Twilight Summary: Bella has traveled to Port Angeles, where Edward saved her life, took her to dinner, and brought her back home without the knowledge of her father Charlie. During the ride home, Edward confirmed that he is a vampire and can read minds. In Chapter 10, Edward will take Bella to school, Jessica will question Bella closely about their relationship, and Edward will eat lunch with Bella and discuss vampire eating habits.
Twilight, Chapter 10: Interrogations
Title drop here.
Did you all have a nice break from Twilight? I hope that you did; I know that I needed a few days off. As much as I enjoy discussing the many issues inherent in the series, there's the problem that there are whole stretches of time where either nothing happens or the same things happen. And then I start wondering why I'm going through this interminably long book line-by-line telling you what is blatantly obvious from the first three chapters and that way discouragement lies. So a break now and then is probably going to do me some good.
And in that spirit, I'm going to deal with Chapter 10 entirely in one post today, instead of the usual line-by-line treatment. I can assure you that I am saving you so much pain this way -- see that summary statement up at the top about what happens in this chapter? Yeah. And if I think of something else I want to talk about with regards to Chapter 10 later before moving on to Chapter 11, well, we'll do that too. We'll see how it goes, yeah? (Remember that leaving a comment -- even if it's just I LIKE THIS POST -- helps me to stay motivated and un-distracted by the shiny.)
Anyway, instead of dealing with everything in a nice linear fashion, today I'm going to pick out issues topically that bug me.
Bella starts the morning with a quick glance out the window, and -- now that she understands that the weather is the key to weather Edward will be present in her life or not -- she becomes increasingly aware of the condition of the sky.
IT WAS VERY HARD, IN THE MORNING, TO ARGUE WITH the part of me that was sure last night was a dream. Logic wasn't on my side, or common sense. I clung to the parts I couldn't have imagined -- like his smell. I was sure I could never have dreamed that up on my own.
It was foggy and dark outside my window, absolutely perfect. He had no reason not to be in school today. I dressed in my heavy clothes, remembering I didn’t have a jacket. Further proof that my memory was real.
The fog had almost dissolved by the end of the second hour, but the day was still dark with low, oppressing clouds. I smiled up at the sky.
Forks was initially sold to us as a thoroughly depressing place for Bella and her mother. Indeed, the perpetually cloudy Forks was what caused the breakup of Charlie and Renee's marriage; as much as they both loved each other, Renee couldn't bear to live her life locked away from the sun and Charlie couldn't bear to leave his home town. Every chapter in this book, to my knowledge, has mentioned the weather and the profound effect that it has on Bella's mood. I have even gone so far as to diagnose her with Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Now, here in Chapter 10, cloudy weather is something to celebrate because it heralds the coming of the Sparkly Ones.
I want to say that I get the fantasy appeal here. It would be wonderful if the source of our depression and anxiety suddenly became a blessing in disguise as the source of our true happiness. But I'm frustrated and annoyed because there's no depth to this portrayal. For 9 chapters, cloudy weather brought Bella to her emotional knees in anguish; in chapter 10, it's a source of unmitigated joy. I have just enough recent experience with depression to recognize that this is not realistic: it's just another fantasy added to the pile.
And that's okay. I find myself again pointing out that fantasy escapist literature is alright, really. But it strikes me as almost flippant, as though it were written by someone who doesn't understand depression. My fantasy for leaving depression isn't for it to be magically gone tomorrow morning because I know that's not possible. My escapist fantasy version would take a little more time, have a little more of a slow start, include a few more realistic touches to make the final escape seem all the more real. Maybe that's just a personal taste thing.
I Know That You Know That I Know
Edward will pick Bella up today and offer her a ride -- that he openly wants her to turn down as part of his "I'ma be just like a boyfriend, but please don't take it for realsy" strategy to magically not hurt her feelings through all this Because of... Something (but definitely not Jasper!) -- and the entire car ride to school will be a mixture of Bella fearing for her life because of how recklessly Edward drives and Edward relentlessly hectoring her because (a) he can't read her mind and (b) she doesn't react to his vampire revelations in a manner he deems appropriate. I would quote the whole thing for you, expect that it would be punctuated by me screaming in fury every few sentences, so here's an excerpt:
He turned to smirk at me. "What, no twenty questions today?”
"Do my questions bother you?” I asked, relieved.
