Twilight Recap: Bella has arrived at the weekend beach get-away and has met Jacob, a young man from her distant past. Lauren the Evil Blond has needled Bella about her young conquest.
Twilight, Chapter 6: Scary Stories
Before we go any further, let's get one thing absolutely straight: Bella Swan is a bad liar.
"I want to go," I lied. I’d always been a bad liar, but I’d been saying this lie so frequently lately that it sounded almost convincing now. ~ Bella Swan, Chapter 1.
Not only is she a bad liar, she doesn't like to lie.
"It matters to me," I insisted. "I don’t like to lie -- so there'd better be a good reason why I’m doing it." ~ Bella Swan, Chapter 3.
You guys got that? Good. It's going to be on the quiz later.
"Bella," she called again, watching my face carefully, "I was just saying to Tyler that it was too bad none of the Cullens could come out today. Didn't anyone think to invite them?" Her expression of concern was unconvincing.
When we last saw Lauren, she was being catty to Bella behind her back, asking why Miss Popular wasn't sitting with the Cullens from now on instead of burdening the rest of them with Bella's presence. Probably this snottiness from Lauren is meant to convey her legitimate concern that Bella might continue to steal the attention that Lauren sees as rightfully hers, but I harbor a mischievous hope that Lauren is just trying to corral all the narcissistic people in school at the same table together. I mean, Bella makes it perfectly clear that she doesn't consider anything anyone says worthy of her attention (unless it's about Edward), so she might as well go sit with the aloof Cullens, right?
Now Lauren seems to be attempting to needle Bella about her obvious crush on Edward with the embarrassing (for Bella) fact that Edward didn't bother to show up to the outing in order to make moony eyes at Bella. Of course, this is really only "embarrassing" if you believe that couples should do every little thing together, so ten points for codependency to everyone on the outing. And to Slytherin, because Lauren has blond hair and we all know what that means in Tropeland.
"You mean Dr. Carlisle Cullen's family?" the tall, older boy asked before I could respond, much to Lauren's irritation. He was really closer to a man than a boy, and his voice was very deep. [...] "The Cullens don't come here," he said in a tone that closed the subject, ignoring her question. [...]
I stared at the deep-voiced boy, taken aback, but he was looking away toward the dark forest behind us. He'd said that the Cullens didn't come here, but his tone had implied something more -- that they weren't allowed; they were prohibited. His manner left a strange impression on me, and I tried to ignore it without success.
It's sad, but hardly surprising, that it takes a Very Important Message about the Cullens to shake Bella from her reverie. She's only been thinking about Edward all day, and musing on the fact that Edward's very presence is what defines her existence and whether or not she notices the details around her, so I suppose it's natural for her to perk up at this Very Important Clue. And, remember, S. Meyer has specifically said that this entire chapter -- and all the Quileute characters in it -- were created for one purpose: to tell Bella about Edward's nature.
So, naturally, she's going to have Bella wheedle the information out of a barely-fifteen-year-old kid using the most manipulative means possible. Nice to see a blow struck for feminism here.
I was still turning over the brief comment on the Cullens, and I had a sudden inspiration. It was a stupid plan, but I didn't have any better ideas. I hoped that young Jacob was as yet inexperienced around girls, so that he wouldn't see through my sure-to-be-pitiful attempts at flirting.
The deep-voiced boy spoke to Lauren in a voice that seemed to imply the subject was closed, but Bella doesn't consider once speaking up to ask him more directly what he means. He wouldn't tell her, of course, because it is an Ancient Mystical Secret, but if that were the case, he shouldn't have said anything to Lauren in the first place.
"The Cullens don't come here" begs the question of "Oh? Why not? I thought they loved camping," and then what do you say? You don't say anything, because if you'd thought enough in advance to come up with a plausible backstory as to why the Cullens don't come here, you would have immediately realized that the simplest way out of this problem would be to not talk about the Cullens at all. And so once again we run into the problem of creating minority characters to service the white protagonists: they come off seeming extraordinarily stupid or fumblingly inept. Unfortunate Implications!
