Twilight: Nothing Further To Ask

Content Note: Abusive Relationships, Ableist Language

Twilight Summary: In Chapter 11, Edward and Bella will experience strong physical feelings for one another and will get to know each other better as they traverse a new daily routine. 

Twilight, Chapter 11: Complications

Now that Edward and Bella are officially together and a couple, it's time for their youthful love to flourish and grow and deepen, ideally in a manner that explicitly underscores that this is an Epic Love Affair against which all other love affairs seem but a dim and pale copy. Obviously the best time for this all to happen is during the commute to and from school, and with short bursts of familiarity between the two lab partners in their biology class under Mr. Banner's not-so-watchful eye.

I struggle with analyzing this chapter because any criticisms I could make against it -- such as the criticism that Bella and Edward seem to be moving into a deep intimacy too quickly for my tastes and in a manner that personally strikes me as potentially unhealthy, given all the other considerations at work here (such as Edward's attitude, behavior, and undead nature coupled with Bella's history, personality, and long-standing loneliness) -- can well be leveled by the assertion that this is how some romances do indeed unfold, and some of them manage to work out quite well and who am I to say otherwise, etc.

But having made that caveat, I will say that it is interesting to me, personally, that much of this chapter describes the deepening physical attraction between Edward and Bella, even more so than the growth of their emotional attraction. The duo spend two tense afternoons in Biology class, fighting against the surrounding darkness of "movie day" (from whence they are not expected to remember anything; Mr. Banner is clearly taking a rest week here), their fists painfully clenched to keep from losing control and touching one another:

   And then, as the room went black, I was suddenly hyperaware that Edward was sitting less than an inch from me. I was stunned by the unexpected electricity that flowed through me, amazed that it was possible to be more aware of him than I already was. A crazy impulse to reach over and touch him, to stroke his perfect face just once in the darkness, nearly overwhelmed me. I crossed my arms tightly across my chest, my hands balling into fists. I was losing my mind.
   The opening credits began, lighting the room by a token amount. My eyes, of their own accord, flickered to him. I smiled sheepishly as I realized his posture was identical to mine, fists clenched under his arms, right down to the eyes, peering sideways at me. He grinned back, his eyes somehow managing to smolder, even in the dark. I looked away before I could start hyperventilating. It was absolutely ridiculous that I should feel dizzy.
    The hour seemed very long. I couldn’t concentrate on the movie — I didn’t even know what subject it was on. I tried unsuccessfully to relax, but the electric current that seemed to be originating from somewhere in his body never slackened. Occasionally I would permit myself a quick glance in his direction, but he never seemed to relax, either. The overpowering craving to touch him also refused to fade, and I crushed my fists safely against my ribs until my fingers were aching with the effort.

I really, really do not like that Bella's increasing attraction for Edward is framed in terms of mental illness, but setting that aside for the moment, I really do recognize this feeling. I've been in the throes of new love before, I've been in times and places where all I've wanted to do is touch and gaze at another person, and have had to restrain myself because it wasn't the right time or place. What I'm saying is, I recognize this.

But I also have some distance from this. I can see it as an ah nostalgia and ooh young love and find it touching without seeing it as an epic love story of mega-grandness. And, based on S. Meyer's writings about Edward Cullen and Bella Swan being star-crossed lovers of awesomesauce from the very get-go, this rings a little hollow to me. Their physical passion here, though realistic in the depiction, doesn't really undo or assuage all the abuse and problems that have come before.

And while I deeply appreciate a meaningful treatment of female gaze and female desire, I don't know that I like the conflation of that desire with capital-l Love. Is the awesomeness of seeing female desire depicted as a legitimate thing diminished by that desire being immediately and irrevocably conflated with Good Girl True Love? I don't know, but I wonder. I'd prefer to see female desire presented as separate -- possibly not forever, but at least initially in the relationship -- from monogamous love. It almost feels like Bella isn't allowed to get her lust on if it's not itself a symptom of True Love and therefore okay and totally not sinful.

Then, too, it's hard to shake the impression that all this physical longing is being presented in place of any real emotional connection. I'm already skeptical of an emotional connection between Bella and Edward, since 90% of their in-text conversations seem to revolve around Edward showering Bella with abuse, mockery, condescension, and/or simmering barely-contained anger. I absolutely know that it's possible to feel a physical attraction to someone who is a jerk to you, but I struggle with the idea that any emotional or intellectual connection would soon follow -- or that such a thing would be a basis for a lasting, healthy, epic romance.