"Not as much as your reactions do.” He looked like he was joking, but I couldn't be sure.
I frowned. "Do I react badly?”
"No, that's the problem. You take everything so coolly -- it's unnatural. It makes me wonder what you're really thinking.”
"I always tell you what I'm really thinking.”
"You edit,” he accused.
"Not very much.”
"Enough to drive me insane.”
"You don't want to hear it,” I mumbled, almost whispered. As soon as the words were out, I regretted them. The pain in my voice was very faint; I could only hope he hadn't noticed it.
Poor Edward! He has to, like, communicate and stuff for this relationship to work. And the communication he receives might not be 100% unvarnished truth. Which you have to feel really sorry for him on that point except for the fact that (a) Bella has labored under this condition her entire life and continues to do so in the face of his constant evasions and continual lying and (b) he never once seems to acknowledge that she might have a harder time of things than he because of this limitation.
Vampire Privilege. Check it at the door, please, Edward.
But wait! In this exceedingly dull and frustrating chapter about
"Good morning, Jessica,” Edward said politely. It wasn't really his fault that his voice was so irresistible. Or what his eyes were capable of.
"Er . . . hi.” She shifted her wide eyes to me, trying to gather her jumbled thoughts. "I guess I'll see you in Trig.” She gave me a meaningful look, and I suppressed a sigh. What on earth was I going to tell her?
"Yeah, I'll see you then.”
She walked away, pausing twice to peek back over her shoulder at us.
"What are you going to tell her?” Edward murmured.
"Hey, I thought you couldn't read my mind!” I hissed.
"I can't,” he said, startled. Then understanding brightened his eyes. "However, I can read hers -- she'll be waiting to ambush you in class.”
And since we had such an... interesting discussion about the ethics of magic this month, here's a good place to bring it up again as a topic. [Note: Comments as part of the ensuing debate must be appropriately trigger-labeled, must not generalize entire groups in support of a point, and must not conflate the abuse suffered by marginalized peoples with other things that are Not The Same in order to make a debate point. If you have privilege, check it, and remember that what is theoretical to you may be life-and-death to others reading along.]
Edward Cullen reads minds. I think he has enough control over this power to turn it off, but I don't remember and I frankly don't much care for the topic at hand. I think there's a certain amount of sympathy available for the Reading Of Minds when that information is merely being used privately within the Cullen family to tweak their behavior in order to remain hidden and safe. (Not everyone is expected to agree with me on that last point, but I'm trying to give Edward some rope here.) But it's another thing entirely when Edward is using his powers to gleefully pry into Jessica's mind in order to get second-hand what he most wants to pry from Bella's mind. (No wonder her subconscious views his power as a psychic attack!)
And boy does he ever. Jessica pumps Bella for information and Bella carefully considers what to tell Jessica that she doesn't mind getting back to Edward, and the whole thing is exceedingly painful and awkward for Bella, this constant lack of privacy and inability to truly confide (related, not coincidentally, to the word "confidential") in a friend without Edward sucking up everything she says and smacking his lips happily with the revelation.
"See you later, Bella.” Her voice was thick with implications. I might have to turn off the ringer on the phone.
"Hello.” His voice was amused and irritated at the same time. He had been listening, it was obvious.
And then Jessica, her job done for the chapter, is shuffled off the stage so that Edward and Bella can have a nice private lunch together and dissect everything that Bella told Jessica that by rights she should have been telling Edward (if she wanted him to know it) and that he should have been receiving only from her (if he wanted to know it). Goodbye, Jessica!
You know what? No. I'm not done with that yet. A good quarter of this chapter is Bella talking to Jessica in order to reveal her feelings to us in the narrative and to Edward through his mind-reading. And Jessica -- who has been portrayed, lest we forget -- as an unforgiving harpy who talks smack about the Cullens after having been spurned by the handsome and unattainable Edward and who is capable of chilly behavior to her friend Bella when she suspects her of Stealing Mike, is nothing but supportive and kind and encouraging to Bella throughout all this. While Edward and (implicitly) Bella are outright using her for information exchange. I can't quote the whole thing for you, because it would be largely punctuated with my rage-sobs for wonderful Jessica being wasted as a friend for ungrateful Bella, but here's an excerpt:
"So are you going out again?"
"He offered to drive me to Seattle Saturday because he thinks my truck isn't up to it -- does that count?"
