Twilight, Chapter 7: Nightmare
I forced myself to focus on the two most vital questions I had to answer, but I did so unwillingly.
My biggest gripe with Chapter 7 so far is that it is almost entirely without action. Bella had a dream about vampires, then she googled vampires, now she is sitting on a tree outside thinking about vampires. GRIPPING ACTION!
And, honestly, that would not be so bad really -- I don't demand constant stimulation from my reading, I swear -- except that I feel like the narrative is trying to fool me into thinking something interesting is happening. We already talked about the Exciting! Pop-up! Ads! already, and now this is the third or fourth time that Bella has had to 'force' herself to consider things she is 'unwilling' to consider.
I feel like that's cheating. Bella is clearly not unwilling to think about Edward -- she literally obsesses over him during her waking moments and most of her sleeping ones. Of course, she's unwilling to think of him as a vampire since she'd rather he just be normal and moody and head-over-heels in love with her, but for all her 'forcing' of the issue, she's going to essentially come to the conclusion that it doesn't matter what Edward is because she loves him. So all this hand-wringing feels like fake action under false pretenses and it chafes my chaps.*
* Probably not a real aphorism.
First, I had to decide if it was possible that what Jacob had said about the Cullens could be true.
In case you don't remember from last week, the point-list from Jacob was:
- Enemies of werewolves
If Bella has the tools available to evaluate any of those, I'm not sure what they would be. I suppose we have the data point that the Cullens have never been observed to eat food in public, but that's not the same thing as "and therefore they drink blood". Bella doesn't apparently consider werewolves to be real, so that just leaves cold skin and immortality. The cold skin should be easy enough to verify, but once again there are a lot of Occam's Razors in between "cold skin" and "vampire".
So we're left with immortality. And here's where I really think Chris the Cynic's Edith-and-Ben narratives excel, because he's done a really wonderful job of working in the characterization of Edith as being an walking anachronism. Her voice, her speech, her hobbies, and her interests are all dated. Probably her manner of dress is gently dated. Everything about her is a curious mix of modern and ancient, and this is where something like "is this person very possibly immortal?" can really be evaluated in a meaningful way.
Back in Twilight-land, we have Edward. Who Bella accuses of speaking in an old-fashioned way, and yet no more so that I can tell than any other articulate young adult. Who appears to have a stronger grasp (and love) of modern technology than Bella, given his vast CD collection, shiny stereo player, and pretty car. (No vinyl records? I'm disappointed.) Who blends perfectly in at high school, and is segregated not by his dated speech or odd clothes, but rather by his unattainable perfection. Is this guy immortal? WHO KNOWS.
Anyway, Bella is going to evaluate it anyway. Why not.
Immediately my mind responded with a resounding negative. It was silly and morbid to entertain such ridiculous notions. But what, then? I asked myself. There was no rational explanation for how I was alive at this moment. I listed again in my head the things I'd observed myself: the impossible speed and strength, the eye color shifting from black to gold and back again, the inhuman beauty, the pale, frigid skin. And more -- small things that registered slowly -- how they never seemed to eat, the disturbing grace with which they moved. And the way he sometimes spoke, with unfamiliar cadences and phrases that better fit the style of a turn-of-the-century novel than that of a twenty-first-century classroom. He had skipped class the day we'd done blood typing. He hadn't said no to the beach trip till he heard where we were going. He seemed to know what everyone around him was thinking . . . except me. He had told me he was the villain, dangerous. . . .
I count something like three flags on the play here.
First, if Edward Cullen is using unfamiliar phrases prior to this mention, I HAVE NO AWARENESS OF IT. Maybe he has. I've been doing this deconstruction for a year, it's possible I've forgotten something. I should re-read Twilight just to be sure! But I have zero memory of Edward using a strange colloquialism and I have even less memory of Bella calling him on it.
Second, I object to Bella not only bringing up heretofore unmentioned "unfamiliar phrases" but also unfamiliar phrases that precisely fit Edward's time period of origin (assuming by "turn-of-the-century" is is referring to the 1900s, and not the 2000s). Does she have access to the Twilight: Official Illustrated Guide? She does, doesn't she? I know she's not basing her knowledge on her extensive turn-of-the-century novel reading, seeing as how she's utterly unfamiliar with Dracula which was published in 1897.