To be fair, Chapter 11 does try to provide an basis for an emotional connection between Edward and Bella -- Edward spends the better part of two days relentlessly quizzing Bella about her likes and dislikes. But the speed and frenzy of the quizzing, coupled with Edward's established annoyance at not being able to read Bella's mind for quick-and-easy answers, doesn't sit will with me. I recognize again the attempt here at the heady days of new love, and the urge to learn everything you can about each other as quickly as possible. But that urge isn't tempered here by lingering over Bella's answers and exchanging information together so that they can each learn about the other; instead, Edward hops from topic to topic, gathering all the information that he can and leaving Bella in the dark about how he would answer the same questions, and whether they have answers in common:

   It continued like that for the rest of the day. While he walked me to English, when he met me after Spanish, all through the lunch hour, he questioned me relentlessly about every insignificant detail of my existence. Movies I’d liked and hated, the few places I’d been and the many places I wanted to go, and books — endlessly books.
   I couldn’t remember the last time I’d talked so much. More often than not, I felt self-conscious, certain I must be boring him. But the absolute absorption of his face, and his never-ending stream of questions, compelled me to continue. Mostly his questions were easy, only a very few triggering my easy blushes. But when I did flush, it brought on a whole new round of questions.
   Such as the time he asked my favorite gemstone, and I blurted out topaz before thinking. He’d been flinging questions at me with such speed that I felt like I was taking one of those psychiatric tests where you answer with the first word that comes to mind. I was sure he would have continued down whatever mental list he was following, except for the blush. My face reddened because, until very recently, my favorite gemstone was garnet. It was impossible, while staring back into his topaz eyes, not to remember the reason for the switch. And, naturally, he wouldn’t rest until I’d admitted why I was embarrassed.
   “Tell me,” he finally commanded after persuasion failed — failed only because I kept my eyes safely away from his face.
   “It’s the color of your eyes today,” I sighed, surrendering, staring down at my hands as I fiddled with a piece of my hair. “I suppose if you asked me in two weeks I’d say onyx.” I’d given more information than necessary in my unwilling honesty, and I worried it would provoke the strange anger that flared whenever I slipped and revealed too clearly how obsessed I was.
   But his pause was very short.
   “What kinds of flowers do you prefer?” he fired off.
   I sighed in relief, and continued with the psychoanalysis.

This rapid-fire stream of questions makes me think that this is Edward's fall-back approach to not being able to read Bella's mind: he can't grab the answers immediately and be assured of their complete truthfulness, but he can ask a dozen questions a minute and leave Bella little-to-no time to hedge and edit. Possibly this is meant to be sensual -- look how much Edward wants to know every little thing about Bella! -- but for me it just feeds back into the sense that Edward needs complete control over every little thing in his life. If he can't read Bella's mind, he'll do the next best thing in order to maintain that control.

Edward's two-day-long lie detector quiz is really the only chance we see in this chapter to see the couple grow together emotionally. Bella describes the beauty of the Arizona desert, and Edward tells her how twilight (name-drop!) is the safest-yet-saddest time for vampires -- safest because they can see the light without sparkling in the fading rays, and saddest because it's another sleepless night in the eternal stretch of time that is their lives.

And I really do think that this whole thing is meant to show the couple connecting on an emotional level, as well as a physical one -- I think these obsessive trivia conversations are meant to be the glue that holds this couple together beyond just the physical, overwhelming lust aspects. But it strikes me as interesting that these sessions are not conversations in the classical give-and-take sense, with both persons contributing and each learning about the other. Instead, they're almost one-sided info-dumps; Bella provides insight into her mind, while Edward shares bits and pieces of what it's like to be a vampire.

In some ways, almost every relationship is built at least a little on info-dumps: people share bits and pieces of their lives, their thoughts, their histories, their experiences, or some combination of the above. But at some point the info-dump has to stop and the give-and-take conversation has to take its place, if only because there is usually only so much history we can share before we run out of it. And I wonder if we can ever get to that point in Twilight, and if it's even possible.

