Twilight Summary: 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
When we last left our heroes, Bella and Jessica had headed towards the lunchroom only to be interrupted by the appearance of Edward, which was most likely conveyed in slow-motion and possibly with a hazy filtered lens. Jessica correctly deduced that the two love-birds wanted to eat alone and removed herself hastily from the scene.
“Hello.” His voice was amused and irritated at the same time. He had been listening, it was obvious.
And isn't is darling that Edward's defining two emotions are being irritated with Bella and deeply amused at the perceived absurdity of either Jessica or Bella or both? Isn't that just precisely what you want in a boyfriend, someone who will rifle through the mind of your best friend and then alternately smirk and scowl over what he finds there? ROMANCE!
Edward leads Bella through the cafeteria. Bella walks quietly beside/behind him, and allows him to lead her through the line, at which point he collects a little bit of everything on the menu (without asking her what she wants, prefers, or potentially can't have), pays for them both, and guides her over to an empty table. I think this is supposed to read as "nervous and anxious" in a romantic way and not in a cowed-and-frightened way, but it's a fine line in Twilight. (And sometimes I almost wish the narrative did make Edward more clearly Scary Dangerous Vampire. When I can't decide if this supposed to read as Perfect Boyfriend or Terrible Abuser, I start getting worried.)
“Jessica’s analyzing everything I do — she’ll break it down for you later.” He pushed the rest of the pizza toward me. The mention of Jessica brought a hint of his former irritation back to his features.
I put down the apple and took a bite of the pizza, looking away, knowing he was about to start.
“So the waitress was pretty, was she?” he asked casually.
“You really didn’t notice?”
“No. I wasn’t paying attention. I had a lot on my mind.”
“Poor girl.” I could afford to be generous now.
“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.
“I’m not surprised you heard something you didn’t like. You know what they say about eavesdroppers,” I reminded him.
“I warned you I would be listening.”
“And I warned you that you didn’t want to know everything I was thinking.”
“You did,” he agreed, but his voice was still rough. “You aren’t precisely right, though. I do want to know what you’re thinking — everything. I just wish . . . that you wouldn’t be thinking some things.”
Where do I start here? I particularly flinch at how the irritation is "brought back to his features" (Edward Cullen: Not one to give up a grudge!) but even knowing that he's building up to a berating session at Bella, he starts out "casually" as if to take her off balance. Is this creepy? To me, it is.
Then there's the fact that Edward is auditing Bella's thoughts again. Earlier he audited her by accusing her of accepting things too easily, which is a really awful thing to audit someone for, by the way. People can't often control their initial reactions to disturbing or distressing information, and it's just as likely and possible that Bella is accepting disclosures like Vampire and Immortal and so forth from a place of quiet shock as from a place of open acceptance. And this doesn't even get into the issues that Bella, as a women living in North America, has been conditioned her entire life to react with little emotion to upsetting things. From that post:
If women are raised being told by parents, teachers, media, peers, and all surrounding social strata that:
If we teach women that there are only certain ways they may acceptably behave, we should not be surprised when they behave in those ways.
- it is not okay to set solid and distinct boundaries and reinforce them immediately and dramatically when crossed (“mean bitch”)
- it is not okay to appear distraught or emotional (“crazy bitch”)
- it is not okay to make personal decisions that the adults or other peers in your life do not agree with, and it is not okay to refuse to explain those decisions to others (“stuck-up bitch”)
- it is not okay to refuse to agree with somebody, over and over and over again (“angry bitch”)
- it is not okay to have (or express) conflicted, fluid, or experimental feelings about yourself, your body, your sexuality, your desires, and your needs (“bitch got daddy issues”)
- it is not okay to use your physical strength (if you have it) to set physical boundaries (“dyke bitch”)
- it is not okay to raise your voice (“shrill bitch”)
- it is not okay to completely and utterly shut down somebody who obviously likes you (“mean dyke/frigid bitch”)
So you have this frustrating cycle where Edward tells Bella things about himself, a little at a time so that he can really string out this process, Bella reacts in ways that she thinks will minimize harm (be calm, don't react negatively) and then Edward angrily audits her reactions and claims that her reactions are wrong and inappropriate. Stellar.