So rather than Bella choosing to question the deep-voiced boy (who is probably Sam, but I'm not going to bother to look it up), which would muck up the whole premise and write the author into a corner, we're just going to have her get the information out of Jacob. And Bella, as someone who hates to lie and is incredibly bad at it, is going to quietly hope that Jacob is so inexperienced with girls that he'll fall for her act hook-line-and-sinker, without considering for a moment that this just might be kind of unethical and hurtful to this boy she sort of knows from her childhood.
And you all wondered why Bella didn't have friends back in Arizona.
"Do you want to walk down the beach with me?" I asked, trying to imitate that way Edward had of looking up from underneath his eyelashes. It couldn't have nearly the same effect, I was sure, but Jacob jumped up willingly enough.
No, it's not creepy that Bella is modeling her seduction techniques on Edward's behavior to her.
The behavior that makes her angry, furious, and sputteringly incoherent with rage.
The behavior that has left her nervous, anxious, and in anguish as to when she'll see him again.
The behavior that has made her feel toyed with and used and conflicted.
This is obviously very romantic behavior that should be modeled onto passing fifteen-year-olds.
And Bella is not a terrible, terrible person for failing to consider any of the above and for excusing herself with the cop-out excuse that obviously Jacob wouldn't be as taken with her as she is with Edward. Which is totally not victim-blaming tripe on a stick dipped in hypocrisy and fried in jackwagonry on her part, for her to say that it doesn't count when she abuses Jacob because Jacob should know she's not serious. No, sir.
"Who was that other boy Lauren was talking to? He seemed a little old to be hanging out with us." I purposefully lumped myself in with the youngsters, trying to make it clear that I preferred Jacob.
"That's Sam -- he's nineteen," he informed me.
(Ha! It was Sam. I'm not editing what I said earlier; let it stand as a monument to how few characters there are in this epic saga of epictude.)
Also, for being bad at lying, Bella certainly is very skilled at emotional manipulation. At sixteen, I would not have thought to purposefully lump myself into a younger age group in order to more easily prey on their emotions. Perhaps our endearingly clumsy and emotionally manipulative Bella has made some of her elusive financial funds through baby-sitting. Let that thought sink in for a minute. You're welcome.
"What was that he was saying about the doctor's family?" I asked innocently.
"The Cullens? Oh, they're not supposed to come onto the reservation." He looked away, out toward James Island, as he confirmed what I'd thought I'd heard in Sam's voice.
I know Bella is just echoing the "doctor" framing from what Sam was saying, but I find it interesting because any reference from Bella to Carlisle over the children implies more knowledge of the subject matter, rather than less, since her most obvious link to the Cullens would not be to their father, but rather to them as schoolmates. Jacob doesn't pick up on this, and that could well be because he hasn't thought ahead to realize that Bella would know the Cullen children better (on a daily awareness level) than he or Sam. Then again, perhaps the goal here is to focus interest away from peer!Cullens and towards adult!Cullen to intimate that this is all very nebulous gossip about a faraway grown-up and it won't hurt to tell.
He glanced back at me, biting his lip. "Oops. I'm not supposed to say anything about that."
"Oh, I won't tell anyone, I'm just curious." I tried to make my smile alluring, wondering if I was laying it on too thick.
He smiled back, though, looking allured. Then he lifted one eyebrow and his voice was even huskier than before.
"Do you like scary stories?" he asked ominously.
"I love them," I enthused, making an effort to smolder at him.
Remember when the Purple Prose was bad during all the Edward descriptions? This is so much worse than that was.
This is not cute. This is creepy. For all the times we've accused Edward of having super-hyno-powers with his manipulation of Bella and various (female) staff and students, the supposition made sense. Edward is a vampire; vampires come with glamour powers. It's part and parcel. But Bella is not a vampire. She should not have glamour powers. And yet, narratively, she does. THIS IS HOW PEOPLE WORK IN THE TWILIGHT VERSE. You gaze at them through your impossibly long eye lashes and smile at them, and then they do your will forever. Because Jasper.