What can Bella, high school student and precocious outsider, really have in common with a century-old vampire who resists change with a passion unless that change comes wrapped up in a shiny sports car? Chapter 11 makes a big deal that they have a shared taste in music -- Bella recognizes Debussy and Edward listens to the same Linkin Park CDs as she! (and presumably because of Happy Coincidences and NOT because he's been in her room multiple times and has had plenty of chances to scope out her music collection!) -- but beyond that, do they have anything in common together? (I think this is one of many reasons why the Otherkin Vampire version of this love story is more compelling to me; at least then the two have something in common in terms of their essential natures.)

S. Meyer and Bella both claim to be familiar with Austen's books, with Bella already spending some time in Twilight re-reading "Sense and Sensibility", so it's amusing to me that Chapter 11 reminded me enough of a quote from Elinor that I took the time to dig out my copy and spend some time with the search function. After untrue lover Willoughby calls on Marianne for the first time, and after Marianne indecorously plies him with numerous questions and thereby shows plainly her strong attraction to him, Elinor gently teases her sister:

   "Well, Marianne," said Elinor, as soon as he had left them, " for one morning I think you have done pretty well. You have already ascertained Mr. Willoughby's opinion in almost every matter of importance. You know what he thinks of Cowper and Scott; you are certain of his estimating their beauties as he ought, and you have received every assurance of his admiring Pope no more than is proper. But how is your acquaintance to be long supported, under such extraordinary despatch of every subject for discourse? You will soon have exhausted each favorite topic. Another meeting will suffice to explain his sentiments on picturesque beauty and second marriages, and then you can have nothing further to ask."

Elinor is not quite right; Marianne and Willoughby find more than enough to converse about during their courtship because they do have so much in common. And of course the point is eventually made that Willoughby, though a seemingly perfect match for Marianne because of their shared temperaments, is an unsuitable husband because his underlying character is weak. Colonel Brandon, though older than Marianne and with fewer initial shared interests, proves a more suitable husband because of his constancy and his willingness to share in her interests over time.

Perhaps this is what Edward is supposed to represent: an older man who chooses to be deeply faithful to Bella and learns to have things in common with her. Certainly this can and does work for many couples. But in Twilight there is the very small problem that Bella seems to have no interests. She likes Linkin Park, and she can recognize Debussy, and she reads Jane Austen, but beyond that we see very few definite pleasures in her life. The paucity of Bella's inner life becomes almost conspicuous on the page, to the point where her childhood seems to have been denied her; her lack of overt interests seems based in her relative poverty, her having to effectively raise her infantile mother, and her having to do all the cooking and cleaning for her housework-adverse father.

Then, perhaps, the fantasy of Edward is that of finding new interests. He represents complete freedom: as Edward's wife, Bella will have infinite money, infinite youth, infinite free time. Thanks to magical plot-armor, she can study anything she pleases, be any career she wants, and take up any hobby that interests her. The appeal is obvious, even taking in consideration my deep loathing for Edward.

But if Bella is a stereotypical Good Girl, and is with Edward not for the infinite money and eternal youth and physical chemistry, but rather for True Love, then where is the True Love coming from? The two have nothing in common, and Bella has no established interests for Edward to share. Edward's own interests are either unreachable for Bella (he is a master physician and accomplished pianist, but she can't hope to catch up to his level of skill) or distasteful and outright dangerous to her (such as his love of sports cars and unsafe-for-her driving).

Once Edward memorizes all of Bella's answers to his psychology test questions, what do they have left to talk about? Do they talk about the high school drama? (Shades of Scott Pilgrim dating a high schooler.) Can that even be satisfying when Edward can cut through all conversational speculation with a quick peek into the subject's mind? Once Bella has asked all her questions about Edward's vampire nature, what do they have left to discuss that they can meaningfully talk about? The issue to me here isn't that Bella is as "boring" as she fears, so much as that the two seem to have very little actual connection outside of their physical lust and apparent imprinting bond. And so we come to one final Elinor (mis)quote:

   "Perhaps," said Elinor, "one-hundred seven and seventeen had better not have anything to do with matrimony together."

36 comments:

Nathaniel said...

Eh, who needs to talk you have all that totally non-sinful-its-twu-love burning in your bosom?

What amazes me is not so much the paucity of Bella's interests as does Edward's. Sure, he's got expertise in a number of things, but the only things we actually see him do is play piano for Bella and angrily berate Bella for existing.