“Are you going to answer the question?”
I looked down. “Yes.”
“Yes, you are going to answer, or yes, you really think that?” He was irritated again.
Eventually we're going to get to a point where all the Twilight posts are just going to be me writing profanity in all caps. CAPSRAGE, we will call it. Because that is what these sentences make me want to do, when they are paired together in the way they are here.
“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, [...]
I quickly reminded him of my original argument.
“But I’m not saying goodbye,” I pointed out.
“Don’t you see? That’s what proves me right. I care the most, because if I can do it” — he shook his head, seeming to struggle with the thought — “if leaving is the right thing to do, then I’ll hurt myself to keep from hurting you, to keep you safe.”
Oh joy. We get to have a Who Loves Whom The Most competition. The game where there are no losers, except the readers who have to plow through this. But pushing my cynicism aside for a moment and accepting that some people genuinely and validly enjoy exploring deep questions like this -- i.e., what is the more loving act, to stay with someone because they want you to even though your presence puts them in danger, or to leave them so that they may be safe-if-heartbroken -- I'd like to gripe some more about Edward's chosen methods of auditing Bella's thoughts.
If Bella really is thinking things that Edward doesn't want her to think, there are ways to go about that. If she's thinking that Edward doesn't love her as much as she loves him, there are things he can do and say in response. He can talk to her openly about his feelings. He can describe how he feels about her, and the ways in which she dazzles him. He can lead her through his own thoughts and feelings (the way he desperately wants to be led through hers) and show her why she's so important to him.
We don't get that. Instead we get Edward flat-out telling Bella that she's so hot that every Human Male in the school wants to bone her. And we get him trying to out-logic her in an argument that will Totes Prove that Edward has Infinity Plus One Love, and Bella's own love measures short indeed against that metric, bam! And we get a lot of aggressive auditing about how now that Bella KNOWS she's hot (because telepathy) and KNOWS that Edward loves her more (because logic), she needs to stop feeling unloved and insecure now, mmkay?
And that does not read as anything close to love to me. To me, love is accepting and caring and kind. Love accepts that people are sometimes insecure, and love endeavors to reassure those insecurities. "Proving" that someone is loved on the grounds of their Objective Hotness and Objective I-Will-Leave-You-Soon-But-It-Hurts-Me-Therefore-Love is not something that is going to reassure me, unless my insecurities are "am I hot enough to replace this guy with someone better" and "will he leave soon so I can get on with that". Those are not Bella's insecurities. Bella's insecurities are "am I loved" and "will he stay". Edward hasn't addressed those things, not really. I'm not sure he ever will, and shutting down Bella and telling her she shouldn't even think those things is drastically unhelpful.
Abruptly, his unpredictable mood shifted again; a mischievous, devastating smile rearranged his features. “Of course, keeping you safe is beginning to feel like a full-time occupation that requires my constant presence.”
“No one has tried to do away with me today,” I reminded him, grateful for the lighter subject. I didn’t want him to talk about goodbyes anymore. If I had to, I supposed I could purposefully put myself in danger to keep him close. . . . I banished that thought before his quick eyes read it on my face. That idea would definitely get me in trouble.
“Yet,” he added.
“Yet,” I agreed; I would have argued, but now I wanted him to be expecting disasters.
Hey! Remember how New Moon is basically about Bella getting herself into deadly situations so that she can "see" Edward in her mind as he chews her out for being reckless? This is worse; here in Twilight, she's contemplating getting into deadly situations in order to force Edward to stay with her. And, yes, that is a slice of pie on the Domestic Violence wheel.
“Do you really need to go to Seattle this Saturday, or was that just an excuse to get out of saying no to all your admirers?”