"Yes." She nodded.
"Well, then, yes."
"W-o-w." She exaggerated the word into three syllables. "Edward Cullen."
"I know," I agreed. "Wow" didn't even cover it.
"Please, Bella," she begged. "Give me some details."
"Well . . . okay, I've got one. You should have seen the waitress flirting with him -- it was over the top. But he didn't pay any attention to her at all." Let him make what he could of that.
"That's a good sign," she nodded. "Was she pretty?"
"Very -- and probably nineteen or twenty."
"Even better. He must like you."
"I think so, but it's hard to tell. He's always so cryptic," I threw in for his benefit, sighing.
"I mean, do you really like him?" she urged.
"Yes," I said again, blushing. I hoped that detail wouldn't register in her thoughts.
She'd had enough with the single syllable answers. "How much do you like him?"
"Too much," I whispered back. "More than he likes me. But I don't see how I can help that." I sighed, one blush blending into the next.
Then, thankfully, Mr. Varner called on Jessica for an answer.
Do you see? DO YOU SEE? Oh my god, how supportive is that? So supportive, that's how much! Jessica is latching onto the least little detail about their evening in order to bolster Bella's confidence that Edward must really like Bella a lot. I mean, there are a hundred reasons why Edward might not be interested in the waitress -- not the least being because she lives in an entirely different town as opposed to being right there at the same school -- but Jessica is spinning a version where Edward is so infatuated with Bella that he doesn't even notice other women. (Later Edward will explicitly confirm this to be true, in the post-conversation re-hash.)
Later when Bella offers one drawback to the relationship -- that she struggles with knowing what to say around Perfect Edward Cullen -- Jessica reassures her that Edward is unbelievably gorgeous, with the implication that Bella's troubles are perfectly natural because of this. And Bella mentally castigates Jessica for being so shallow as to only care about looks. This after such internal monologues as:
Again, the fabric clung to his perfectly muscled chest. It was a colossal tribute to his face that it kept my eyes away from his body.
Oh, yeah, Jessica is real shallow because she states factually that Edward is gorgeous. And you, Bella, are real deep because you see the superhero behind the vampire. *Blech* And then when Bella finally changes the subject to Jessica's love life, Jessica obligingly gives Bella her space and lets the two of them talk about her and Mike, but you just know -- the text doesn't outright say it, but don't we know Bella well enough by now to hazard a guess? -- that Bella is probably rolling her internal eyes at how easily distractible and self-centered and shallow Jessica is.
YOU DON'T DESERVE JESSICA, BELLA.
While We're On The Subject Of How Perfect Bella Swan Is
But of course Jessica is sweet and supportive here and now instead of being catty and vindictive as in prior chapters not because of some complex character growth that took place off-stage, but rather because this chapter is about how utterly perfect Bella Swan is.
We've already gotten to see that in action a bit -- all the girls at school (minus Blond Lauren of the Scam Artist Victims) flock to her, all the named boys at school fall for her, and her hotness is so overwhelming that she's able to inspire Good Citizens into becoming gang rapists after a single glance. (How else to explain the perfect crime statistics for the sleepy port city and Edward's utter disinterest in following up on the would-be rapists in a legal fashion? Simple: once the catalyst -- Bella -- was removed from the equation, the reaction was halted.) Plus, Edward was unable to so much as notice the Hot Waitress and Sexy Hostess because he was so absorbed in Bella's charms.
But those things are circumstantial. Edward could have been distracted by his blood lust. The girls could be friendly to Bella because they're nice people. The boys could be interested in her as a power struggle between the three of them over who will land the New Girl. So let's make it very very clear that Bella Swan is a special snowflake.
"Something you said to Jessica . . . well, it bothers me." He refused to be distracted. His voice was husky, and he glanced up from under his lashes with troubled eyes. [...] "Do you truly believe that you care more for me than I do for you?" he murmured, leaning closer to me as he spoke, his dark golden eyes piercing. [...]
"Yes, I really think that." I kept my eyes down on the table, my eyes tracing the pattern of the faux wood grains printed on the laminate. The silence dragged on. I stubbornly refused to be the first to break it this time, fighting hard against the temptation to peek at his expression. [...]
"What makes you think so?" His liquid topaz eyes were penetrating -- trying futilely, I assumed, to lift the truth straight from my mind. [...]