But this is creepy beyond a world-building perspective. Jacob is barely out of fourteen, and comes from (in the Twilight-verse) an isolated background and culture where he knows everyone he meets, knows the liars from the truth-tellers, and based on the surrounding text is a little naive and trusting. Bella is seventeen, from a complicated background of parental neglect and big city anonymity, who deceives at the drop of a hat while all the time insisting that she doesn't, she couldn't, she's awful at lying. She's cynical and quietly manipulative, and while I was able to give that behavior a pass when it seemed like a survival strategy, it's another thing entirely when she's pumping a young boy for information about an older boy that she intends to chase after just as soon as she gets what she needs from the younger one.
Maybe S. Meyer didn't intend this behavior to be condoned by the text, but she obviously condones it herself from a narrative perspective, since the giving-of-information-about-Edward is the entire reason Jacob exists. Nor does Bella learn anything from her misuse of Jacob here: in the next book, she'll be off to the races to use him again while pining for Edward. None of this is even remotely appropriate behavior, but it's behavior that is condoned in the text at least by having it (a) work unfailingly to get Bella what she wants and (b) never lead to any growth or condemnation from Bella over time.
"Do you know any of our old stories, about where we came from -- the Quileutes, I mean?" he began.
"Not really," I admitted.
"Well, there are lots of legends, some of them claiming to date back to the Flood -- supposedly, the ancient Quileutes tied their canoes to the tops of the tallest trees on the mountain to survive like Noah and the ark." He smiled, to show me how little stock he put in the histories. "Another legend claims that we descended from wolves -- and that the wolves are our brothers still. It's against tribal law to kill them.
Last week, I ranted at brief about my pet peeve of the conservative Christian community latching on to any flood myth and recasting it as "like Noah's ark" with the implication that the Noah's ark myth actually happened and it's just the Christian white people who have preserved the story correctly while all the other cultures have mucked up all the details. But that was when S. Meyer was talking. Now this is Jacob speaking to Bella, and I find the interaction interesting and very possibly tragic.
Later in the conversation, Jacob will anxiously ask Bella what she thinks of his tribal legends, and if she thinks they're a 'bunch of superstitious natives". He conveys his stories with obvious anxiety, worried about being accepted and fitting in with the pretty white girl before him. Jacob doesn't believe in a worldwide flood anymore than he believes in vampires and werewolves, but he frames the flood story deliberately in the trappings of "The Flood" that Bella is most likely to be familiar with. He doesn't say we have many legends, including our own flood myths like your Noah's ark. He says some of our legends claim to date back to The Flood. Not "your" flood, but "the" flood.
In the voice of S. Meyer, it's cultural appropriation; in the voice of Jacob, it sounds like an attempt to distance himself from his tribe. Earlier, Bella cast herself as Jacob's age in order to allure him; now, Jacob is cloaking himself in the verbiage of the mainstream for protection and approval. It's almost certainly unintentional or the part of the author -- like Tim LaHaye, she can't see to imagine a point of view that doesn't buy into all Christian myths and values like, for example Noah! or Virginity! -- but it's there in the text nonetheless.
"Then there are the stories about the cold ones." His voice dropped a little lower.
"The cold ones?" I asked, not faking my intrigue now.
"Yes. There are stories of the cold ones as old as the wolf legends, and some much more recent. According to legend, my own great-grandfather knew some of them. He was the one who made the treaty that kept them off our land." He rolled his eyes.
This entire exchange will be punctuated with body language from Jacob that self-consciously conveys how much he doesn't believe this stuff, but I'm not entirely sure why he doesn't.
From a narrative perspective, Jacob can't believe it because that would undermine the white protagonist realizing that it's true. And, perhaps, from a narrative perspective he also can't believe it because then he wouldn't tell Bella, seeing as how doing so would break the treaty-of-silence with the Cullens and endanger the entire tribe.