I made a face at the memory. “You know, I haven’t forgiven you for the Tyler thing yet,” I warned him. “It’s your fault that he’s deluded himself into thinking I’m going to prom with him.”
“Oh, he would have found a chance to ask you without me — I just really wanted to watch your face,” he chuckled. I would have been angrier if his laughter wasn’t so fascinating. “If I’d asked you, would you have turned me down?” he asked, still laughing to himself.
“Probably not,” I admitted. “But I would have canceled later — faked an illness or a sprained ankle.”
He was puzzled. “Why would you do that?”
I shook my head sadly. “You’ve never seen me in Gym, I guess, but I would have thought you would understand.”
“Are you referring to the fact that you can’t walk across a flat, stable surface without finding something to trip over?”
“That wouldn’t be a problem.” He was very confident. “It’s all in the leading.” He could see that I was about to protest, and he cut me off.
You know it's been a long year when I can't get worked up over ableism in Twilight anymore.
And I don't mean that in a "I'm tired of Twilight" kind of way. I mean that in an "I'm flabbergasted by this" kind of way. I'm serious. The first time I read Twilight, I was blown away by the ableism on display in this novel, and subsequent readings have not deadened me to it. But it's so flagrant I don't know what to say about it. It's rendered me speechless.
Here is a list of my admittedly subjective opinions regarding this passage.
1. It is cruel for Edward to continually refer to Mike/Eric/Tyler as "admirers" when all of them have crossed over the line of appropriate behavior towards Bella. Edward is perpetuating Rape Culture by pretending that bad behavior is a compliment.
2. It is cruel for Edward to consider Bella's reaction in the face of unwanted sexual advances to be a source of entertainment, particularly when he still knows so little about her. What if she did (and still does) find Tyler's behavior triggering? Edward is perpetuating Rape Culture by framing Bella herself (her facial expressions and reactions) as a source of public entertainment.
3. It is cruel for Edward to continue taunting Bella -- who he knows is attracted to him -- with the suggestion of a date with him to the dance (now the second time he's insinuated that he could ask if he wanted to). Edward is engaging in bullying behavior by offering something that he knows she can't have.
4. It is cruel of Edward to repeatedly forget that Bella has a disability. Bella has explicitly revealed to Charlie (and, I think, Jessica, but I'm not going to look for it now) why she's not interested in going to the dance. I refuse to believe that Edward hasn't gone digging around in Charlie's brain for information about Bella, not with him jonesing so badly for information that he's lashing out verbally at Bella and going through Jessica's head faster than she can register new thoughts. By refusing to remember what (I believe) he already knows, Edward is forcing Bella to reiterate her disability repeatedly to him, which can be deeply distressing.
5. It is cruel of Edward to frame Bella's disability in the terms he uses here. Not only is he belittling her by making it sound like she can't accomplish simple tasks, but he is additionally faulting her by saying that she "finds" (active, deliberate) something to trip over. Essentially, Edward is a jackass.
Okay? Just my opinions.
“I’m open to alternatives,” I allowed. “But I do have a favor to ask.” He looked wary, as he always did when I asked an open-ended question. “What?”
“Can I drive?”
He frowned. “Why?”
“Well, mostly because when I told Charlie I was going to Seattle, he specifically asked if I was going alone and, at the time, I was. If he asked again, I probably wouldn’t lie, but I don’t think he will ask again, and leaving my truck at home would just bring up the subject unnecessarily. And also, because your driving frightens me.”
He rolled his eyes. “Of all the things about me that could frighten you, you worry about my driving.” He shook his head in disgust, but then his eyes were serious again.
Edward has issues with trust. He wants unfettered access to Bella's thoughts, but is wary if she so much as mentions a favor. This despite the fact that he's asked her for open-ended promises before -- not favors, but promises -- and she's agreed to his needs whole-heartedly without immediate reservation.
