Twilight Recap: Edward has explained to Bella that he and his family are "vampire vegetarians" who don't want to be murdering monsters.
Twilight, Chapter 9: Theory
Every so often, there are pieces of Twilight where I'm not quite sure if I like what's going on in text or not. (I know, blasphemy, but stick with me here.) Chapter 9 is one of those pieces because while Edward is being an utterly self-absorbed, selfish, oblivious jerkface, the narrative almost seems to accept that he's those things. And to maybe call him out as though those things aren't wonderful, romantic, delightful character traits in a lover.
"Were you hunting this weekend, with Emmett?" I asked when it was quiet again.
The car is "quiet" because Edward is rapidly withdrawing into himself. Bella is trying to keep him talking because she's terrified that he's working himself up into an internal turmoil that will end in an announcement that he can never see her again because it's too dangerous, but she's also trying to walk a fine line between accruing more information before Edward clams up again and keeping everything light and airy so that he will hopefully remain relaxed. The whole situation is very fraught, and the text seems to acknowledge that this is overly burdensome on Bella.
And I want to emphasize something here: Edward absolutely should have a say in whether or not he keeps seeing Bella. I want to emphasize that very strongly; Edward doesn't "owe" Bella a relationship, nor should he be forced into a situation that makes him feel uncomfortable. If Edward comes to the decision that as much as he loves Bella, he can't be with her for his own sake because he doesn't want to risk murdering the woman he loves, then Bella needs to respect that and allow him his space.
However, like pretty much every Edward-need in the series, that is not the direction from which this issue will be approached. Instead of grappling with the actual needs and desires of Edward, almost the entirety of the will-they/won't-they relationship issues will revolve around whether or not Edward has to leave Bella for her own sake and this I do not like at all because once again it's a lazy way of pushing Edward's needs onto Bella and then stripping her of the agency to deal with her own 'needs' (because they never were hers to begin with).
What I can't tell, though, is whether or not the text is aware that Edward is doing this and whether or not it's calling him out for it. Bella's near-panic that Edward is about to quit her cold-turkey and disappear from her life forever is genuine, and I think that concern is realistic: Edward may not owe Bella a relationship, but after all his (broken) promises of explanations, I think he at least owes her the courtesy of a clean break-up and a clear understanding that it's Not Her, It's Him. Bella isn't sure he's going to grant her this courtesy, though, so she's trying to keep him talking and grasping at the first things she can think of: feeding, Emmett, his location over the weekend, etc.
"Yes." He paused for a second, as if deciding whether or not to say something. "I didn't want to leave, but it was necessary. It's a bit easier to be around you when I'm not thirsty."
"Why didn't you want to leave?"
"It makes me . . . anxious . . . to be away from you." His eyes were gentle but intense, and they seemed to be making my bones turn soft. "I wasn't joking when I asked you to try not to fall in the ocean or get run over last Thursday. I was distracted all weekend, worrying about you. And after what happened tonight, I'm surprised that you did make it through a whole weekend unscathed."
And then there's this. It's more victim-blaming, but it's wrapped up in this soft declaration of near-love that is possibly the closest Edward has come to expressing the depth of his affection for Bella. I basically read this as I love you, you inferior clumsy oaf-person, and I think we're probably supposed to interpret it generally along those lines. There's a sweetness to it -- he cares about her, he worries about her when he's away -- but there's an underlying harshness to it as well.
If Edward cares so deeply about Bella, why does he do so little to ensure her safety? Why did he ask her to take care of herself in the most condescending, dismissive manner possible (and therefore guaranteed that she wouldn't register the request as something to take seriously)? Why did he fail to ask any of his dear siblings -- Alice, perhaps, since she's sympathetic enough to be at the "returning Bella's truck home" stage -- to look after her while he was feeding? Why did he follow her all the way to Port Angeles to look after her, and then do such an incredibly poor job of keeping tabs on her that she very nearly was violently gang raped?
