Twilight Recap: Bella has heard from Jacob that the Cullens are vampires.
Twilight, Chapter 7: Nightmare
Chapter 7 is a very important chapter in the Twilight novel. As some of you will remember from last week, Chapter 6 was the chapter in which Jacob Black told Bella Swan directly, no bones about it, that the Cullens are vampires. This was a very important chapter for the development of narrative tension because now Bella is faced with the challenge of researching what a vampire is.
This is riveting stuff, I must say.
I TOLD CHARLIE I HAD A LOT OF HOMEWORK TO DO, AND that I didn't want anything to eat. There was a basketball game on that he was excited about, though of course I had no idea what was special about it, so he wasn't aware of anything unusual in my face or tone.
This is the third or fourth or possibly seventieth time in the novel that Bella has skipped food because she is anxious or nervous or distraught or interested in the Cullens. And this continues to bug me. In real life, people can and do healthily skip meals all the time -- people are unique, and the whole point of intuitive eating is that people can and should be trusted to eat when and how their body demands. That's why two main points of intuitive eating are "Honor Your Hunger" and "Respect Your Fullness": Hungry? Eat. Not hungry? Don't feel like you have to eat just because it's 'time'. Someone wants to get all up in your space about your choices? Feel free to tell them to address their concerns to the nearby brick wall.
But I don't think that intuitive eating is what we're meant to take from all these "oh, I didn't eat because Edward" reminders that are clogging up a novel that is otherwise short on detail and action. I feel strongly that these reminders are dog whistles to the reader, a reminder that Bella is pretty and desirable because she frequently skips meals. That Alice and Rosalie were described as a dancer and a swimsuit model respectively does not do much to dispel my suspicions.
And then there's the basketball. I don't like sports, and I don't like basketball, so on the one hand, I don't blame Bella for being aggressively uninterested in the game. But I'm annoyed by the "of course I had no idea", which is of course because... why? Has Bella mentioned that she doesn't enjoy watching basketball? I don't think she has. So it's just of course because... she's a girl? Because she doesn't care to know anything about her father's pastimes? And she doesn't even know why the game is special? Even I, sports-hater that I am, have a passing understanding of such vague terms as "Superbowl", "World Series", and "March Madness".
More than anything else, I'm irked at the lost opportunity. If Bella had taken a moment to confirm this was March Madness, we'd at least have a calendar date again. *sigh*
Once in my room, I locked the door. I dug through my desk until I found my old headphones, and I plugged them into my little CD player. I picked up a CD that Phil had given to me for Christmas. It was one of his favorite bands, but they used a little too much bass and shrieking for my tastes. I popped it into place and lay down on my bed. I put on the headphones, hit Play, and turned up the volume until it hurt my ears. I closed my eyes, but the light still intruded, so I added a pillow over the top half of my face. [...]
And it worked. The shattering beats made it impossible for me to think -- which was the whole purpose of the exercise. I listened to the CD again and again, until I was singing along with all the songs, until, finally, I fell asleep.
If anyone is curious, Bella is listening to Linkin Park, a band I've honestly never listened to, so feel free to educate me in the comments while I listen to Mercedes Lackey filk and Heather Alexander Arthurian ballads. (My point being I'm the last person on earth who should be judging other people's musical tastes.)
But I have issues with this scene. What Bella is doing is terribly unhealthy for her ears, yes, but it's distressing to me that one of the most pro-active things we've seen her do so far in the novel, in terms of real-time action is action that is essentially (a) harmful and (b) intended to keep herself from thinking. Bella isn't dealing with the implications of Jacob's story by journaling or solving crosswords or reading Varney the Vampire. She's not coping with the stress by joining her father for a mind-numbing game of basketball or composing a long-overdue letter to her mother or writing blog posts about a popular YA novel that really just bugs her.
No, she's dealing with the stress and anxiety by literally hurting herself. And in such a way that is designed to overwhelm her senses until she loses consciousness.
This sort of thing is a fine line when it's a non-fictional adult doing a meditation that they think will help them. I'm not here to tell mature individuals what they should and shouldn't do. But Bella is a fictional character and it... frustrates me that her "go-to" method for dealing with distressing news is to hurt herself like this: to fast when she is hungry, to hurt her ears, to block out her eyes, to wipe clear her mind, and to essentially self-induce an exhausted faint. She's not setting herself up for successfully dealing with this situation of her unrequited love possibly being a dangerous mythical creature; she's setting herself up to fail by hurting her body in a number of damaging ways.
Overreaction on my part? Maybe. But it's worth pointing out -- as Amarie has done so admirably in many of her wonderful comments -- that Bella's mode of action is almost always one of self-harm. And I think this is one of the first places we see that.
I opened my eyes to a familiar place. Aware in some corner of my consciousness that I was dreaming, I recognized the green light of the forest. I could hear the waves crashing against the rocks somewhere nearby. And I knew that if I found the ocean, I'd be able to see the sun. I was trying to follow the sound, but then Jacob Black was there, tugging on my hand, pulling me back toward the blackest part of the forest.