Brin Bellway said...

His skin was as icy as ever, but the trail his fingers left on my skin was alarmingly warm -- like I'd been burned, but didn't feel the pain of it yet.

Hmm. I think the one time I was burned and had a noticeable delay before the pain, during the ohnosecond* it felt like nothing at all. I wouldn't have known if I wasn't looking at my finger in the lighter's flame. (I made no attempt to remove my finger, because we'd been trying to start this campfire for several minutes with younger kids staring uncomfortably at us the whole time. By this point I figured a burnt finger would be worth it if I could get the fire going.)

*The time between sustaining an injury and feeling the pain from it, just long enough to think "Oh no." (I found the word on TV Tropes somewhere.)

Breakfast was the usual, quiet event I expected. Charlie fried eggs for himself; I had my bowl of cereal.

Well, that's disorienting.
My imagination has a tendency to switch house layout templates at the least provocation. Reading Ana's quotes, the kitchen resembles that of my old house in New Jersey; reading the unabridged paper book, it's clearly based on Buffy Summers's kitchen. Look, imagination, I've accepted that every piece of Sherlock fanfiction I ever read will have a different 221B, but could you at least stick with one house version per story?

It must be a hard thing, to be a father; living in fear that your daughter would meet a boy she liked, but also having to worry if she didn't.

How is that an inherent and necessary part of being a father? I don't think my dad has ever expressed the least bit of interest in my romantic life. It's my mom I have to explain things to.

Marie Brennan said...

Actually, I just thought of a more concise way to point out the problems in the "physical attraction" scene. (Haha, too late.)

Those kinds of moments thrive on specificity of description. The problem with Meyer's writing is, even her attempts at specificity are generic. Hyperaware. Electricity. Touching the perfect face. It's all very bloodless, very standard, and not specific enough. If we must go with the face-touching, then have her think about running her fingertip down the line of his jaw (do vampires get stubble?). Brushing her thumb over his lower lip. Placing her palm against his cheek, and maybe he'll lean his face into her hand, and then they'd be perfectly lined up to . . . NO NO MUST NOT TOUCH.

We don't get that, or anything else concrete enough to carry a charge (see, there's a use for that electricity metaphor). We just get generic "desire to touch."

bekabot said...

If we must go with the face-touching, then have her think about running her fingertip down the line of his jaw (do vampires get stubble?).

In the books I believe the idea is that no, vampire males don't have to shave. Bella spends a lot of time quietly enthusing over the opalescent smoothness of Edward's chest. It doesn't sound as though something like that could sprout any hair. No hair on chest = no hair on face, at least that's what I think.

In the movies, though, Pattinson walks around with stubble all the time. So I guess the odds are even: you get to pick whichever version of male sparklepire seems most attractive to you.

Steve Morrison said...

BTW, I notice you've posted the last few Twilight deconstructions in nothing but black text. As a conservationist, I'm worried; is the Internet already running out of purple pixels?

Marie Brennan said...

Okay, so, focus on the smoothness of his skin, as part of imagining what it would be like to touch him. Anything other than generic "perfect face" pablum.

bekabot said...

FWIW, I think maybe the "perfect face" thing could be an aspect of Edward's Vampire Woo. It would be advantageous for vampires to possess moderate powers of camouflage, so I bet that's what they have. It isn't that I don't think Edward is beautiful, even classically beautiful; but it wouldn't surprise me if he were able to produce some kind of mind-fog which prevents humans from identifying his features point for point. So that if Bella were asked to get too specific about the precise characteristics of Edward's Perfect Face, she would find herself unable to do so, and not just b/c she personally is not very good at describing things. Probably nobody in Forks, including the Police Chief, has the capability of getting too specific about any of the Cullens' looks. But I bet that incapacity doesn't reach as far as La Push.

chris the cynic said...

(Canon) Edward: You love feeling smugly superior for not legitimate reason? I love feeling smugly superior for not legitimate reason! We have so much in common!

kat said...

I don't think having things to talk about when they're married will be an issue. I think they'll just spend all their time in the bedroom.

GeniusLemur said...

And a part of Edward is described as "perfect" YET AGAIN.

depizan said...

Perfect Edward is perfect.

He's the worst lolcat, ever.