There's almost a sense here -- and I can't decide if it's meant to be in the text or not -- that Edward is so privileged and so set apart from the rest of us mere mortals that he simply doesn't know how to relate to someone in a polite, realistic, romantic fashion. He's Mr. Darcy dialed up to eleven! And that's not actually a bad thing: it's kind of a staple of vampire-lit and god-lit and superhero-lit for the overpowered being to need to learn to relate to the heroine on her level, but then we're back to just a few pages ago when Edward was openly dazzling and wooing the wait staff at La Bella Italia and I'm left poking half-heartedly at the text wishing some consistency would shake out.
Does Edward know how to relate to us mere mortals or doesn't he? Maybe this is supposed to be the "good at flirting, crappy at relationships" trope, but doesn't that belong with the highly-sexed playboy hero, not the virgin vampire hero?
[...] I looked down at my palms, at the almost-healed scrapes across the heels of my hands. His eyes missed nothing.
"I fell," I sighed.
"That's what I thought." His lips curved up at the corners. "I suppose, being you, it could have been much worse -- and that possibility tormented me the entire time I was away. It was a very long three days. I really got on Emmett's nerves." He smiled ruefully at me.
I've remarked in the past that the most appealing aspect of Edward as a lover (in my opinion) is his family. This is partly because his family is for the most part filled with interesting people who have intriguing superpowers and varied personalities (as well as being valuable clique members for sharing secrets), but I think it's also because it is through Edward's family that a lot of his love for Bella is expressed. Edward's love for Bella is demonstrated through Rosalie's jealousy, through Alice's visions, through Jasper's innate understanding of emotions, and through Emmett's rowdy acceptance of his new little sister.
But though there is a certain romance here -- both in the explicit demonstration of Edward's love through his family, and in the "buy one boyfriend, get one closely-knit nuclear family free" bargain that Bella seems to secretly long for -- here is still another case of Edward making their relationship about everyone except Bella. Edward was anxious being away from Bella; Emmett was made to be annoyed by Edward's fretting. At no point did it apparently occur to Edward that Bella might be made anxious by his absence or that she might be annoyed by being left out of the information loop or by being yo-yo'd around emotionally as Edward pings back-and-forth in his will-I/won't-I game of deciding whether or not to be friends (or more) with her.
"Then why weren't any of you in school?" I was frustrated, almost angry as I thought of how much disappointment I had suffered because of his absence. [...] "You might have called me," I decided.
He was puzzled. "But I knew you were safe."
"But I didn't know where you were. I --" I hesitated, dropping my eyes. [...] "I didn't like it. Not seeing you. It makes me anxious, too." I blushed to be saying this out loud.
He was quiet. I glanced up, apprehensive, and saw that his expression was pained.
"Ah," he groaned quietly. "This is wrong." [...] "Don't you see, Bella? It's one thing for me to make myself miserable, but a wholly other thing for you to be so involved." He turned his anguished eyes to the road, his words flowing almost too fast for me to understand. "I don't want to hear that you feel that way." His voice was low but urgent. His words cut me. "It's wrong. It's not safe. I'm dangerous, Bella -- please, grasp that." [...]
And now we get a glimpse into Edward's twelve-dimensional stickle bricks plan for how he intends to get what he wants (i.e., to spend time soaking in the exquisite misery that is Bella's perfect presence) while still protecting her from himself and being totally morally absolved from emotionally hurting a young woman. He's just going to hang out with her, be her best friend at school, drive her on day trips to nearby towns for shopping, but not get involved with her romantically. And he's going to do all that without having any clear, upfront conversations with Bella about why he's behaving this way. Edward Cullen's plan is, essentially, to be the polar opposite of the Classic Nice Guy but with all the same essential drawbacks and creepiness.
A "Nice Guy", as most of you will recall, is someone who believes that once zie inputs a certain quantity of emotional investment in a relationship, zie is "owed" something by the other party at the end: whether that debt takes the form of a long-term romantic relationship or a sexual payoff will vary from Nice Guy to Nice Guy, but the underlying theory is the same in each case. The Nice Guy believes that human interaction can be boiled down into predictable I/O responses, and that social relationships simply depend on mastering the correct inputs in order to receive the proper outputs.