But from a character perspective, I accept that Jacob doesn't believe while still not understanding why. Alright, lots of kids believe things differently from the older generation... but 19-year-old Sam over there believes it. And lots of tribal beliefs can change and evolve and dilute over time... but Billy believes the story so strongly, he's actually endangered his relationship with Charlie over it. (Hey! Wouldn't that have been a great thing to foreshadow, seeing as how Billy has been mentioned several times in-text as the Giver Of Protagonist Transportation and the Keeper Of The Inconvenient Father-Character Out Of The House? Never mind, magical minority characters just do whatever the heck you need them to whenever you nee it, no foreshadowing needed. Now let's spend a few more pages subtly pointing out that Edward is a vampire.)
And this is the thing I hate about Tribal Legends as a narrative device: the author rarely considers the transmission of same. The legend just starts however many generations ago, is transmitted perfectly, unquestioningly, and unaltered through the intervening generations, and then it is summarily dismissed by the "modern" love interest or protagonist or magical minority character. Jacob's tribal legend includes how many Cullens there are, for crying out loud. They stop just short of including shoe sizes. None of that has been lost. All of it is accepted with complete reverence and belief.
Except by Jacob. Because he's speshul.
This could work with some kind of in-text explanation, but there isn't one so it doesn't. Bella comes out like diamonds for being more intelligent than the native non-believer in front of her, Jacob comes out looking like a cardboard atheist for not believing that the Obvious Vampires are obviously vampires, and the tribe comes out looking foolish for not showing Jacob a desiccated bear corpse* or two and saying, "look, this is what we've been talking about."
* I refuse to accept that the Cullens -- who practically wear T-shirts to school saying WE ARE VAMPIRES -- clean up after their meals.
"He was a tribal elder, like my father. You see, the cold ones are the natural enemies of the wolf -- well, not the wolf, really, but the wolves that turn into men, like our ancestors. You would call them werewolves."
"Werewolves have enemies?"
I stared at him earnestly, hoping to disguise my impatience as admiration.
Impatience during a cool story actually doesn't need to be disguised. This is an awesome story, don't stop is actually a kind of compliment. But Bella hadn't told us about her deceitful body language in, like, three sentences so here you go.
"So you see," Jacob continued, "the cold ones are traditionally our enemies. But this pack that came to our territory during my great-grandfather's time was different. They didn't hunt the way others of their kind did -- they weren't supposed to be dangerous to the tribe. So my great-grandfather made a truce with them. If they would promise to stay off our lands, we wouldn't expose them to the pale-faces." He winked at me.
It's interesting to me that one of my biggest pet peeves with the Twilight series probably stemmed from the author not really thinking through her world-building first.
The tribal leaders bargained the Cullens into a position of semi-weakness with a draw card: information. The tribe knew the Cullen's true nature and they could, if they needed to, spread the word. And they would do so if they heard one word about the Cullens hunting anyone on their lands -- including white people. The Twilight!Quileute are super-amazing guardians for humanity, not unlike the Magi in the Mummy movies. They're standing against the tide to protect Forks.
All of this works fine, if you're dealing with Dracula vampires. Dracula vampires fear information, because information is their weak point. Garlic. Crosses. Communion wafers. Stakes. These are the ways you battle Dracula. And it makes perfect sense to hold that information over their heads. You say you mean no harm, that you're a marginalized minority like us? Fine. We won't tell the white people how to murder you. But if you slip up, we won't just bring you into line -- we'll bring them in with us. Fine.
But Twilight vampires aren't Dracula. I think they were meant originally to be (well, but with sparkles, obviously), but things got out of hand and before you knew it, suddenly the Magic Fantasy Vampires had no weaknesses whatsoever and they could really only be killed by their own kind. So now what? How do you justify "we'll tell the white people on you" as a meaningful threat to the Cullens?
Easy! Volturi. We'll create a ruling council of vampires who are so opposed to being known to the humans (Why? Because shut up, that's why.) that they assassinate anyone who drops the masquerade. So when the Quileute threatened to tell the white people, the real threat wasn't the white people knowing, it was the Volturi knowing that the white people know.
