Twilight Recap: Edward and Bella have concluded their dinner conversation and are heading back to Bella's house.
Twilight, Chapter 9: Theory
"CAN I ASK JUST ONE MORE?" I PLEADED AS EDWARD accelerated much too quickly down the quiet street. He didn't seem to be paying any attention to the road.
Edward is telepathic, so he doesn't actually have to look at the road while he drives. He can instead just piece together a conglomerate vision of the road based on what he pulls from the heads of those around him. In this case, his passenger has a mind-shield that blocks him from reading her thoughts, and it's late in the evening so that they're the only car on the road, so it makes perfect sense that he wouldn't need to look at the road and can instead be freed up for soulful eye-gazing with Bella.
YES, IT DOES MAKE SENSE, SHUT UP.
"Well . . . you said you knew I hadn't gone into the bookstore, and that I had gone south. I was just wondering how you knew that."
He looked away, deliberating.
"I thought we were past all the evasiveness," I grumbled. [...]
"Fine, then. I followed your scent." He looked at the road, giving me time to compose my face.
It's important to remember that at this point in the conversation, the word 'vampire' has not been uttered. Edward has been and will continue to blithely fill Bella in on all the details of his telepathic powers and how they work and why (according to his guess) she's immune from his telepathic monitoring, and he will explain to her that she has a persistent 'scent' that he can follow, but he will not tell her that he is a vampire, by god.
His secret is safe.
And it's important to note that because it is the fact that Edward cannot say "I am a vampire" that led to the entire existence of Jacob Black and his fictional instance of the real world Quileute tribe.
SM: Jacob was an afterthought. He wasn't supposed to exist in the original story. When I wrote the second half of Twilight first, there was no Jacob character. He started to exist about the point where I kind of hit a bit of a wall: I could not make Edward say the words I'm a vampire. There was no way that was ever coming out of his mouth -- he couldn't do it. And that goes back to what we were talking about with characters. You know, he had been keeping the truth about himself secret for so long, and it was something he was so... unhappy about, and devastated about. He would never have been able to tell her.
This is what makes Edward Cullen a complex, tortured character: He can explain scenting out humans for tracking, and he can explain magical vampire telepathy powers, but he can't bring up vampirism because that particular secret is beyond the possibility of being broached. So, naturally, it's necessary to invent a person of color character for the sole purpose of dispensing this ancient mystical knowledge to the white heroine. Like you do.
"Why do you think you can't hear me?" I asked curiously.
"I don't know," he murmured. "The only guess I have is that maybe your mind doesn't work the same way the rest of theirs do. Like your thoughts are on the AM frequency and I'm only getting FM." He grinned at me, suddenly amused.
"My mind doesn't work right? I'm a freak?" The words bothered me more than they should -- probably because his speculation hit home. I'd always suspected as much, and it embarrassed me to have it confirmed.
"I hear voices in my mind and you're worried that you're the freak," he laughed. "Don't worry, it's just a theory. . . ." His face tightened. "Which brings us back to you."
Probably Edward is supposed to be read here as reassuring -- you're not the freak, I'm the freak -- but I feel like he's being really dismissive of Bella's genuine concern. She really does believe that Edward can read minds -- she was the one who even brought up the subject, that's how convinced she was -- but she's also noticed that her mind seems to be immune to his powers. The only guess he can offer her is that maybe she's differently, mentally, from everyone else on earth.
Alright, so she's a Unique Butterfly Snowflake, but that's not always a good thing. Bella has to be wondering what that means -- and if it's dangerous. Is there something wrong with her brain? Does she have a brain tumor or is she wired in such a way that she's a danger to herself and others? And where did she get this from, if Charlie is (presumably) not shielded like her? Should she bring Renee up to Forks for a visit and see if Edward can read her mind?
Edward's brush-off of this question doesn't feel reassuring because he's once again redefining the situation to be about him. She shouldn't worry about her brain being unique; how does she think he feels, being the 'freak' who reads minds? Well, Edward, I imagine you feel like a smug, superior vampire 24-7, since you ask, and I additionally imagine that you like being able to read everyone else's minds. So, I'm not really appreciating your let's talk about how I feel act.
I looked away from his face for the first time, trying to find words. I happened to notice the speedometer.