Edward has issues with respect. He expects Bella to take his needs and thoughts and feelings seriously. She must respect that he could end their relationship at any time, supposedly for her own good, because what worries him is paramount, even if those things don't worry her. Yet he scoffs and ridicules her own fears, in this case his driving, even though he has admitted that his driving could potentially kill her.
“Won’t you want to tell your father that you’re spending the day with me?” There was an undercurrent to his question that I didn’t understand. [...]
“Why in the world would I do that?” His eyes were suddenly fierce. “To give me some small incentive to bring you back.”
I gulped. But, after a moment of thought, I was sure. “I think I’ll take my chances.”
He exhaled angrily, and looked away.
“Let’s talk about something else,” I suggested.
“What do you want to talk about?” he asked. He was still annoyed.
Edward has issues with anger.
But it's more complicated than that. Edward has issues with anger and ableism and trust and intimacy and everything else with Bella because, fundamentally, he does not respect Bella. He claims to love her, and the narrative says I'm supposed to believe him, but he doesn't respect her even a bit. He audits her thoughts, criticizes her choices, argues against her needs. He is suspicious of her, refusing to trust that she will work with him for their mutual happiness rather than against him for her own gratification. He treats her disability as amusing at best, deliberate at worst, and unimportant and entirely forgettable for the most part. And every time Bella continues to be a person instead of a blood-scented porcelain doll, Edward gets annoyed and angered and outraged.
There are people like that in real life. But we usually call them abusers.
Finishing off the chapter, Edward tells Bella about their hunting trip and how Emmett both prefers-to-eat and resembles-at-hunt a bear.
“Are you like a bear, too?” I asked in a low voice.
“More like the lion, or so they tell me,” he said lightly. “Perhaps our preferences are indicative.”
I tried to smile. “Perhaps,” I repeated. But my mind was filled with opposing images that I couldn’t merge together. “Is that something I might get to see?”
“Absolutely not!” His face turned even whiter than usual, and his eyes were suddenly furious. I leaned back, stunned and — though I’d never admit it to him — frightened by his reaction. He leaned back as well, folding his arms across his chest.
“Too scary for me?” I asked when I could control my voice again.
“If that were it, I would take you out tonight,” he said, his voice cutting. “You need a healthy dose of fear. Nothing could be more beneficial for you.”
“Then why?” I pressed, trying to ignore his angry expression.
He glared at me for a long minute.
“Later,” he finally said. He was on his feet in one lithe movement. “We’re going to be late.”
Edward's latest (and last, for this chapter) outburst literally frightens Bella. He's been on a low simmer of irritation for the entire afternoon and now he's boiled over into furious anger.
His reason for being so upset, if I understand correctly from the little bits of Breaking Dawn I read once when I was fact-checking something, is that he's horrified by the suggestion since Bella's presence in the midst of feeding could push him over the edge into attacking her. Fine.
But this reaction is not horror. It's fury, or at least Bella labels it such. As the point-of-view character, I'm willing to give her the benefit of being able to tell horror from anger. And Edward is angry at her for this suggestion because it's a suggestion that could put her life at risk. But Bella doesn't know that. And Edward has to realize that. So essentially he's furious with her for making a mistake, after he himself has spent the entire afternoon deliberately insulting and belittling her.
Edward Cullen. Definitely not better than chocolate.
But what's really horrifying here is when Bella tries to recover the situation and ventures a suggestion for Edward's unexplained violent outburst: Too scary for me? And Edward tells her that if it were only a matter of scaring her, he would do it as soon as possible, because she "needs" to be scared. She needs to be frightened of him. She needs to be, essentially, punished for accepting him with love and kindness rather than hating and fearing him for being different. And, yes, we can construe this as Edward's self-hatred speaking, but it's self-hatred that is currently being directed against Bella. And that is all kinds of wrong.
As is avoiding her perfectly legitimate what-did-I-do-wrong-so-you-won't-react-like-that-again question in favor of a withering glare.