"Jacob? What's wrong?" I asked. His face was frightened as he yanked with all his strength against my resistance; I didn't want to go into the dark.
"Run, Bella, you have to run!" he whispered, terrified.
"This way, Bella!" I recognized Mike's voice calling out of the gloomy heart of the trees, but I couldn't see him.
"Why?" I asked, still pulling against Jacob's grasp, desperate now to find the sun.
Bella is dreaming about her suitors, and about the relative danger each man presents to her -- at least if we agree that the danger presented by each man is a danger defined entirely by his nature: Human, Werewolf, Vampire.
Mike the Human calls from so deep within the 'safe' forest that Bella cannot even see him. Jacob the Werewolf is not so deep within the forest; he is close enough to Bella to yank on her arm and try to pull her into the safety of the forest. Edward the Vampire is approaching from the beach, sparkling in the sunlight.
I find this both interesting and contradictory. A parallel is being drawn between the sunlight Bella craves and the sparkly suitor that Bella craves, but it's a parallel that I strongly object to. Edward sparkles in the sunlight, yes, and that sparkling is presented as a source of attraction for Bella (because Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend, naturally), but despite all this, Edward is not a creature of the sun. Edward can't be: the sun exposes him for what he is and spells out a Volturi death sentence for him.
If Bella wants to be with Edward, she has to forsake the sun, the thing she misses most since coming to Forks. In order for Twilight to make any sense at all, Bella has to make a choice between Edward and the sun: stay in the sun, lose Edward (or be lost to him through age and death); stay with Edward, lose the sun and stick to the night and the cloudy places.
The beach is not a place of safety for Edward and Bella. It's a source of danger and fear, a place where they must be constantly on guard lest their secret be revealed.
But Jacob let go of my hand and yelped, suddenly shaking, falling to the dim forest floor. He twitched on the ground as I watched in horror.
"Jacob!" I screamed. But he was gone. In his place was a large red-brown wolf with black eyes. The wolf faced away from me, pointing toward the shore, the hair on the back of his shoulders bristling, low growls issuing from between his exposed fangs.
"Bella, run!" Mike cried out again from behind me. But I didn't turn. I was watching a light coming toward me from the beach.
And then Edward stepped out from the trees, his skin faintly glowing, his eyes black and dangerous. He held up one hand and beckoned me to come to him. The wolf growled at my feet.
And now is as good a time as any for me to complain that a major problem I have with Twilight is the lack of tension.
I don't mean sexual tension, as there's plenty of that. Unfortunately, angsty chaste tension doesn't really interest me, and there's not a whole lot left in Twilight once you remove the "will they, won't they" from the equation. And that's fine, you know, far be it from me to tell everyone what to read and write and enjoy.
But the thing is... we end up investing all this time and all these words into Bella being Edward's irresistible scent and then... nothing. He's never really tempted to kill her, and we know he won't even take a nibble because doing so would make Bella a vampire and then they could live happily ever after and the series would be over. But the sheer existence of several hundred more pages means we know that isn't going to happen.
And so you have scenes like this, where Edward has "dangerous" eyes and the wolf beside her is growling and Edward is beckoning like it's lunch time in China! and... it's just impossible for me to feel tension here. And on top of everything else, it's a dream. Which reminds me, here is a passage that cracked me up from "How Not To Write a Novel":
Early twentieth-century fiction was newly awash in Freudianism, and no respectable novelist would send his book out into the world without a layer of symbolism, dramatizing the unconscious fears and desires of his characters. This was often accomplished by presenting the character’s dreams, usually in a font called Stream-of-Consciousness Italic.
Science rushes onward, and it is now understood that reading page after page of characters’ dreams about building walls with bricks of anguish is about as interesting as, well, listening to an actual stranger tell you about his actual dreams.
A good approach is to allow one dream per novel. Then, in the final revision, go back and get rid of that, too.
Okay, enough procrastinating. I just can't bear to deal with this next part.
I took a step forward, toward Edward. He smiled then, and his teeth were sharp, pointed.
"Trust me," he purred.
I have cats. I love my cats. I do. But I cannot now nor will I ever be able to understand the concept of a human "purring" whilst speaking, nor can I understand why such a thing would be considered sexy. I can't even imagine how you would do it: how does one "purr" the hard, sharp T in trust? You could trill it like a Transylvanian Dracula, but that would be so silly and overwrought. Help me understand this.
The wolf launched himself across the space between me and the vampire, fangs aiming for the jugular.
"No!" I screamed, wrenching upright out of my bed.
My sudden movement caused the headphones to pull the CD player off the bedside table, and it clattered to the wooden floor.
My light was still on, and I was sitting fully dressed on the bed, with my shoes on. I glanced, disoriented, at the clock on my dresser. It was five-thirty in the morning.
Charlie Swan, readers, is the kind of father who will guard his daughter's hymen so carefully that he will sabotage her car engine nightly lest she sneak off into the night and do Very Naughty Things with her private parts. But he won't check on her to see if maybe she's working too hard, what with forsaking food, entertainment, and sleep for her homework, as evidenced by the stream of bright light coming from under her door all night long.