"Holy crow!" I shouted. "Slow down!"
"What's wrong?" He was startled. But the car didn't decelerate.
Oh. My. God. How much do I hate Edward Cullen right now? So much. Not only is he driving unsafely -- which, by the way, he's totally driving unsafely -- but when Bella yells at him in panic to slow down and when, were this an actual emergency, every moment counts, he refuses to respond and instead demands that she take more time and use more words to convince him that her concern is appropriate.
This is condescending and dangerous and careless and disrespectful.
"You're going a hundred miles an hour!" I was still shouting. I shot a panicky glance out the window, but it was too dark to see much. The road was only visible in the long patch of bluish brightness from the headlights. The forest along both sides of the road was like a black wall -- as hard as a wall of steel if we veered off the road at this speed.
"Relax, Bella." He rolled his eyes, still not slowing.
"Are you trying to kill us?" I demanded.
"We're not going to crash."
I tried to modulate my voice. "Why are you in such a hurry?"
"I always drive like this." He turned to smile crookedly at me.
"Keep your eyes on the road!"
"I've never been in an accident, Bella -- I've never even gotten a ticket." He grinned and tapped his forehead. "Built-in radar detector."
"Very funny." I fumed. "Charlie's a cop, remember? I was raised to abide by traffic laws. Besides, if you turn us into a Volvo pretzel around a tree trunk, you can probably just walk away."
"Probably," he agreed with a short, hard laugh. "But you can't." He sighed, and I watched with relief as the needle gradually drifted toward eighty. "Happy?"
"I hate driving slow," he muttered.
Minimizing of fears, check. Intimidation by refusing to slow to a speed she's comfortable with, check. Coercion by refusing to provide her an alternate ride home, check. Putting her down by rolling his eyes at her, check. Flaunting of privilege, check.
This is what an abusive relationship looks like.
There's no reason for Edward to behave like this, at least not within the text. Sure, he could walk away from a car wreck, but he'd be hard pressed to explain to the local authorities -- who must, at least, be familiar with car collisions and the basic physics involved -- how he managed to careen his car at 100 mph into the trees without himself sustaining a single scratch or injury. What's he going to do in that case? Fake his own death somehow? It still means that the Cullens will have to pick up and move if Edward wants to ever leave the house again -- so essentially he's playing with the Worst Case Scenario of having to start over in a new town every time he drives his car.
Which would not, perhaps, be that big a deal except that this Worst Case Scenario is the big reason why his family initially objected to him spending time with Bella -- they didn't want to have to pick up and move again. So basically the big tension of their lives -- will people discover us and force us to go on the lam? -- means little to them in the face of driving safely enough that they don't seriously injure or kill their captive passengers.
For that matter, why do all the Cullens drive so fast? Why are they in a hurry at all? I thought being immortal was supposed to make one more patient, not less so. They've got nowhere to be, nothing important to do, they spend the bulk of their time lounging around in conversation or listening to music, and they're essentially just taking eternity at ease. There's no reason I can see for this rush except that it underscores that the Cullens are so privileged that traffic laws do not apply to them. They're one step away from having their own moon mansion, too, I'm sure.
"I won't laugh," he promised.
"I'm more afraid that you'll be angry with me." [...]
"Why don't you start at the beginning . . . you said you didn't come up with this on your own."
"What got you started -- a book? A movie?" he probed.
"No -- it was Saturday, at the beach." I risked a glance up at his face. He looked puzzled.
"I ran into an old family friend -- Jacob Black," I continued. "His dad and Charlie have been friends since I was a baby."
He still looked confused.
"His dad is one of the Quileute elders." I watched him carefully. His confused expression froze in place. "We went for a walk --" I edited all my scheming out of the story "-- and he was telling me some old legends -- trying to scare me, I think. He told me one . . ." I hesitated.
"Go on," he said.
"About vampires." I realized I was whispering. I couldn't look at his face now. But I saw his knuckles tighten convulsively on the wheel.
"And you immediately thought of me?" Still calm.
"No. He . . . mentioned your family."
He was silent, staring at the road.
I was worried suddenly, worried about protecting Jacob.