So while your average Nice Guy is bound to throw a fit at the unfairness of a neighbor failing to fall in love with zem after precisely sixteen instances of holding the stairwell doors open for hir and three car pool rides to the grocery store when the neighbor had car trouble, Edward is going the opposite route: he's going to do all the classic nice inputs that usually signal the potential for a relationship, and then throw a fit when Bella actually suggests that she might like to have a deeper relationship with this guy. And the problem with both these approaches -- or, at least, one of the many problems -- is that each approach basically (a) relies on emotional manipulation and communication avoidance and (b) is utterly unconcerned with whether or not the other party ends up happy.
And in a bizarre, backwards-universe kind of way, this is how I see Edward Cullen's relationship plan with Bella. He seems to have it in his head that if Bella is going to be plopped into his lap like this, he might as well stop trying to avoid her and just bask in the excruciating loveliness that is her beautiful soul. But he's going to justify him hanging around her and being her friend and going through all the motions of being a lover without actually committing to same, because it's just his feelings on the line. Bella won't take all this seriously, she won't fall in love, she won't be hurt by Edward slumming around with the humans like this.
He has no evidence for any of this, of course, but it seems to be what he assumes will happen. (I'd say "Because Jasper", but Jasper actually could make this happen, regardless of the ethics involved, so Edward clearly isn't going to go the route that might actually work.) And -- again -- Edward doesn't owe Bella a relationship. His romantic-y inputs into their interactions doesn't mean he has to be her boyfriend now because Rules.
But if he wants to be a decent person, he does owe it to Bella to have a serious sit-down conversation with her about what he does and doesn't want out of his unlife. "I like hanging out with you, and if you want me to I'll gladly stay here until the day you die, but I can't live with the idea of turning someone else into something like me," is communication. But it's communication that features a possibility for rejection -- Well, I don't want to be involved with someone who is going to stay 17 no matter how old I get, so thanks but no thanks. -- and so Edward is cheating by holding off the conversation just a little bit longer. Like you do.
"What are you thinking?" he asked, his voice still raw. I just shook my head, not sure if I could speak. I could feel his gaze on my face, but I kept my eyes forward.
"Are you crying?" He sounded appalled. I hadn't realized the moisture in my eyes had brimmed over. I quickly rubbed my hand across my cheek, and sure enough, traitor tears were there, betraying me.
"No," I said, but my voice cracked.
"I'm sorry." His voice burned with regret. I knew he wasn't just apologizing for the words that had upset me.
Edward didn't plan for Bella to become so involved with him that his withdrawal would make her miserable. He thought that he was the only one really drawn into this relationship; he apparently believed that his feelings were the only ones at risk here. It was irresponsible for him to believe that -- he does, after all, live with an Empath and an Psychic and he is additionally capable of reading their minds any time he wants. But he did somehow manage to make himself believe it and now he knows otherwise. Now his character will be defined, in part, by what he does in response, now that he realizes that this very young, very innocent, very vulnerable human girl cares as deeply for him as he does for her.
"Tell me something," he asked after another minute, and I could hear him struggle to use a lighter tone. [...] "What were you thinking tonight, just before I came around the corner? I couldn't understand your expression -- you didn't look that scared, you looked like you were concentrating very hard on something."
"I was trying to remember how to incapacitate an attacker -- you know, self-defense. I was going to smash his nose into his brain." I thought of the dark-haired man with a surge of hate.
"You were going to fight them?" This upset him. "Didn't you think about running?"
"I fall down a lot when I run," I admitted. [...]
He shook his head. "You were right -- I'm definitely fighting fate trying to keep you alive."
I suppose a vague, unspecific, non-pology followed by a light-hearted topic change that manages to blame Bella for trying to defend herself from rape because obviously self-defense is way more dangerous and doomed to fail than running when one has a disability that specifically prevents running and what have I told you about remembering?!? is pretty much about what I expect out of Edward at this point.