rot13 for spoilers: Gurl hfrq vg gb jvaabj qbja gur ahzoref ba gur bccbfvgr fvqr jura gnxvat qbja gur Ibyghev, rirel gvzr gurl tbg n arj (fvatyr) inzcver ba gurve fvqr, gurl'q unir gurve fraqvat gryrcngu (jub jbhyq unir orra Erarfzrr va pnaba, ohg Engbvanyvfg!Oryyn fnvq fur pbhyqa'g guvax bs n jnl bs pbzovavat gur gjb anzrf gung qvqa'g fbhaq yvxr fbzr xvaq bs cbxrzba; gurl anzrq ure Yvforgu, naq yb, fur jnf fgvyy njrfbzr naq nqbenoyr) fubj gur arj erpehvg n zragny "fyvqr fubj" bs nyy gur inzcverf ba gur bccbfvat yvar. Guvf jbexrq bhg cnegvphyneyl jryy jura gurl fhpprffshyyl (xvaqnfbegn) erpehvgrq n gryrcbegre, naq ur erpbtavmrq n cnegvphyneyl cbjreshy erpragyl-ghearq cflpuvp nf "uvf zngr." Ur jnfa'g cnegvphyneyl yblny gb gur vafheerpgvba, ohg yvxrq gur Ibyghev rira yrff.

"Jurer vf fur?"
*ONZS.* Bar yrff znwbe gnyrag ba gurve fvqr.

Yes, that is pretty fucked up, but what part of "vampires" did you read that made you expect that "not fucked up" should be any part of the equation?

vega said...

(well, maybe substitute "should" for "would." "Shoulds" are nice, but can't reasonably be expected when the majority of the people involved are undead predator/parasites with no major impetus to adhere to the norms of human morality.)

Lliira said...

Yes to everything you said. I may be projecting, of course -- I haven't even read Twilight, though I keep meaning to.

Your post also clarified something for me that I've never quite understood. Adult children of alcoholics tend to lie in ways that most people find really weird. Lying when the truth would serve one better, and over things there is no need at all to lie about, is one "symptom" of having an alcoholic parent. But if, as a child, you're the emotional caretaker of your parents, lying and obfuscating are the only things that do work, and that includes lying to yourself. Confronting the situation head-on will never, ever work, and will only get you hurt.

(I'm over the "lying all the time" thing now, btw. Still big on avoidance -- hard to stop doing that when I *have* to do it, still, with certain people in my life.)

Fluffy_goddess said...

I don't think conflict avoidance and lying to make life smoother are bad skills to have, by any means. But if you grow up developing those skills for bad reasons, I think it'd be really hard to sort out good times to lie from bad times to lie. Using those skills would become so habitual that you wouldn't even realize you were using them, which may also go some way to explaining why Bella blithely lies and obfuscates her way through life, whilst proclaiming that she's a bad liar and doesn't do it much: she's simply telling different versions of the truth, according to what she judges the situation needs, and sometimes twisting the truth a little, because telling a guy you don't want to go to the dance with him is like telling your mother she looks fat in those pants, and such are blows that need a little softening.

Or possibly that one's me projecting, because chibi!cthulhu knows I could never tell my mother she looks fat, nor could I have said no to a guy who asked me out directly back when I was in highschool. (If that had ever happened. I maintain that highschool relationships are 90% people obsessing about the people they want to be with and talking about the sex they figure everyone else must be having, and 10% people actually having relationships that are clearly recognizable as dating and/or sexual.)

Kristy Griffin said...

(This is completely random, but I never get to comment because I can't access the comments at work which is when I always read this, so...)

So as I was laying face-down on my office carpet today, in front of half a dozen of my co-workers (my panicked yelp having drawn those who weren't close enough to hear the thud), trying to decide which was worse, the pain or the embarrassment, I found myself wondering...

...could Bella just have weak ankles?

I mean, I sprained both of mine pretty bad back in high school, and they never healed right. Obviously it doesn't affect my balance normally - I can drive and ride a motorcycle just fine - but it DOES mean that every so often, for real reason, one or both of my ankles will go "Nope! Don't feel like holding you up anymore!" ...and over I'll go. And while it doesn't happen often enough to keep me from doing stuff, if I were - say - climbing rocks near tide pools, I'd be more aware than most people about where and how I put my feet, just in case.

So I'm wondering if Bella's "clumsiness" might be something along those lines, only worse. It would explain her fabled inability to walk down the street with falling, while still being allowed to drive and not diagnosed with some sort of inner ear disorder.

Timothy (TRiG) said...

I like that explanation.

I have slightly week ankles. Not as bad as yours; It just means that when I'm hillwalking* I wear good boots with good ankle support, because I'm more likely than most to get a sprain. My boots are heavier than most walkers', but they're comfortable and strong and it would be almost impossible to get a sprain while wearing them.


* That's hiking, to you Americans, I think.

Heqit said...

Going back to the driftwood fire thing just for a minute - it actually surprised me in the text that Bella didn't expect the driftwood flames to be an unusual color, and then surprised me again when someone upthread said that driftwood fire is, in their experience, flame-colored - because of the text's characterization of Bella as Quiet Reader of Literary Classics, Preferably Old-Fashioned. I haven't ever seen a driftwood fire, but when I hear of one I'm immediately reminded of all the multi-colored flames (also "elusive" and "pixie") that L.M. Montgomery describes them as having in the Anne of Green Gables series. Particularly the fifth book, Anne's House of Dreams, where Anne and Gilbert move to a cottage by the shore and spend time with a lighthouse keeper and, well, burn lots of driftwood. And Anne, being Anne, waxes lyrical about how pretty and unexpected the non-flame-colored flames are.

So when I read Twilight, since Bella is supposed to be such a big reader (...right?), I thought for sure she would have read the Anne books at some point and would associate driftwood fires with how they were described by Montgomery, and therefore not be surprised if driftwood flames weren't yellow-orange. And we know that SMeyer has read at least some of the Anne books, since she compared Gilbert to Jacob (bleah - NO). But now I'm wondering if this is another instance of SMeyer A) not displaying much in the way of reading comprehension, B) not doing any research, and C) making Bella act less intelligent than one would expect, on purpose. To wit, L.M. Montgomery was talking about driftwood that washed up on Prince Edward Island from the Gulf of St Lawrence, and she distinctly described it as having lots of (admittedly unspecified colors): "a fire of driftwood was weaving flames of wavering, elusive, sea-born hues in the open fireplace," for example. So I can easily imagine SMeyer remembering that as "driftwood = blue flame," not bothering to think about Forks and PEI being next to different bodies of water and on opposite sides of a continent, not researching what driftwood in Washington typically does when set on fire, and putting in the blue flame bit as a wink to herself/AoGG reference, but not giving Bella that information because...well, because to hell with backstory or coherent characterization, apparently. And because if Bella had learned things on her own and knew "too much" then SMeyer's conception of her Ordinary Teenage Girl reader wouldn't be able to identify with her?

I don't know that that's as clear as I meant it to be, but I feel like the driftwood fire thing is both a reference to L.M. Montgomery's books and another example of SMeyer writing Bella so that she has as little as possible - of knowledge, personality, backstory, goals, whatever - to offer.

Darth Ember said...

I think I read somewhere in a Twilight critique that blue-flame-driftwood is frequently treated stuff sold to tourists, but it could have been wrong. Not sure.

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