Marie Brennan said...

@bekabot -- even if she can't describe Edward, though, there could be specificity in her own feelings and impulses. The absence of that really just makes the entire scene read like it doesn't even rise to the level of cliche.

Richardmpittman said...

First time commenter.

First, let me express my admiration and appreciation for your blog here. I came for the twilight deconstructions. I stayed for everything else. Like most everyone else who frequents your site, I am troubled by these books, but I try to go easy on them because S. Meyer has accomplished something remarkable. She has gotten teenagers to read avidly; and not just simple stuff. She has gotten teenagers to fall in love with a series of long, complicated stories. For all of the books' faults, the good that comes from getting pasells of non-readers to read far outweighs those faults. I take on faith that quite a lot of people who loved these books have gone on to continue reading regularly and the "damage" done by the bad messages you and others have pointed out have probably come out in the wash.

As for today's entry, I am reminded of just how difficult it must be for Edward to communicate with Bella. Edward is accustomed to reading minds at will, perhaps even against will, as in he can't help himself but to be privy to the honest innermost thoughts of anyone he encounters. To then encounter someone whose thoughts he cannot read must be jarring. Perhaps it even explains their "love" from his perspective. She is the most mysterious being he has encountered since he became a vampire. As all adults know, mystery sometimes leads to infatuation.

It also perhaps explains this bizarre passage. For Edward, not being able to read minds must be as jarring

Richard J. Moose said...

I broke the Internet and could not finish my point. To continue:

It mat be incredibly jarring and difficult for Edward to communicate with Bella. He is used to having the unfiltered thoughts of everyone around him, but not with her. I suspect it would be like trying one of us plebes trying to communicate with someone who does not share our language or who cannot speak or write for whatever reason. Edward trying to talk to Bella must be like us trying to talk by hand signals (without the benefit is ASL) and grunts. He is simply used to a much freer, more reliably honest and candid, and open method of communication than is possible between him and Bella. I wonder if his often mean-spirited words can be attributed to this disconnection.

Ana Mardoll said...

The plural of anecdata is not data, but my stepdaughter has cerebral palsy and can essentially only communicate in grunts and gestures. (On good days she can spell words with her hands, but that takes a long time and isn't always reliable.) Though she and the people in conversation can sometimes be frustrated by the language barrier, I have never observed her to be condescending or rude to anyone, and if someone responds in that way to her, they are not considered a good person.

I think we can analyze Edward's behavior without using analogies-to-disability, which can be both triggering to persons on this board and which I consider to only put him in a worse light. (I.e., in which case Edward-the-highly-trained-doctor-who-should-know-better is being mean-spirited to a person with a communicative disability.)

Loquat said...

...where is the True Love coming from? The two have nothing in common, and Bella has no established interests for Edward to share.

All I can think of is Gilbert & Sullivan's The Sorcerer, in which one of the major characters idealizes "love that loves for love alone", is prone to saying things like "Oh, that the world would break down the artificial barriers of rank, wealth, education, age, beauty, habits, taste, and temper", and goes on to cause a great deal of trouble for the rest of the cast by trying to magic them all into couples without regard for such "artificial barriers". And, of course, all the pairings are terrible, and they all break up immediately as soon as the magic is lifted.

bekabot said...

Well, this is my last Twilight Excuse for the week. Here goes:

It's not hard for me to buy the proposition that Bella finds it difficult to articulate her emotions. For one thing, she's only seventeen. How good at parsing your emotions were you at seventeen? How good is anybody at doing that at that age? Besides, Bella faces personal challenges. I'm not going to say much about her psychic shield at this point, other than to note that everybody, including Carlisle by the end of the series (and probably much earlier), seems to agree that it exists. But I will add that to the extent that it exists it most likely deadens Bella to other people's emotions, and that since she gets little to no emotional feedback from other people, she tends to remain ignorant as to the nature of her own feelings. (Emotional I.Q. doesn't arise in a vacuum.) Throughout the series Bella appears as a young woman whose emotions are strong but who is uneducated about them. That makes her an unreliable narrator and a not-great observer of events, but it isn't inconsistent with the voice in which she speaks.