Wasn't that easy?
Of course, in order for that to work, you have to basically ignore that apparently the Volturi don't care that a whole lot of brown people know. Like the Quileutes, not all of whom are supernatural werewolves. Or the people employed (owned?) by the Cullens on Isle Esme. But the important thing is that the white people don't know.
And before someone says, "well, clearly the Volturi are racist", that is not a hand-wave. Information is fluid. It doesn't matter if Racist Volturi Voltronsalot doesn't care whether or not a brown person knows that he is a vampire. He is still going to care that the brown person could tell someone. So, no, the Volturi being racist doesn't solve the problem one little bit, even if it were hand-waved that way in-text which as far as I know, it's not. It's just world-building that was written by someone who forgot that when crafting the vampire rule of "people can't know", that said framing didn't take into account that actually quite a lot of people already know, it's just that apparently you sort of failed to think of them that way because they're magical minority characters designed to dispense information and do the wash.
"There's always a risk for humans to be around the cold ones, even if they're civilized like this clan was. You never know when they might get too hungry to resist." He deliberately worked a thick edge of menace into his tone.
"What do you mean, 'civilized'?"
"They claimed that they didn't hunt humans. They supposedly were somehow able to prey on animals instead."
Interesting that Jacob used the term "civilized" rather than "humane".
Chief Crazy Horse (1840-1877) is credited as saying:
"We did not ask you white men to come here. The Great Spirit gave us this country as a home. You had yours. We did not interfere with you. The Great Spirit gave us plenty of land to live on, and buffalo, deer, antelope and other game. But you have come here, you are taking my land from me, you are killing off our game, so it is hard for us to live.
Now, you tell us to work for a living, but the Great Spirit did not make us to work, but to live by hunting. You white men can work if you want to. We do not interfere with you, and again you say why do you not become civilized? We do not want your civilization! We would live as our fathers did, and their fathers before them."
I feel like Jacob's fictional great-grandfather -- who he is largely cribbing from, given how perfectly this legend has been preserved -- would have had a very different understanding of the word "civilized" than someone like S. Meyer. I feel like a tribe of supernatural beings who don't eat humans (Werewolves) describing another tribe of supernatural beings who don't eat humans (Vegetarian Vampires) as "civilized" when the first tribe probably wouldn't claim that term for themselves due to pesky little historical reasons is the sort of thing your editor ought to look out for.
I tried to keep my voice casual. "So how does it fit in with the Cullens? Are they like the cold ones your great-grandfather met?"
"No." He paused dramatically. "They are the same ones."
He must have thought the expression on my face was fear inspired by his story. He smiled, pleased, and continued.
"There are more of them now, a new female and a new male, but the rest are the same. In my great-grandfather's time they already knew of the leader, Carlisle. He'd been here and gone before your people had even arrived."
This book. This book! THIS BOOK.
Jacob's tribe has the number and names of the Cullen coven memorized. They knew Carlisle. They must have known at least by sight Esme and Rosalie and Edward. (Alice and Jasper are the two new ones. And, no, the Quileute have no reason to believe that Carlisle didn't turn them himself. But they do anyway because they're trusting like that.) They told their names to Jacob, presumably from childhood. They sit around their NATIVE AMERICAN fire roasting NATIVE AMERICAN s'mores and they tell NATIVE AMERICAN legends about that white guy Carlisle and his wife and two kids who didn't eat humans.
Jacob didn't believe these stories, of course, because he's a rebellious, fun-loving, modern kid with rebellious fun-loving modern ideas. Until, of course, a guy named Carlisle drifted into town, matching every description to a point, with his wife and four kids. See? The legend is obviously bunk -- there are two more than you guys told me about! I want my NATIVE AMERICAN s'mores back.
"And what are they?" I finally asked. "What are the cold ones?"
"Blood drinkers," he replied in a chilling voice. "Your people call them vampires."