When Jacob told Bella the Legend of Pretty Vampires, he told her in confidence. He told her that his tribe had a treaty with the immortal vampires, and that the one term of that treaty that the Quileute people had to honor was to not tell non-Quileute people that vampires exist or that they are named "Cullen" or that they live at 666 Blooddrinkers Drive. Jacob broke that treaty by telling Bella all this, and then he confessed to her a genuine discomfort that he'd done so.
And she told him that she would "take [his secret] to the grave".
A lot of hay -- possibly too much, in my opinion -- is made over the fact that the Twilight series is about a young woman hurtling to her own death with as much enthusiasm and single-mindedness as she can muster. I don't really have so much of a problem with this, because I do see Twilight as something of an Otherkin "vampire in a human body" story, based on Bella's dropped hints above about always feeling different and never quite being sure why.
I also don't necessarily have a problem right off the bat with Bella pursuing a relationship with a being who can potentially cause great harm to her and her family. I frankly wish it was mentioned in the narrative more and I wish it were worked out more openly in her characterization and motivation because I feel like that would be a realistic response, but at the end of the day it's worth noting that pretty much anyone on earth can hurt us, and the answer to that is not necessarily to therefore cut off all social contact with everyone. Yes, Bella's boyfriend of choice here could haul off and decide to murder her, but that statement is not -- strictly speaking -- any less true for any other eligible man in Forks.
But what I do have a problem with is how cavalier Bella is about the safety of others as she navigates this world of vampires. She believes that the Cullens are vampires and she believes Edward is a Good Vampire. That's fine and dandy, but she doesn't know anything about the other Cullens -- she's only ever spoken to Carlisle and he spent the entire meeting lying through his teeth to her. Yet here she is using Jacob as a shield in order to broach the topic of vampires with Edward. Despite the fact that she swore she wouldn't; despite the fact that she has no idea what the terms of the treaty were. Maybe the Cullens are honor bound by the pact to solemnly kill the Quileute people now, who knows? Bella doesn't.
She didn't need to bring him into this. She could have said she was searching the internet for Edward's "symptoms" and stumbled onto a vampire site. She could truthfully say that she had a dream. Why not? We're already talking about telepathy as a real thing, so why not a portentous psychic dream? Edward would believe her -- he's got a psychic sister, after all. She could have honestly said "Someone told me something that got me on the right track, but they don't know about you and I'm sworn not to share their secret." Edward, of all people, should respect that from her -- after all, she's also sworn not to share his secret, after she told him in the hospital that she wouldn't.
Instead, she sings like a canary here because she doesn't consider keeping Jacob Black's secret and his family safe to be more important than the immediate gratification of confronting Edward. And if I had a secret to be kept and a family to keep safe, I'd think twice about associating further with someone who does that, even if I believed they were spilling the beans in good faith. If you've been protecting your secret for so long that you can't even physically say the secret, you'd probably notice things like that. Well, I would, anyway.
But Edward doesn't mind here because Bella hasn't really breached a trust. Jacob isn't a real person in this case any more than his tribe was considered to be real people when they promised not to tell the white people about the Cullens' secret, which of course only worked as a threat because the Volturi didn't want people to know and, by people, we mean real White People. To quote myself:
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.
Yes, Jacob Black broke the treaty, but the person he told is practically an honorary Cullen already. So that doesn't matter. And, yes, Bella doesn't keep Jacob's secrets yet sees no irony in expecting Edward to trust her with his secrets, because obviously telling the secrets of a person-of-color invented solely for the purpose of dispensing the secret in the first place is totally different from keeping the secrets of the privileged vampire who can kill Jacob with a flick of his wrist and then disappear into the Alaskan wilderness without a trace. Naturally.
By the way, to the best of my knowledge, Jacob doesn't appear again in this book. Bella will not rush home to warn him that she broke his trust and shared his confidence with Edward. She won't give him the heads-up that she thinks it will be alright, but that just in case he might want to lay low for awhile. She won't check to be sure that he and his family are safe and don't all suffer an 'accident' for their indiscretion. I'm pretty sure she doesn't waste another thought on him or on her betrayal of his trust.
Why should she? Privilege means she doesn't have to worry about little stuff like that, just like Edward's privilege means he can drive however dangerously he wants and Bella can learn to know her place and hold her tongue.