Bella's life thus far has taught her that her feelings (let alone her impulses) are superfluous and that the world doesn't care what they are. In the household in which she grew up, it was Renee who had the personal life, not Bella. In the household into which she migrates, Bella is faced with a very distant father, who more or less ignores her, not because he doesn't care for her but because he doesn't know what to do with her, and because he's not much better at relating to other people than she is. (When Charlie feels the need to get he comes across in the role of the theatrical "heavy father" for what I believe is the same reason — because he doesn't know what else to do, not because he's an inherently authoritarian guy. The result, though, is that when Charlie does the Bella's-Dad thing he acts to constrict her horizons, not to expand them, which has the effect of shutting her down further.)

When she gets to Forks, Bella's courtship by Mike/Eric/Tyler underlines this same set of lessons. All of them ignore the distress signals Bella sends out ("I'm very flattered but I don't go to parties/I don't know how to dance/I didn't get asked out this much in Phoenix/I don't know how to act in a situation like this one") and steam right ahead, each one determined that he's going to go to the dance with Bella, never mind what Bella thinks. (None of them expresses much interest in sitting Bella down and having some coffee with her and finding out what she likes to do and of seeing how he can facilitate that, which would be the more wised-up method of courtship. To Edward's credit, that is more or less what he at least tries to do, though he goes about it in a very avid, creepy manner.)

So, there's a lot which militates against the free expression of Bella's emotions, and what we see and hear of her fits in with that exactly. She's the kind of person who has long since come to the conclusion that emotions are an imposition and that the are visited upon the person who has them from without, rather than arising spontaneously from within. (Which is why the associations of Edward's vampirism, with their undertones of violence and need, work so well in these books.) Bella is a nonobjective person — she lives in her own world — but at the same time she hasn't got much use for her feelings, even though she's fixated on them. Bella is unacquainted with her emotions for a reason, which is that they've never done her any good. Impulses, ditto. This, I repeat, makes her into a character whom it's somewhat of a strain to spend time around, but it isn't inconsistent with what's in the text of the Twilight books.

(Hope none of this comes across as snarky.)

Marie Brennan said...

This is one of the problems with first person as a point of view: it makes it trickier to distinguish between "the pov character can't articulate this" and "the author can't articulate this." Me, I'm not feeling charitable enough to chalk the prose up to a clever portrayal by Meyer of a character who doesn't know how to cope with her emotions. There are ways to do that, and I've read books that pull it off quite well; the results don't look anything like this. You can still be concrete in your descriptions, even if the character processes the details weirdly/thinks of them as being externally imposed/whatever.

And the problem with making her a terrible observer of events is, if she's our only window on the story, then we can't observe those events, either. If you're going to do that, from a craft standpoint, it's usually best to have there be something the character is a very good observer of -- to balance out the stuff they miss -- and then shape your story so that it mostly gets processed through that channel, except for the occasional, deliberately-chosen moments where she gets surprised by something out of her blind spot. Doing it this way, where Bella doesn't seem to be a keen observer of anything at all, makes for very limited and flavorless prose.

Ana Mardoll said...

Another problem, from a consistent narrative perspective, is that Bella is able to articulate and describe things when she chooses to. For example, she is able to minutely observe all the "flirty" mannerisms of the hostess and waitress, even to the point of speculating and then confirming that the hostess PRIMED the waitress to expect a sexy guy at her table. That takes a tremendous amount of attention to detail and skill at reading body language. (Unless Bella is making it up out of whole cloth, but even then she'd have to at least deceive herself into thinking she pays attention to detail and body language.)

It's interesting that we have more vivid descriptions of the Port Angeles waitress than we do of Edward, really. I almost wonder if Edward is a "blank imprint" character in the way that Bella sometimes seems to be. Outside of his eye color and hair color ("bronze", for whatever that may mean), can we physically describe him without reaching for Pattinson?

Thomas Keyton said...

FWIW, I think maybe the "perfect face" thing could be an aspect of Edward's Vampire Woo. It would be advantageous for vampires to possess moderate powers of camouflage, so I bet that's what they have.

Interestingly enough, the fluff for Warhammer vampires says they can build human-looking faces that drop whenever they need energy for fighting people (and so the miniature sculptors can do something besides generic human) - beneath their glamour is a rotting noseless fanged corpse with eyes burning with eldritch fires (and given that vampire eyes here are black when hungry and brightly coloured when powered-up...)

Marie Brennan said...