Third, since when does Edward know what everyone around him is thinking? Edward and Bella have not yet been in conversation with a third party, and I'm pretty sure that Bella has not even observed him interacting with anyone other than his own family members. The one symptom of telepathy shown so far is that Edward mysteriously knew that Isabella preferred to be called 'Bella', but that wasn't terribly mysterious given that he'd had a couple of days to be informed of this through the grapevine.
Apparently all this stuff just sort of happened in the time while Edward was aggressively ignoring Bella in the wake of the van incident. And, of course, that was the time during which they fell into longing love with each other from across the gulf of silence that separated them. It all sounds very fascinating; I'm sorry we had to miss it in favor of all the googling.
And then the most important question of all. What was I going to do if it was true? [...]
Only two options seemed practical. The first was to take his advice: to be smart, to avoid him as much as possible. [...]
I was gripped in a sudden agony of despair as I considered that alternative. My mind rejected the pain, quickly skipping on to the next option.
I could do nothing different. After all, if he was something . . . sinister, he'd done nothing to hurt me so far. [...]
There was one thing I was sure of, if I was sure of anything. The dark Edward in my dream last night was a reflection only of my fear of the word Jacob had spoken, and not Edward himself. [...]
And I knew in that I had my answer. I didn't know if there ever was a choice, really. I was already in too deep. Now that I knew -- if I knew -- I could do nothing about my frightening secret. Because when I thought of him, of his voice, his hypnotic eyes, the magnetic force of his personality, I wanted nothing more than to be with him right now.
I don't honestly know how I feel about this passage.
Well, I mean, it's over-wrought and that bugs me, naturally. Sudden agonies of despair should be used a little more carefully and sparingly than this, in my personal opinion. But getting past the verbiage and digging into the content, I'm still a little ambivalent.
Girl loves boy. Nevermind that we've had little build-up or justification to it; I'll accept it at face value for the moment. Girl loves boy. Boy might be dangerous. What does girl do?
She could avoid him in favor of her own safety. And depending on the reality of the threat level, this may very well be the best plan. But this is something she's going to have to determine for herself: what constitutes a threat and how serious that threat is will to a certain extent vary depending on the couple.
She could continue to build a relationship with him. She could extend trust to him, hoping that he won't abuse that trust, believing that he's a good person unwilling to hurt her. To a certain extent, we all do this every day -- we believe that the people we daily interact with won't deliberately harm us.
In that sense, yes, there really are two choices here. And yet... it seems so much more complicated than that. Bella has a family, a mother and father who love her. On the one hand, I don't think she should be shamed for not considering their safety at all times when choosing who to associate with. No one can or should have that burden thrust on them. Edward, Mike, Tyler, Eric, and Jacob are all responsible for their own actions: if they choose to hurt Bella or her family, it is not her fault for associating with them.
And yet... vampires. I would kind of expect any genuine "should I get involved with Bob, considering that he is very probably a vampire" evaluation to at least consider "even if I don't mind losing my own life, do I want to get my family involved in this?" I don't think Bella should have to consider this, but it strikes me as unnatural that she doesn't. I... is that victim-blaming? I really don't know. Call me out on it if it is, Ramblites.
And yet... vampires. I've already said that if we grant Edward free will and agency and moral understanding -- things he seems pretty clearly to possess -- then we may deduce that he has enough control over his self and his actions to the point where Good and Evil stop being valid categories for whatever kind of vampire he is and he joins the ranks of us ambiguous regular folks. Is Bella simply making the logical leap that Edward is essentially no different from any other suitor, and therefore lies her lack of concern that a sharp-toothed avatar of Satan will slaughter her family while she sleeps?
And yet... vampires. One of the myths that stood out to Bella as plausible in the light of her circumstances was "a creature so strong and fast it could massacre an entire village in the single hour after midnight". Bella is essentially considering entering into a relationship with a demonstrably capricious person who might well have the powers of a demi-god. I would feel uncomfortable dating my boss on the grounds that he might fire me; I have to think I would feel uncomfortable dating Thor, God of Thunder on the grounds that he might raze my home town. Is it natural for Bella to just disregard the power disparity between her and her suitor? I just don't know.
Bella has two options: she can continue to associate with Edward or she can avoid him. But... if this is going to be a thinking novel, full of feelings and thoughts and longings and desires, I'd like to see at least a little of that time dedicated to actually dealing with the real feelings of a real girl looking at the real possibility of dating a real vampire. I'm not demanding a full feminist deconstruction, but I do think there's a lot of material that could have been here and yet sadly wasn't.