"Well, aside from the obvious, sometimes . . ." I hesitated. "I can't be sure -- I don't know how to read minds -- but sometimes it seems like you're trying to say goodbye when you're saying something else." That was the best I could sum up the sensation of anguish that his words triggered in me at times.
"Perceptive," he whispered. And there was the anguish again, surfacing as he confirmed my fear. "That's exactly why you're wrong, though," he began to explain, but then his eyes narrowed. "What do you mean, ‘the obvious'?"
"Well, look at me," I said, unnecessarily as he was already staring. "I'm absolutely ordinary -- well, except for bad things like all the near-death experiences and being so clumsy that I'm almost disabled. And look at you." I waved my hand toward him and all his bewildering perfection.
His brow creased angrily for a moment, then smoothed as his eyes took on a knowing look. "You don't see yourself very clearly, you know. I'll admit you're dead-on about the bad things," he chuckled blackly, "but you didn't hear what every human male in this school was thinking on your first day."
I blinked, astonished. "I don't believe it . . . ," I mumbled to myself.
"Trust me just this once -- you are the opposite of ordinary."
Several of you have already picked up the "every human male" quote in the past, but it's just too egregious to pass over.
Bella Swan, ladies and gentlemen, is so hot that she transcends any kind of personal preference or alignment on the Kinsey scale. Gay men want her. Asexual men want her. Men in committed relationships want her. Men who prefer blonds gaze on her and suddenly find that they don't. Men who are older than her and are in positions of authority over her -- as we must glean that teachers and principals and counselors and nurses are included in Edward's awkward "every human male" parsing -- want her, jailbait status be damned. No man can help himself in the face of her overpowering hotness.
And if that doesn't just make your stomach churn, I don't know what will.
It's another fantasy, I get that. I do. It's the Nora Ephron In my sex fantasy, nobody ever loves me for my mind thing. [Source. Content note: Reinforcement of harmful patriarchal beliefs about men, gender generalization, ableism.] It's the Fantasy Of Being Thin / Beautiful When I’m thin, I will be the kind of person who struts down the beach in a bikini, making men weep thing.
But it's a fantasy that is essentially self-centered, that places Bella -- or the reader -- at the literal center of everyone else's emotional universes. Sexual orientation, personal preference, monogamy, and respect for one's position as a person of authority are all tossed out of the window in order to bolster Bella's desire to be overwhelmingly beautiful. That's a fantasy that is fine in small doses and with the acknowledgement that it is indeed a fantasy; it's a fantasy that can be utterly destructive in larger doses and with the belief that such a state of Objective Beauty is actually attainable and pursueable.
Speaking of Kate Harding
And just in case you wanted to take Twilight as the Good Girl's manual to attaining the above fantasy, it's important to remember that the everyday stuff matters if you want to reach Bella Swan levels of perfection and desirability. Take, for example, food.
When I got downstairs, Charlie was gone again -- I was running later than I'd realized. I swallowed a granola bar in three bites, chased it down with milk straight from the carton, and then hurried out the door. Hopefully the rain would hold off until I could find Jessica.
He stepped up to the counter and filled a tray with food. "What are you doing?" I objected. "You're not getting all that for me?"
He shook his head, stepping forward to buy the food.
"Half is for me, of course."
I raised one eyebrow.
He led the way to the same place we'd sat that one time before. From the other end of the long table, a group of seniors gazed at us in amazement as we sat across from each other. Edward seemed oblivious.
"Take whatever you want," he said, pushing the tray toward me.
"I'm curious," I said as I picked up an apple, turning it around in my hands, "what would you do if someone dared you to eat food?"
"You're always curious." He grimaced, shaking his head. He glared at me, holding my eyes as he lifted the slice of pizza off the tray, and deliberately bit off a mouthful, chewed quickly, and then swallowed. I watched, eyes wide.
"If someone dared you to eat dirt, you could, couldn't you?" he asked condescendingly.
I wrinkled my nose. "I did once . . . on a dare," I admitted. "It wasn't so bad."
The entire rest of the chapter will be Edward and Bella talking, until Bella suddenly notices that the cafeteria has cleared out and that it's time for class. It's entirely conceivable that, off-text, she's been scarfing down a full square meal in between tense questions and gazing liquid pool topaz eyes. (You think I'm making that last one up. I wish I was. I really do. The writing in this chapter burns my soul.)