That takes a tremendous amount of attention to detail and skill at reading body language. (Unless Bella is making it up out of whole cloth, but even then she'd have to at least deceive herself into thinking she pays attention to detail and body language.)

Not even deceit, I think -- she'd have to pay attention to such things at some point, or she wouldn't know what to make up.

But yes, it's very odd that Edward is possibly described less than more secondary characters in the story. All I can figure is that he is indeed supposed to be a blank imprint (since if you describe him, you run the risk of the reader not liking the result) . . . but I have a really hard time understanding how so many people can invest so strongly in a void. Maybe if his personality didn't come across as condescending and angry, I could see the appeal of a "faceless" hero? I dunno. All I know is, there's absolutely nothing going for him in the narrative as written, whether it's his behavior or his looks.

bekabot said...

@ everybody – okay. Uncle. I said that was my last excuse for the week, and I meant it....I agree with Marie Brennan about the dangers of channeling everything through Bella, when Bella is so far from being an ideal reporter. I can't help wondering whether Midnight Sun was intended to act as a partial remedy. (Along, maybe, with Jacob's stint as the narrator in the last book.)

Bella vs. The Hostess and The Waitress – my own opinion is that this episode is meant not to demonstrate Bella's interpersonal perspicacity but to show 1) that she's jealous*, and 2) that, therefore, she has definitely fallen for Edward and that his status as the main thing in her life can no longer be denied. It's true that Edward confirms that Bella was right about the Other Women and their Nefarious Designs, but to my mind that's just coincidental. It's like the condiment on top of a burger. The main course (jealous Bella!) is the burger.

I kind of like the idea that, did we poor mortals but know the awful truth, we'd find out that the Cullens look like the Warhammer vampires. That's definitely cooler than having them look like the Romneys. (Maybe that's what's the matter with Mitt: he can build himself a face but he hasn't got the skills to impose an expression on it or to get it to move convincingly. But here I tread close to dangerous territory and am determined to quit before I get into real trouble.)

*(Because every girlfriend with a boyfriend worth having is jealous of him, of course! That's how he knows she cares! Right?)

Ana Mardoll said...

Please don't think you need to stop on our account - I don't think it's a bad interpretation from a harmonizing perspective. Like when I speculate that Bella is depressed - it's likely not what Meyer intended, but there's evidence for it, etc.

Of course, there are inconsistencies with all Bella theories, but that's because the books are inconsistent, period.

esmerelda_ogg said...

Marie Brennan - " All I can figure is that he is indeed supposed to be a blank imprint (since if you describe him, you run the risk of the reader not liking the result)"

That makes sense to me - but then why is there so much repeated emphasis on how cold and hard Edward is? Okay, SMeyers apparently picked those traits to remind us that he's not just your average human teenager. But am I the only woman in the world who finds "cold and hard" viscerally physically repulsive? (Which only adds to your point that Edward has absolutely nothing going for him, and is definitely NOT better than chocolate.)

Marie Brennan said...

@bekabot -- I think you're 100% right that the intended purpose of that strand in the restaurant scene was to establish Bella's jealousy, and therefore her attachment to Edward, along with his desirability. Unfortunately, like so many things in Twilight, it backfires on a number of levels: Bella looks catty, Edward looks arrogant, and it undermines any attempt to rationalize Bella as being supremely unobservant of human behavior.

@esmerelda_ogg -- "hard" can work when it's supposed to convey muscular strength, but that isn't the impression I get off Edward. He's a marbe statue, not an Olympic athlete. And yeah, when you pair that with cold, you certainly succeed at conveying alienness, but not attractiveness (except maybe to people with a marble statue fetish?).

I can't believe I'm about to cite Laurell K. Hamilton as an example of Doing It Right, but . . . in the early Anita Blake books, she gives Jean-Claude a number of appealing traits to counterbalance his undead qualities. One is the eyes (and that's probably the world's most common way of signaling attractiveness to the reader; Edward has pretty eyes, too), but another is his voice. And the nifty thing about that one is that it's much less bound by individual taste: we're told, again and again, that Jean-Claude's voice has a thrillingly tactile quality to it, that when he speaks it feels like he's touching you. That is alien, but (given how he generally uses his voice) in a positive rather than negative way, and it's the sort of descriptor that allows every reader to imagine a different effect. If Edward had something like that going for him, we'd understand Bella wanting to glue herself to his side, the better to soak up every last sound.