I'm including this to show how dense Bella is. They were cold, immortal, and hungered for humans? What were they? You've only got about three options, Bella, one of which requires passing familiarity with tabletop gaming (Lich), one of which requires passing familiarity with pop culture trends (Zombie), and one of which requires only a vague awareness of literature trends for the last hundred-plus years (Vampire). You should have been able to satisfy the last requirement.
"You're a good storyteller," I complimented him, still staring into the waves.
"Pretty crazy stuff, though, isn't it? No wonder my dad doesn't want us to talk about it to anyone."
I couldn't control my expression enough to look at him yet. "Don't worry, I won't give you away."
"I guess I just violated the treaty," he laughed.
"I'll take it to the grave," I promised, and then I shivered.
This is a lie.
Bella will actually use this story, will use Jacob Black's name, to lead up to confronting Edward with the accusation that he's a vampire. She will essentially say "Jacob Black told me that you were a vampire." She says this to a man who has a temper, a man who acts abusively to her, a man who may or may not be capable of slaughtering the entire Quileute tribe overnight. She says it with zero understanding of the treaty, of any threats that might be enacted in the event of breach. She says it not under duress, but eagerly.
Bella Swan is far, far more guilty of betrayal than anything Edmund Pevensie ever did.
"Seriously, though, don't say anything to Charlie. He was pretty mad at my dad when he heard that some of us weren't going to the hospital since Dr. Cullen started working there."
Charlie Swan has -- for all we can tell -- grown up in Forks. He has been friends with Billy Black since Bella was a child, probably even before that. They've known each other for maybe twenty years, spent numerous weekends sitting back drinking beers and fishing all day long, reveling in each other's silences and probably confiding in each other about their difficulties, what with Charlie's wife leaving him and Billy's wife dying in an unnecessarily horrible tragedy.
So naturally when a rich white stranger with odd behavioral habits and a strange group of suspiciously pretty foster children who are all dating each other shows up at the local hospital and Billy explains that he won't attend the hospital anymore because the new doctor is dangerous in ways that Billy can't explain for the safety of the tribe, Charlie gets mad at him.
"So do you think we're a bunch of superstitious natives or what?" he asked in a playful tone, but with a hint of worry.
It's worth pointing out that Bella doesn't say "no". She just changes the subject. Sure, Jacob pretends not to notice, but you know he went home to his NATIVE AMERICAN TEEPEE and thought about it all night.
She doesn't say "no" because she doesn't want to accidentally cast aspersion on the Cullens. She wants to keep their secret! Except, of course she doesn't keep anyone else's secret, including Jacob's. So either she's unutterably hypocritical or the truth is like kryptonite and it burns her to speak honestly.
"There you are, Bella," Mike called in relief, waving his arm over his head.
"Is that your boyfriend?" Jacob asked, alerted by the jealous edge in Mike's voice. I was surprised it was so obvious.
"No, definitely not," I whispered. I was tremendously grateful to Jacob, and eager to make him as happy as possible. I winked at him, carefully turning away from Mike to do so. He smiled, elated by my inept flirting. [...]
"So when I get my license . . . ," he began.
"You should come see me in Forks. We could hang out sometime." I felt guilty as I said this, knowing that I'd used him. But I really did like Jacob. He was someone I could easily be friends with.
"I was tremendously grateful to Jacob, but not so much that I wouldn't narc him out to Edward Cullen, Professional Vampire, at the first chance I got. I expressed this gratitude by openly expressing an attraction I didn't feel towards a young man I had no intention of ever seeing again. I felt a twinge of guilt for knowingly using him and willfully hurting him, but I consoled myself with a let's-be-friends speech that I composed quietly in my head without leaving him with any impression that I felt that way. The important thing was that I would go home feeling better about myself."
"It was nice to see you again," Jacob said, and I could tell he was taunting Mike just a bit.
"It really was. Next time Charlie comes down to see Billy, I'll come, too," I promised.
His grin stretched across his face. "That would be cool."
"And thanks," I added earnestly.
I honestly don't know if this promise to visit the next time Charlie drives down to see Billy is a lie or not, but I feel 100% safe declaring that it is.