But I don't think it's likely. Not in the face of all the other eating habits Bella has evidenced thus far in her novel. Not in light of the fact that tension -- and her conversation with Edward is nothing if not tense -- repeatedly has been shown to constrict her appetite.
If that's the case, then the entire sum of Bella's food intake for the day is a small granola bar, a swig of milk, and possibly an entire apple. (Note that she's not shown biting into the apple. I'm generously assuming that if she touched it, she ate it.) Dinner for the day -- which should have occurred in Chapter 11 -- is not mentioned at all, so we cannot confirm or deny whether it took place or not.
I want to be very clear: Bella's eating habits may not be unhealthy for Bella. Everyone has unique caloric needs, each body is special, and thin people and/or people who eat sparingly should not be subjected to body policing any more than fat people should. In fact, just to be clear, let's quote that post from Melissa McEwan because I know that not everyone clicks through on the links when they're trying to hold on to a coherent narrative early in the morning:
(Thin people, especially thin women, similarly get portion-policed: If I'm full after half a sandwich and ask for a doggy bag, that's the least I can fucking do and good for Fatty Boom Balatty, but if a very thin woman is full after half a sandwich and asks for a doggy bag, she's "starving herself." Can't fucking win.)
Quoted for truth.
So to be very, very clear, I am not judging Bella for her eating habits.
I am judging her author for the eating habits she decided to imbue her fictional and -- possibly not coincidentally -- Objectively Gorgeous character with.
Well, okay, "judging" is a strong word. Let me take that back. I still believe, and always have, that S. Meyer should write whatever pleases her to write. I'm also hesitant to criticize this choice here because Bella strikes me sometimes as a strong Author Insert character and it's very possible that Bella's eating habits reflect S. Meyer's own, so then when I criticize her choice to make Bella like herself, I'm criticizing a woman for writing about her own experiences and how is that helpful to the cause, Ms. Ana? So I'm not judging.
But I don't like it. I don't like it because it's just too convenient. Bella is Objectively Gorgeous in a very conveniently "natural" way. Rarely does the novel mention makeup or time spent attaining beauty through cosmetic products. Nor does Bella exert much exercise; on the one hand she's disabled (she even uses the term this chapter to describe herself, albeit with "almost" in front of it) in a way that prevents most forms of exercise, and on the other hand, exercise would supply her with some kind of hobby other than doing housework and mooning about with a tattered Jane Austin anthology in one hand.
A lot of people are genetically naturally thin -- that's kind of what Set Points are all about, in fact -- so there's really nothing wrong with a Thin Protagonist Who Doesn't Work Hard For It. By all means, I prefer them that way because it fits better with Set Point theory and stops being a You Can Be This Too! dream of oh, well, if I just worked out an extra 45 minutes a day like Bella does, then maybe. But a protagonist who is Objectively Gorgeous and Naturally Thin and rarely eats more than a few mouthfuls a day makes me incredibly uncomfortable. It's hard not to read pages and pages of the narrative calling loud attention to Bella's Not Eating and not feel like I'm being shown a direct correlation between these things.
And, you know, from a creative standpoint it particularly fluffs my marshmallows in a vampire novel. Bella will have to give up two things in order to be with her Twue Wuv: sunlight and food. We're already seeing in this chapter that sunlight is now Totally Optional as far as Bella is concerned if it means seeing her darling Edward. And she won't even have to really give up sunlight because it's not lethal. She can frolic all day long on the beaches of Isle Esme as long as no White People observe her sparkling radiance.
So that just leaves us with food. Which vampires can't enjoy. Edward says that the pizza tastes like dirt. (Presumably not just because it's made by a school cafeteria.) Bella will be giving up every flavor on earth except the one: blood. But that's okay! Because it's not like she eats anyway! Problem solved forever! ARGH. (At least the Sookie Stackhouse books -- the ones I've read anyway -- tried to genuinely explore how hard it would be to be in a relationship with a vampire and all the things you'd be giving up.)
And I've Run Out Of Steam
Given that I'd originally titled this post "My Beloved Asshole and Me" and I was going to talk about how awful Edward is in this chapter and I apparently didn't get to any of that, I reckon there'll be another Chapter 10 post in the near future. Stay tuned. I found this new format refreshing and easier to speak to; please let me know how you feel (yes, you!) in the comments.