JP said...

**But am I the only woman in the world who finds "cold and hard" viscerally physically repulsive?**

No, you are definitely not. I am continually squicked by the way Bella goes on rapturously about Sparkle-boy's icy body temperature. Too often it sounds as if she's snuggling a corpse (which, of course, on some level she is). Just...ugh.

esmerelda_ogg said...

@Marie Brennan - Um, yeah. "Hard" is generally a Good Thing in terms of male attractiveness. But we normally assume, without saying so, that it's paired with "warm". Bella's descriptions of SparkleEd make me think of going to bed with a giant popsicle. Yuck.

@JP - Yesyesyes.

Ana Mardoll said...

I wonder if it's a function of Meyer coming from warmer climate? I live in Texas and a lover with a cool/cold body would be snugglable even during those times of the year (i.e., ALL THE TIMES minus December) when it's just too hot to extendedly snuggle.

Maybe it's just me and mine, but I know that both Husband and Dad run hot, and Mom and I -- though emotionally very snuggly -- have to confine them to "their side" of the bed before we can get to sleep. Because otherwise you're hot and sticky AND you now have this gigantic hot and sticky mass holding you tightly and breathing on your neck and YOU CANNOT SLEEP. EVER AGAIN.

Marie Brennan said...

I grew up in Texas and have a husband who runs hot, and even so, Edward doesn't sound appealing to me. If he were "cool" instead of "cold," it might be a different story.

Ana Mardoll said...

True, I agree that would be better. It's a shame everything about Edward has to be S-U-P-E-R-L-A-T-I-V-E~!~!~!

bekabot said...

Again FWIW, I run cold. I'm a logy person with low body temperature and low blood pressure, so Edward is extra uninviting (on that score) to me. To me snuggling up to him would be torture. Aren't there scenes, if it comes to that, in the first book or two of the Twilight series, in which the devoted pair, so as to forestall the possibility that Edward will make Bella all tooth-chattery, wisely adopt precautions (which take the form of lots of blankets and maybe a hot-water bottle or two for Bella)? Or is my memory exaggerating?...

OT: today the weather is beautiful where I live. Close to flawless. A perfect day in an ambiguous climate: 74° Fahrenheit, almost no clouds in the sky, light breezes. And what am I doing? Huddling indoors wiping my nose and drinking hot mint mocha, because I'm frozen through. Because the temperature is about to shift and my internal barometer is telling me so (by means of what amounts to a very mild case of the bends). Not a situation in which having Edward around would be an advantage.

"If he were 'cool' instead of 'cold', it might be a different story."

At the time the first Twilight movie came out*, which would be a few years ago now, a blog entry appeared over at Pandagon which was about that movie and its intersections with high school politics (IIRC). One of the neater responses to the entry in the comments section had to do with the ways in which high school students categorize each other according to physical type. The commenter said that Edward was meant to correspond to the anorectic/ectomorphic "cool" high school physical ideal, whereas Jacob was intended to illustrate the hunky/mesomorphic "hot" alternative, hence the difference in their body temperatures. Pandagon has changed location since then but possibly this comment is still accessible; however, I'm too stressed and lazy to take the time to dig it out myself. At any rate I thought at the time I read it that it was a nifty observation, so I'm throwing it back out there now for fun.

*or maybe the second (this was a long time ago)

JonathanPelikan said...

I distinctly recall seeing Pattinson as Edward for the first time and thinking they'd done an amazing makeup job; he looked like a corpse that was walking around and talking. Seriously. In the movies he looks exactly like people in a funeral home who've been prepared properly for burial look. I'm impressed by how well they got it, and mystified that this is considered an Attractive Thing. But hey. Everybody's got taste.

Silver Adept said...

I think another reason why things don't work between them is because we don't see the situations where Bella is scheming to touch Edward out get close to him. If she happens to be there, fantastic, yay, superlative excess. But she doesn't try to go out of her way to get to him, like in the hallways our by trying to make him a "study partner" so they can go make out or something. Her Good Girl training is getting in the way, I guess, but even then, she should be fantasizing about it every now and then...

...or maybe it's just me, because I tend to key in on touch as a adjudicator of whether a relationship is going well or not.

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